For the: Workshop on Sustainable Adaptive Gradients in the Coastal Environment (SAGE)
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17, 2015, @ 10.30 A.M.
UWI- DISCOVERY BAY MARINE LABORATORY, St. Ann.
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I am pleased to address this Sustainable Adaptive Gradients in the Coastal Environment (SAGE) workshop, and to say how pleased I am that Jamaica is hosting this event.
I want to extend a special welcome to the visitors to our island. Indeed, it is my hope that your visit will be pleasant and that you will take some time to enjoy what our beautiful country has to offer.
As you are well aware we are meeting at the beginning of the Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Although all the forecasts seem to suggest that this will not be a very active hurricane season, we are always on the alert during this time of the year.
We have put funds in place for the cleaning of gullies and waterways so that in case of a weather event, the impact, certainly in terms of flooding will be lessened. But, as is always the case, we hope for the best and pray that we are spared from the direct impacts of storms or hurricanes.
Your outreach network is hosting this SAGE workshop at a time when our thoughts are certainly on our coastal infrastructure and the possible effects of adverse weather conditions on them, particularly during this hurricane season.
The goal of your workshop is to better understand and eventually improve the policy and technical processes of choosing resilient coastal infrastructure.
Scientists tell us that it is almost a certainty that the Caribbean will experience increased temperatures and sea level rise. Precipitation will change as warming increases water vapor, resulting in increases rainfall.
On the flip side however, scientists say that longer and harsher droughts are a possibility.
Although they are not so certain about precipitation changes in all regions of the world, in the Caribbean we can definitely look out for an increase in the frequency as well as the intensity of tropical cyclones and storms.
So what is the current status on regional climate scenarios?
Coordinated international global modeling and analysis are providing information on large scale climate changes, so we are increasingly aware of the expected rise in regional temperatures and sea levels.
While internationally coordinated efforts to develop these detailed scenarios are in the early stage of development, we can say with a fair degree of certainty that there will be rainfall decreases between now and 2030 through to 2050.
Temperatures will also increase, with our coldest days becoming hotter by almost 1.5 degrees by 2050. The wetter months will be constant a while the drier months will become even drier by 2050.
But it is the near-certainty of rising sea levels that give rise to our greatest fear as coastal dwellers. Scientists predict that the impacts from a 1-metre sea level rise in the Caribbean would be severe.
Nearly 1300 kilometers of land area would be lost, for example 5% of the Bahamas, and 2% Antigua and Barbuda.
Over 110,000 people or about five percent of the Bahamian population would be displaced, as well as about 3 percent of the population of Antigua and Barbuda.
At least 149 multi-million US dollar tourist resorts could be severely damaged, with beach assets lost or greatly degraded at many more properties all over the Caribbean.
Transportation networks would be severely disrupted including the loss of 21 CARICOM airports and land surrounding 35 out of the estimated 44 ports would be inundated. The coastal road network would also be severely affected with the loss of 567 km of roads.
For example 14% of the road network in the Bahamas, 12% in Guyana, 14% in Dominica would be lost with just I meter rise in the level of the sea.
Here in Jamaica we are ever mindful of the things we need to do to improve our resilience all around our coast which is over 1200 kilometers long with numerous harbours, coves, beaches, cays, mangroves, to name a few.
This is why we partnered with European Union and the UNDP on a Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project. The project which lasted 38 months had, as its main objective, assisting Jamaica with our adaption to climate change.
The project sought to contribute to sustainable development by increasing the resilience of vulnerable areas and reducing the risks that are associated with natural hazards particularly in vulnerable communities which as you all know more often than not are located near our coasts. .
The project was specifically aimed at:-
Reducing negative environmental impacts through the rehabilitation and improved management of selected watersheds
Increasing the resilience of coastal ecosystems to climate impacts through restoration and protection of selected ecosystems and
Enhancing adaptation and disaster risk reduction through increasing capabilities and raising awareness.
Out of that project our data gathering capabilities were enhanced with strategically placed loggers and a database for the management of our coastal ecosystems was developed.
We also prepared management plans for Marine Protected Areas in Montego Bay, Negril and the Portland Bight. Artificial reefs and marker buoys were also installed in the Negril and Portland Blight protected areas, and we replanted approximately 20 acres of sea grass beds in Negril.
Seven hectares of mangroves in vulnerable areas in Hellshire and Portland Cottage were restored as a result of the project.
We also piloted the use of Shorelock Technology to address the issue of critically eroded beaches in the island.
Looking around at my audience, there is no doubt that I am “preaching to the choir” so to speak, as I am sure you all have a buy in to the reality of climate change. Everywhere I speak I continue to spread the message that “With climate change, we must change”, and that there are steps that we can take to adapt to, and to mitigate its impacts.
Jamaica has made significant strides in this regard. We have completed the preparation of the Climate Change Policy Framework and will shortly be taking it to Parliament.
The policy framework will guide the country’s approach towards building resilience to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
With this framework document and the institutional arrangements we have in place, our readiness to access climate change financing has been strengthened.
Indeed the Green Climate Fund has affirmed the Ministry of Water Land Environment and Climate Change, my ministry, as the National Designated Authority for Jamaica.
The government sought and obtained funding of $1 billion Jamaican dollars from the international body known as the Adaptation Fund, for a project to enhance the resilience of the Agricultural sector and coastal areas.
Since we here are more concerned about coastal areas today, I must tell you that the project, will among other things, fund the preparation of the standards and guidelines related to coastal developments.
The major component of the project is the construction of two breakwater structures in the Long Bay area of Negril. The structures will be aimed at protecting the beach from further destructive erosion. The aim is to halt the loss of approximately one meter of shoreline per year.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have had extensive consultations, entertained objections from some stakeholders, and after considering all the evidence especially from the scientific community, the government of Jamaica through the cabinet has approved the implementation of this important project so as to protect this valuable coastal asset which is under constant daily threat.
Even as we implement this project, we will continue to engage the Negril community.
We have taken further steps to protect our most ecologically sensitive areas through the preparation of the Protected Areas System Master Plan which is now in its final stage of approval.
In addition, zoning plans for Negril, Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios marine parks as well as the Palisadoes-Port Royal and the Coral Spring-Mountain Spring Protected Areas have been prepared.
We have also established a National Protected Areas Conservation Trust Fund which will become operational this year.
The fund will manage resources dedicated to the maintenance of Jamaica’s protected areas.
Ladies and gentlemen, the manner in which we utilize land for development purposes along our coasts and indeed anywhere in Jamaica has a profound impact on our environment.
Jamaica is increasingly becoming more urbanized and since the majority of our people live along, or near to the coastline of the island, more pressure is brought to bear on our finite land resources.
We will be reviewing existing density standards in urban areas as a development planning strategy.
Increases in residential densities will also maximize the use of scarce land resources and take advantage of economies of scale in respect of infrastructural investments such as central sewerage treatment and disposal facilities as well as urban transportation systems.
Long awaited amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act will also enable greater effectiveness to the regulation of development and land use in Jamaica. This is a process that has been ongoing for over ten years.
Now we are at a stage where we can sign off on what I believe to be a crucial piece of legislation as if affects how we utilize land, coastal or otherwise in Jamaica.
Suggestions, decisions and recommendations of all the stakeholders have been considered and the agreed proposals for amendments will be completed shortly.
Some of the key proposed amendments include the introduction of development plans as legal planning instruments, which will be updated every five years to ensure that they remain current and relevant. There will definitely be provisions for public participation in the planning process and there will be a revised period for the serving of Stop and Enforcement Notices.
Ladies and gentlemen the act will be extended to all of Jamaica’s territorial waters to include the continental shelf, the exclusive economic zone and the natural and artificial accretions (cays and islands).
These are but a few of the legislative activities being undertaken by the Ministry of Water Land Environment Climate Change and its related agencies.
But it would be remiss of me if I did not emphasize that climate change issues are oftentimes complex and they cross cut across ministries and agencies which might have competing priorities at any given time.
What we have tried to do at the ministry is to always look at the bigger picture and ask ourselves if this or that is right for Jamaica. What we often find is that if it is not good for the environment it is not good for Jamaica and we have tried to use this as a guiding principle as we deliberate on plans and projects which come before us for consideration.
We are working towards the stage where climate change considerations are included in every plan, project or programme which needs the backing of government in the first instance and then move to a situation where the government or private sector will be expected to screen every proposed action or development plan for climate change mainstreaming.
In the meantime it is my belief that fora such as this, will be very helpful to us, as we work to improve the long term sustainability of our coastal communities.
Research is the most helpful tool in guiding our policymakers in effective and sustainable new infrastructure, given our similar vulnerabilities in this part of the hemisphere.
The government, the private sector, the scientific community, our engineers and developers, civil society, the media, and indeed, all sectors, must now come together to discuss and to chart the way forward on this important international, regional and national development priority.
We must find a way to ensure that our citizens become aware of what is needed to become resilient in our most vulnerable coastal communities.
In our small island states it is quite often not as simple as moving to higher ground when challenges emerge, as more often than not, most of the land is already in use and there is no higher ground to go to or simply no more land space. We must therefore develop methods to lessen the impacts right where we are.
This might not be an easy task, as our people sometimes choose to live in the most vulnerable of places, such as gullies, and river banks. However, it is our hope that scientists such as yourselves, and workshops such as this, will assist us, to find ways to climate proof our existence as much as possible, in the small spaces we call homes, communities and countries.
Scientists like you, must be at the forefront of guiding the actions of the world community on this matter which we now consider to be the most pressing in this the 21st century.
As policymakers we must also strive to do our part. As such, Jamaica and her sister countries in the region, have been among the voices at the United Nations demanding that industrialized countries make realistic pledges to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gasses and help in the financing of mitigation and adaptation, as well as loss and damage in the countries of this region.
Jamaica has very little emissions compared to the large industrialized countries. Nonetheless we are responding to the UN’s request for all nations to make Green House Gas emission pledges.
We will finalize our own Intended Nationally Determined Contribution in time for the UN climate change summit in Paris France in December this year.
We are eagerly anticipating the Conference of the Parties, where we hope to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change that will bring together all nations of the world in common accord to deal with this problem which threatens to engulf us all.
Ladies and gentlemen, we all want a sustainable future, for ourselves and our children. We forsee Jamaica as “The place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business’, as stated in our Vision 2030 National Development Plan.
It is my sincere hope that the exchange of ideas, information and best practices, at this workshop will benefit Jamaica, and indeed, benefit us all.