Charles touts need for climate change policy, legislation

MINISTER with responsibility for climate change Pearnel Charles Jr is calling for governments to develop policy and enact legislation for socially vulnerable and indigenous groups across the world as a means of addressing the challenges they face due to the impacts of climate change.

Charles was speaking at a virtual High-Level Expert Seminar last Thursday, which discussed the expanding situations of vulnerability on indigenous peoples, Afro-descendant populations and Latin American migrants.

The seminar was hosted by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, in partnership with the governments of Costa Rica, the Holy See, Spain, and Uruguay, and with wide representation from indigenous groups around the world.

Using the Jamaican context, Minister Charles argued that the Maroons – whose existence and cultural identity are tied to their rights to territories ceded prior to colonisation by the British – rely almost exclusively on the land and its resources for sustenance and as a result are disproportionately vulnerable to varied impacts of climate change, including hurricanes, floods, landslides, droughts, heavy winds, soil erosion and land degradation.

“It is therefore in the best interest of governments and policymakers to understand and frame this reality in pursuit of sustained development of our people, our economies and our countries,” he said.

“The conservation and sustainable use of our natural resources must therefore be inscribed in public policy and legislation if the livelihood of our population is to be sustained,” Charles continued.

The minister suggested that while the bulk of the Government’s current vulnerability response measures align with socio-economic status as opposed to ethnicity since the overwhelming majority of the population is Afro-descendant, there is scope for more inclusivity.

Charles, who is also in charge of the housing portfolio, raised concern about climate impacts on infrastructure and housing, pointing out that “countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are characterised by beaches, hotels, roadways, international airports and power generation systems, which are all under threat from the impacts of climate change”.

Said Charles: “In addition to increasing the stock of low-income housing, building resilience to climate change impacts through proper planning and housing development, remains a priority for my ministry.

“There are also clearly stated policy intentions to create no-build zones in areas which are exposed to hazards. We have been working to identify disaster prone areas and incorporate this information into planning to reduce risk and become more climate resilient.

“I am, therefore, pleased to note that Jamaica is among the first country globally to begin developing a predictive climate risk assessment planning tool for major infrastructure areas.”

That work, the minister said, is being facilitated in partnership with the private sector-led Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment (CCRI). The tool will enable decision-makers to assess climate risk to Jamaica’s infrastructure and visualise hot spots of economic and social value at risk. Testing is scheduled to begin next month.

Other seminar presenters included first vice-president of Costa Rica, Epsy Campbell Barr; deputy prime minister of Spain, Teresa Ribera Rodriguez; vice-president of Uruguay, Beatriz Argimon; US secretary of the interior, Debra Holland; prefect at Vatican City’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Peter Turkson; FAO director general Qu Dongyu; president of the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, Myrna Cunningham; chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Anne Nourgam; and director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Bruno Oberle.


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