Quite often in D.C. events about COP21 and the Paris agreement feature high level U.S. officials and negotiators. While informative and interesting, hearing the perspective from another nation can be enlightening. Jamaica has only a few negotiators (compared to the United States dozens of negotiators) but also is highly vulnerable to the current and future impacts of climate change.
A recent Wilson Center event, What Next? Climate Adaptation After Paris, hosted Albert Daley, a development economist and head of the Climate Change Division of Jamaica’s negotiating team. Albert provided insight into the goals for Jamaica’s negotiating team, highlighting their hopes for a mechanism to deal with losses and damages, recognition of Small Island and low-lying Developing States (SIDS) unique vulnerability, and improvement of the accessibility of the Green Climate Fund.
As a country of 2.7 million where over 60% live within 2km of the coast, the country has already seen the impacts of climate change with Hurricane Ivan resulting in damages and losses equivalent to 8% of the country’s GDP. Because of this, along with its close proximity and support from USAID and others, the country has already begun to integrate climate change planning into their policies across multiple sectors. Integrating climate change considerations into national policies is something the U.S. has begun to do but needs to improve on. Albert noted that every time they review or edit an existing policy, they now also make sure to incorporate new provisions related to climate change adaptation and planning. As he highlighted, in Jamaica, adaptation measures aren’t always called adaptation, they are simply part of everyday planning.
While already making progress in some sectors, the United States could benefit by taking a similar view. By adding in measures for adaptation and mitigation into every sector, the country will be more resilient to the predicted threats and challenges ahead. Unfortunately, the polarization of climate change appears to hinder progress. Hopefully, the U.S. can take a page out of Jamaica’s book, and begin the process before the effects of climate change begin to seriously impact our security.
The American Security Project (ASP) has been a strong and sustained advocate for action on climate and energy security here within the U.S. and within the Caribbean. Last year, ASP’s Andrew Holland highlighted the need for the United States to refocus on the Caribbean and address the growing energy crisis there. Beyond threats to energy security, the threat of climate change to all small island nations is severe. At a recent ASP event, Foreign Minister Tony de Brum of the Marshall Islands, discussed the devastating impacts of climate change that are already having an impact on the island. Without action, there is concern that there could be a crisis right in our backyard.
For more information on ASP’s work on Climate Security and Energy Security, access our website here.