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Development pros champion climate accountability

A COUPLE of Jamaica’s development professionals are insisting it is now more important than ever to promote and safeguard accountability, following the recent United Nations Climate Action Summit, held in New York.

Isaac Moises Sultan Cohen

The summit has come and gone but it is a mixed bag in terms of outcomes. It is key now for us to look at what we take up as individuals,” said Indi Mclymont Lafayette, a long-time advocate for climate justice and head of Change Communications.

Isaac Sultan Cohen

“We have to look at our actions; what we can we do and what we will prioritise based on what we are seeing around us. Now more than ever, the accountability and keeping an eye on what has been pledged is critical. It is for us to really see how we follow up the outcomes,” she added

The summit, held on September 23, saw 77 countries committing to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net zero by 2050; and 70 – among them small-island developing states and least developed countries – announcing they will boost national action plans for emissions reductions by 2020 or otherwise start the process to do so.

The emission of GHGs, including of carbon dioxide, fuel the warming of the planet, prompting a ripple effect, including rising sea levels and sea surface temperatures; extreme weather events, including hurricanes; and the associated risks to health, food and water security, as well as war over access to resources

pledges to reduce emissions The summit also saw 87 major companies – with a reported combined market capitalisation of over US$ 2.3 trillion – pledging to reduce emissions and align their businesses to a 1.5 degrees Celsius future, which is what scientists say is the best course of action to avoid the worse impacts of climate change.

Eleanor Jones, head of the consultancy firm Environmental Solutions Limited and herself a member of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, said these are all worthy accomplishments from the summit – despite what major emitters would have failed to do.

“I think that it is going to be a struggle to get the big emitters to do what they need to do. It will continue to be a process, regrettably, and slow progress,” said Jones, noting that it had come as no surprise to her that some major emitters, including the United States, had announced no sweeping new or otherwise ramped-up efforts to cut contributions to the warming of the planet

“I don’t think we can be too bogged down by what the United States (for example) is not doing (at the international level). They are pursuing initiatives for emissions control at the state level and at the private level,” she said

“What the young people have done (at the summit), being out there leading, I think is an achievement. There is hope,” Jones added, referencing the actions of youth who have demanded that world leaders take responsibility for the climate crisis and act to assure them of a future

In agreeing with Mclymont Lafayette, she said what is needed now is follow-through on the things that were achieved. It is also critical, Jones said, that vulnerable countries double down to ensure their readiness for climate impacts

“As vulnerable countries, even as we try to cut emissions, we really have to work hard at our adaptation strategies. These include taking care of our natural resources that provide the ecosystem services to help protect against the devastating effects of climate events,” she said

“We must take care of our coastal resources, our forestry resources, and so on, as we do our adaptation planning – including putting in appropriate drainage infrastructure,” Jones added, noting that recovery planning, too, is vital

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