US vote could im­pact Caribbean’s cli­mate fu­ture

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS - Pe­tre Wil­liams-Raynor Con­tribut­ing Ed­i­tor pwr.gleaner@gmail.com

JA­MAICA AND the Caribbean’s bid for a se­cure cli­mate fu­ture is likely to be im­pacted by the out­come of the Novem­ber 8 United States (US) pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

How­ever, whether the im­pact will be nega­tive or pos­i­tive re­mains to be seen, though the sen­ti­ments of rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic par­ties – present in Ja­maica this week – pro­vides an in­di­ca­tion of the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Repub­li­can Wal­ter ‘Mike’ Hill, mem­ber of the Florida House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, has de­nied the ex­is­tence of cli­mate change.

“I do be­lieve in cli­mate change; it’s called sum­mer, win­ter, spring and fall. It is not an­thro­pogenic; it is not man­made,” he told The Gleaner’s Ed­i­tors’ Fo­rum on Tues­day af­ter­noon.

“Our cli­mate is be­ing af­fected pri­mar­ily by two ma­jor forces – our sun and our oceans. Me driv­ing my car to and from work is not chang­ing our cli­mate,” he added.

Hill went fur­ther to re­veal his aver­sion to the Paris Agree­ment – which the US rat­i­fied on Septem­ber 3 – and to the pro­vi­sion of fi­nanc­ing to sup­port cli­mate change adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion, whether in the Caribbean or else­where.

REPUB­LI­CAN ‘NO’

“I would say no to sign­ing that agree­ment (the Paris Agree­ment) be­cause it would be much too ex­pen­sive to not only the Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers, but the other coun­tries that are im­posed upon for what has been proven sci­en­tif­i­cally to be very min­i­mal im­prove­ment in a re­duc­tion of car­bon diox­ide into the air, which, by the way, is not a poi­son. Our plants need it (car­bon diox­ide) in or­der to sur­vive,” he said.

The Paris Agree­ment was bro­kered last year at the 21st Con­fer­ence of the Par­ties to the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change, held in France.

The agree­ment – which is to come into force on Novem­ber 4 – has as its goal: “hold­ing the in­crease in the global av­er­age tem­per­a­ture to well be­low 2 de­grees Cel­sius above prein­dus­trial Repub­li­can Wal­ter ‘Mike’ Hill makes a point dur­ing The Gleaner’s Ed­i­tors’ Fo­rum on Tues­day. Next to him is Demo­crat Moises ‘Moe’ Vela, and Ju­dith Wed­de­burn of the 51% Coali­tion. Love Manie Simeus, 12, holds a pic­ture of her­self wear­ing her school uni­form as she looks through a fam­ily photo al­bum in­side her pub­lic school, where she has taken shel­ter after Hur­ri­cane Matthew hit the vil­lage of Mer­san, lo­cated in Camp-Per­rin, a dis­trict of Les Cayes, Haiti, on Mon­day. lev­els and pur­su­ing ef­forts to limit the tem­per­a­ture in­crease to 1.5 de­grees Cel­sius above pre-In­dus­trial lev­els, recog­nis­ing that this would sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the risks and im­pacts of cli­mate change”.

Demo­crat Moises ‘Moe’ Vela, who served in Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion as the di­rec­tor of ad­min­is­tra­tion and se­nior ad­vi­sor in the Of­fice of Vice-pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, was of a dif­fer­ent view from Hill.

“Sen­a­tor [Hil­lary] Clin­ton has long been on the record, as I have been, as a mat­ter of fact; we re­spect and we recog­nise the in­tel­li­gence of our sci­en­tists from around the world. You don’t have to read 500 sci­en­tific re­ports to un­der­stand cli­mate change is truly im­pact­ing our world,” he said.

“Sec­re­tary Clin­ton will con­tinue to work with other lead­ers around the world as she has as sec­re­tary of state and as sen­a­tor ... to recog­nise the im­pact that cli­mate change is hav­ing on our world,” Vela pre­dicted.

“I per­son­ally don’t have chil­dren, but I care enough about the chil­dren of the world, and I know she does as well... to give them an Earth that is sus­tain­able ... . We have got to ad­dress cli­mate change so that the chil­dren of the world have a brighter fu­ture,” he said.

While ad­mit­ting to hav­ing no author­ity to speak for Clin­ton “on the fi­nance mat­ter”, Vela said: “I would hope that the fi­nan­cials would flow from the United States to ad­dress cli­mate change in the Caribbean basin and around the world.”

Mean­while, Hur­ri­cane Matthew ham­mered the Caribbean re­cently, leav­ing hun­dreds dead, bil­lions of dol­lars in in­frastruc­tural dam­age, and de­spair in coun­tries such as Haiti, Cuba and The Ba­hamas – a grim re­minder of the threat cli­mate change presents to es­pe­cially small-is­land states.

That threat in­cludes not only warmer tem­per­a­tures, but also ris­ing sea lev­els, coastal ero­sion and ex­treme weather events, in­clud­ing more fre­quent and/or in­tense hur­ri­canes and droughts.

On the out­come of the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and the im­pli­ca­tions for lo­cal ef­forts to bol­ster cli­mate change readi­ness, chief tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor in the Min­istry of Eco­nomic Growth and Job Cre­ation Colonel Oral Khan said the is­land would wait to see.

“I think the US elec­tions have gen­er­ated a lot of in­ter­est be­yond just ques­tions of cli­mate change, and we can­not es­cape tak­ing note of the some of the things that are be­ing said, but we will await the out­come, and through di­plo­matic chan­nels, we will con­tinue to press for what the Paris Agree­ment calls for,” he told The Gleaner.

AWARE­NESS INI­TIA­TIVE

Hill and Vela are in Ja­maica this week as part of an ini­tia­tive of the United States Em­bassy in Kingston and the 51% Coali­tion, with Panos Caribbean as im­ple­ment­ing part­ner.

The ini­tia­tive is de­signed to “raise pub­lic aware­ness and ad­vance un­der­stand­ing of the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion process, with an ex­am­i­na­tion of lessons and im­pli­ca­tions for Ja­maica and the Caribbean, in the in­ter­est of re­spon­si­ble and demo­cratic gov­er­nance,” ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion out of Panos.

In ad­di­tion to Hill and Vela be­ing present on the is­land for a round of me­dia in­ter­views and pub­lic en­gage­ments, there have also been a series of Din­ner and a De­bate view­ing events. Those events saw Ja­maicans ex­posed to the cut and thrust of the US pres­i­den­tial de­bates be­tween Demo­cratic Party can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton and Repub­li­can Party can­di­date Don­ald Trump.

CHIL­DREN OF THE WORLD

JER­MAINE BARN­ABY/FREE­LANCE PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

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