Historic WTO Deal Could Threaten Subsidies, Lifeline for Jamaican Fishers

by Zadie P Neufville

This article was first printed by InterPress Service on July 28.

Fishers have been impacted by poor fishing practices, negligent management of fisheries and frequent hurricanes, exacerbated by two years of pandemic-related restrictions. Now it is feared that WTO proposals on subsidies are skewed to benefit the large fishing nations. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

In the 21 years it took the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to agree on a historic deal on fishing subsidies, the lives of fisherfolk in Rocky Point, Clarendon, have seen many ups and downs.

The largest fishing village on Jamaica’s south coast has been battered by nature and economic challenges which have left their mark. The fishing beach signs of frequent run-ins with Mother Nature and economic battles have sent many to ‘greener pastures’.

Rocky Point sits at the edge of the Portland Bight protected area outside the special fisheries management area (a protected zone). It is the country’s largest fishing village which, in its heyday, attracted fishers from up and down the coast. But while the town has grown, taking in surrounding cane fields and wetlands, the trade that built it, fishers say, is dying. In communities like these, subsidies take on a whole new meaning.

Fishermen Face Hardships

Fifty-year-old fisherman Bradley Bent has been supplementing his income as a boat repairman. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

Fifty-year-old fisherman Bradley Bent has been supplementing his income as a boat repairman.

Decades of poor fishing practices, negligent fisheries management and frequent hurricanes, exacerbated by two years of pandemic-related restrictions, have taken their toll. These days, 50-year-old fisherman Bradley Bent has been supplementing his income as a boat repairman. These other skills he honed as a fisherman for more than three decades are helping him through the tough times.

Bent was hunched over, patching his boat with fibreglass under the searing heat of the morning sun. Around him, a group of repair men applied fresh paint to upturned boats. The faint sea breeze is putrid with the smell of chemicals, and the air pulses with the sounds of the buzzing generator and sanders as the men smooth the hull of a nearby boat.

COVID-19 restrictions grounded or reduced the sizes of most fishing crews and slashed their incomes by restricting them to shorter, less profitable distances in a bay virtually depleted of fish. Nowadays, fishermen are gone for days at a time but can’t afford to cover the cost of fuel or pay their bills.

Fishing is no longer an everyday affair at what was once the pride of south coast fishing, where fishermen could pull nets close to breaking with many of 11 species in the island’s waters, including parrotfish, snapper, wench-man, grunt, jack, turbot and butterfish, and seasonal hauls of wahoo, grouper and tuna.

Rocky Point fishers like Bent must now travel up to 70 miles up the coast or to the offshore fishing colony of Pedro Cays to find fish. In the last two years, things have gotten much worse. Some fishermen have left the business, forced out by the rising cost of fuel, equipment and the effort it takes to scrape by. Others, like George Henry, a fidgety forty-something, make do with menial jobs like gutting and scaling fish to make ends meet.

On the beaches around the Kingston Harbour – not so long ago, fertile grounds for shad, sprat, whiting and crabs – fishing is an exercise in futility, said Gladston White. The Jamaican fisherman ischairman of the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations (CFNO), an organisation of fishers representing member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

George Henry has to make do with menial jobs like gutting and scaling fish to make ends meet. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

George Henry has to make do with menial jobs like gutting and scaling fish to make ends meet

Fish provide almost half of the world’s 7.75 billion people with about 20 per cent of their average daily intake of animal protein and up to 50 per cent in some developing and least developed countries (FAO 2020). Providing an estimated 59.51 million jobs worldwide while earning the region small countries, including CARICOM, 60 per cent of the 164 billion US dollars in exports.

In theory, fishing should be held in check by its very environment: low fish stocks should mean fishing takes more time and costs more money, but this is not the case in depleted areas where food security depends on a good catch, and there is no other source of income.

Financial Assistance for Fishers

According to the ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the fishing community suffered significant losses during the COVID-19 lockdown. Government estimates indicate that the sector lost up to 23.1 million US dollars in earnings in 2020 alone.

So, when the government announced relief for fishers in November 2020, many in the fishing community were overjoyed. Unfortunately, only 4,740 of the 26,000 on the Fishermen’s register, or just over 11 per cent of the estimated 40,000 people who identify as fishers, received assistance.

The grant would cover their National Fisheries Authority (NFA) registration and ID cards, roughly 100 US dollars in vouchers to buy mesh for fish pots across the 137 fishing communities. An additional allocation of 200 US dollars each went to members of Parliament whose constituencies include fishing communities. The subsidies were to be paid to those fishermen who had been grounded for two months during COVID-19 lockdowns. These pay-outs or assistance are, in the general scheme of things, subsidies and are among those which the WTO and agencies like the FAO seek to ban.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), fishing subsidies in 39 countries averaged 12 billion US dollars annually between 2012 and 2014. While there was a 20 per cent reduction between 2015 and 2018, since 2016, the trend has continued to increase.

In its 2020 The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, the FAO identified subsidies as a contributing factor to overfishing, IUU fishing, and the decline of regional fish stocks.

The World Bank’s The Sunken Billions Revisited reported in 2017: “The proportion of fisheries that are fully fished, overfished, depleted, or recovering from overfishing increased from just over 60 per cent in the mid-1970s to about 75 per cent in 2005 and to almost 90 per cent in 2013”.

According to the FAO, subsidies in large fishing nations like the USA, European Union, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Russia, and China, contribute most to the over-exploitation of marine fish stocks.

WTO Proposed Ban On Subsidies

For the most part, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments, including Jamaica, believe the “WTO proposals are skewed to benefit the large fishing nations”, while those proposed for small, vulnerable economies were inadequate to address their interests.

In his presentation to Ministers attending the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva (June 12 to 17, 2022), Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Brown noted that most of the estimated USD 22 billion that is spent collectively on subsidies that incentivise unsustainable fishing practices each year, comes from the world’s largest economies.

Speaking on behalf of CARICOM, he pointed out that six of the Caribbean’s smallest countries collectively provide roughly “USD 9.7 million in subsidies that are considered harmful or less than one per cent of the global total.”

Subsidies for Caribbean fishers are few and far between. In times of crisis, the government steps in to provide much-needed help for the artisans – usually small-scale professional fishers- who account for more than 90 per cent of the industry.

Henry was one of those who did not receive a COVID-19 relief grant, and he is bitter. “I have to be doing this because only their friends get the help,” he said, angrily pointing to the bucket of fish he was paid to clean.

On the other hand, Ricky*(last name withheld on request), is grateful for the benefit but says it did not go far enough to offset the losses, especially with the double-whammy from the sargassum seaweed overwhelming their beach.

“The last time we got help, it was 15,000 US dollars, and not everyone got it,” he said adding: “We need help with the seaweed so we can continue to go to sea”, pointing to the huge pile of rotting seaweed covering beach and foreshore (area between the high and low tide marks).

Bent said the equipment cost is far too high for fishers to afford, given their declining incomes. Mesh costs between 100 and 300 US dollars, depending on the gauge (wire size) and does not include the cost of sticks, rope, and binding wire. Engines cost anywhere from 1000 US dollars (150,000 Jamaican dollars) or more, the men say.

The Jamaican government also gives tax exemptions for fishing equipment such as engines, boats and other gear to help ease the burden of a constantly shifting exchange rate. The men also purchase fuel at cost from the NFA, the agency responsible for regulating the island’s fisheries.

Estimates are that the fishing sector lost up to 23.1 million US dollars in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

Estimates are that the fishing sector lost up to 23.1 million US dollars in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Donations categorised as Subsidies 

In the Caribbean, donor agencies like the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), United Nations Development Programme and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) occasionally offer funding support to develop fisheries management plans and infrastructure.

Other assistance comes from donor agencies through Environmental NGOs like the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), a local development organisation operating in and managing one of Jamaica’s largest protected areas on behalf of the government. This ‘assistance’ too would come under the scrutiny of the WTO.

Executive Director Ingrid Parchment explained that CCAM also manages three marine protected areas across the parishes of St Catherine and Clarendon. In the last 10 to 15 years, she said, subsidies have come in the form of help with gear in the aftermath of natural disasters like hurricanes, beach improvement projects and gear distribution.

In the Caribbean, 142,000 mostly rural dwellers are directly and indirectly dependent on fishing. The sector reportedly earns 150 million US dollars and saves the region at least three times that sum. Fisheries account for up to 8 per cent of gross domestic product in some CARICOM member countries. Belize at 3.9 per cent and Guyana at 8.1 per cent, according to data from the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Management (CRFM) Secretariat, the CARICOM body responsible for coordinating regional fisheries.

In Belize, for instance, CRFM reports that the fishing industry is primarily artisanal and directly supports the livelihood of more than 15,000 Belizeans.

Meanwhile, the Jamaican fishing industry provides direct and indirect employment to some 40,000 fishers folk. The sector also contributes to the livelihoods of more than 200,000, the Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience(PCCR) project reported in 2015.

The PCCR report noted that at the end of 2015, 23,631 registered fisher folk and 7,133 registered boats were operating from 187 fishing beaches and two cays located at the Pedro Bank. While fin fish makes up the bulk of marine capture, the export earnings are primarily from the lobster and Queen Conch fisheries.

Small Countries Support Fair and Effective Bans

Some ministers negotiating the deal felt the working draft would leave developing and least developed nations bearing the brunt of cuts to the livelihoods of their small-scale fisherfolk and create loopholes for richer countries to continue subsidising the most harmful fishing activities.

Speaking on behalf of the CARICOM and primarily the Eastern Caribbean nations, ahead of the agreement, Prime Minister Brown argued: “the most beneficial deal would be one that requires large fishing nations to prioritise focus on improving the health and population of the target species that are most impacted by subsidies,” rather than permitting larger nations to go farther to catch more fish.

The FAO has reported that fish stocks are at risk of collapsing in many parts of the world due to overexploitation. The organisation’s data shows that about 34% of global stocks are overfished, compared with 10% in 1974, an indicator that stocks are being exploited faster than the fish population can replenish itself.

In 2005 the WTO initiated a call for the prohibition of subsidies and a mandate for eliminating harmful subsidies to be included in Goal 14 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aims to address ‘Life Below Water’ through the sustainable management and protection of marine and freshwater resources.

In its December 20, 2021 briefing, the WTO said that a reduction in fishing capacity and effort would contribute to the recovery of stocks. The organisations have also argued that subsidies that “directly increase fishing capacity and may lead to overfishing are estimated at about 22 billion US dollars worldwide.”

If nothing else, the June 17 agreement addresses the SDG 14.6 targets, specifically, the elimination of fisheries subsidies.

“The package of agreements you have reached will make a difference to the lives of people around the world. The outcomes demonstrate that the WTO is, in fact, capable of responding to the emergencies of our time,” said WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said, in announcing the historic new deal on fisheries subsidies on June 17, 2022.

While not as ambitious as initially planned, it means that for the first time, a WTO agreement has been established to address environmental issues. The new multilateral treaty includes a set of rules prohibiting subsidies to fishers engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, catching overfished stocks and fishing on the high seas outside the control of regional fisheries management authorities.

The agreement includes provisions (Articles 3, 4 and 5) to withhold subsidies from fishing vessels and operators that have engaged in IUU fishing from subsidies, eliminate subsidies in areas where the stocks are overfished and for fishing and fishing-related activities in areas that are outside the control of regional fishing authorities as there are no conservation rules governing these areas. Article 4, however, allows for subsidies to help rebuild overfished stocks.

The agreement also includes oversight of vessels fishing inside foreign waters and for fishing of stocks for which information is limited. In addition, members are required to notify the WTO about the subsidies they provide.

And in response to those members who asked for help, said WTO Director-General, Article 7 includes the creation of “a funding mechanism to provide targeted technical assistance and capacity building to help developing and least-developed country members implement the Agreement.”

On June 17, Chile’s Ambassador Santiago Wills, chairman of the WTO fisheries negotiation committee, noted:

“We have an agreement to eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and to prohibit subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, with appropriate and effective special and differential treatment.”

They believe the new WTO deal does not accommodate the special and differential treatment for less-developed nations that SDG 14.6 mandates.

The former head of now-defunct Jamaica’s Fisheries Division in the Ministry of Agriculture, Andre Kong, opposes the removal of subsidies as proposed by the World Trade Organisation(WTO) because “it does not take into account the realities in countries such as ours,” he said.

In its December 20, 2021 briefing, the WTO said that a reduction in fishing capacity and effort would contribute to the recovery of stocks. The organisations have also argued that subsidies that “directly increase fishing capacity and may lead to overfishing are estimated at about 22 billion US dollars worldwide.”

In Jamaica, the government teamed up with fishing communities to establish sanctuaries or no-take areas to replenish fish stocks, a combined 9,020 hectares across 18 fish sanctuaries and no-take areas, with another four under assessment. Other measures include a new Fisheries Act, legal and management frameworks and regulations to improve policing.

In the Caribbean, 142,000 mostly rural dwellers are directly and indirectly dependent on fishing. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

In the Caribbean, 142,000 mostly rural dwellers are directly and indirectly dependent on fishing.

Across the Caribbean and Latin America, authorities are coordinating through the CRFM, the Organisation of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector of the Central American Isthmus (OSPESCA) and others to implement environmental, livelihood projects and social programmes that aim to support the vulnerable populations that depend on fishing. In Clarendon and St Catherine, Parchment and her C-CAM Foundation continue to roll out donor-funded projects to ease the way for stakeholders.

Once negotiations are complete, countries like Jamaica will have up to two years to minimise the impact of their sector. Caribbean nations and their counterparts in Africa and the Pacific are looking to eliminate fuel and vessel construction subsidies that make distant-water fleets viable and support IUU fishing. So far, the deal has targeted high-seas fishing, which falls outside national jurisdictions.

Ministers from “African, Caribbean and Pacific countries kept their promise to continue negations for a “fair and effective WTO agreement” that would help to minimise the effects of harmful subsidies.

“Year after year, giant, foreign-flagged vessels encroach on Caribbean waters, competing with our local fishing fleets. In 2018, the most recent year for which data are available, six unique foreign distant-water fishing vessels were observed in OECS waters, propped up by over 99 million US dollars in state-sponsored subsidies,” the Prime Minister said.

The six are Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) – Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In Jamaica, the Ministry of Agriculture estimates that intercepted IUU vessels account for only 14 per cent of the IUU fishing that occurs in Jamaican waters. Between January 2011 and March 2019, ten foreign vessels were caught fishing illegally in Jamaican waters.

So even as the world celebrates the WTO deal on subsidies, the spectre of unfinished business hangs over the Caribbean. Governments have said that they will “keep negotiating”, but as long as the trade of high-value protected species like conch remains critical to the livelihoods of regional fishers, uncertainty persists.

This story was produced with the support of Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN)

More information on IUU fishing interceptions in Jamaica is available in the booklet version linked below

Insight Crime Investigations:

This report for InsightCrime was published on July 27.

For more than half a century, Ephraim Walters has fished the southern coast of Jamaica. But he rarely heads out any longer.  

With inland waters almost barren, Walters, who goes by the nickname Frame, said he must travel farther out to sea, some 100 kilometres, spending three to five days and using up to 100 gallons of fuel.

“Sometimes you go out and you don’t catch a thing, and you can’t buy back the gas you use to go out,” the father of nine told InSight Crime.

Jamaican fishers, many unlicensed and largely ungoverned, are taking what they can from the country’s waters, draining them of shad, yellowtail, parrot, snapper, and other types of reef fish. They use destructive techniques, including small-mesh nets that scrape the ocean floor of all life. Undersized fish are harvested indiscriminately, and there are no catch limits.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Jamaica

In deep waters, foreign vessels – some of them carrying dozens of divers – poach lobster and conch, a type of shellfish that was on the brink of collapse a few years ago, Jamaican fishers and conservation officials told InSight Crime.

“Honduran and Nicaraguan boats are there every evening, and then they go home in the early morning,” said Shawn Taylor, the head of the Jamaica Fishermen Cooperative Union.

Natural disasters and development have also decimated Jamaica’s fisheries.

Hurricanes have destroyed coral reefs, smashing, dislodging, and burying them under sediment. Development projects have drained wetlands and pumped sewage into the sea. Coral disease, sea-urchin die-off, and coral bleaching have also left reefs severely damaged. But the reefs are slowly recovering, said marine biologist Karl Aiken, Jamaica’s chair to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES), a treaty meant to regulate and monitor wildlife trade.

A combination of factors has led to declines in Jamaica’s fisheries, Aiken said, but “the most important one has been very high levels of intense fishing on the islands’ fish stocks, both on our own shelf but also offshore.”

Plenty of Fish in the Sea?

Some 30 years ago, Walters sailed his boat down the coast from his hometown of Belmont to Rocky Point, a community on the island’s south coast. He never left.

Fishers headed out to sea every day then, fishing in the shallow waters of the 24-kilometre wide sea shelf. They made enough to build homes, support their families and send their children to school, he said. 

“Dropping the net in the bay, we would pull it together onto the shore with a whole lot of fish,” he said. “But these days we have to go farther out to sea for far less.” 

Jamaica’s waters are composed of 274,000 square kilometres of maritime space, about 25 times the size of its mainland, according to André Kong, who served as director of fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture from 2011 to 2019.

“What makes it all so difficult is the amount of landing sites,” Kong said. “They land at many places at all different hours of the night, and there is no regulation for them to report even when they come back.”

The number of fishers registered in Jamaica is unclear. According to a 2020 Caribbean Natural Resources Institute report, citing data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about 40,000 Jamaican fishers make their living from the sea. But Jamaica’s National Fisheries Authority has licensed only 26,000 of them.

Gavin Bellamy, head of the government’s National Fisheries Authority, acknowledges that data is lacking. But he said a new online registration system, which will create a database of boats and licensed fishers, will come online soon. He said this would eliminate weaknesses in data collection, monitoring, and enforcement. Fishers will also be instructed on new regulations. Proposals include quotas and catch sizes.

Current regulations limit specific techniques, such as spearfishing, and equipment, such as the size of fish nets. Fishing is prohibited in 18 sanctuaries. Three are in the Portland Bight Protected Area, which includes a significant portion of Jamaica’s shallow shelf. Ingrid Parchment, the executive director of the foundation that manages the protected area, said that nearly 70 per cent of boats stopped in the sanctuaries show no registration marks. The fishers themselves often lack any personal identification.

“We even have had cases where persons who are caught fishing in the sanctuary were charged and paid the fines, and then the following week they were back in the sanctuary with another boat,” Parchment told InSight Crime.

Poaching Conch Off Pedro Cay

Pedro Cay is a small cluster of islets, rocky formations, and uninhabited islands, whose southwest waters, known as Pedro Banks, are home to the country’s largest conch fishery. In 2019, conch harvesting was banned after a study revealed that the fishery was collapsing.

However, conch populations on Pedro Banks have slowly recovered, allowing for a five-month season, which resumed last year in April and ended in August. The season opened again this year at the beginning of March. There is a catch limit of 300 tons for industrial boats and 50 tons for artisanal fishers. The limits – while seemingly high – are still lower than the pre-closure quotas, said Aiken.

The waters around Morant Cays, islands on the east coast, also contain a conch fishery that has been decimated by overfishing, said Gladstone White, Jamaica’s representative to the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Network Organizations (CNFO). He criticized the decision to resume conch harvests, saying that the two-year ban was insufficient.

SEE ALSO: How IUU Fishing Plundered Latin America’s Oceans

Pedro Banks is vast, about two-thirds the size of Jamaica’s mainland. The country’s coast guard comprises only five stations, just one of which is offshore.

Fishers have reported boats from nearby Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic poaching the waters along the western end of the banks, with some staying up to a week. The vessels, mostly converted shrimp trawlers, carry large numbers of divers who vacuum the seafloor.

Between January 2011 and March 2019, authorities intercepted 10 foreign vessels, according to then Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw, who told regional officials last year that the arrests accounted for just a fraction of the foreign fishing vessels operating illegally in Jamaican waters during that time. 

On occasions when foreign boats are intercepted, authorities have found not just conch and lobster but sea cucumber in its holds. 

“They take everything,” Aiken said of the divers. “These poachers are highly irresponsible.”

Some Jamaican fishers have colluded with the foreign captains to help them elude the coast guard. Taylor, the head of the fishing cooperative, complained that the lack of licenses provided to fishers drives them to engage in such illegal practices.

“Because our fishers can’t get a license,” he said, “they work with foreign [vessels] to come and take up the things which are banned here.”

At 70, Walters still dives for conch and lobster when he receives his licensed quota. He also recovers fish pots that he sets 18 meters below the water’s surface.

Standing in his equipment-shed-turned-camp, Walters was surrounded by engines and other gear. The smell of a boiling pot of fish-tea permeated the air. Fishing is “hardly worth the effort,” he said.

The original story is here

*This report is part of a two-part investigation on IUU fishing with the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University. The second instalment, “Plundered Oceans: IUU Fishing in SouthAmerican Seas,” is set to be published on August 3.

Technology:  A bridge to the Challenges and Opportunities of organic waste To Energy Solutions in the Caribbean and Latin America 

By Zadie Neufville

The following article was first printed in the 6th Issue of CESaRE Journal -on June 22
Access to energy is one of the most significant challenges facing countries like Jamaica. High and fluctuating fuel costs make electricity prices in the Caribbean and Latin America among the highest in the world, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).

The World Resources Institute (WRI) reports that in the last five years, more than 80 countries worldwide have committed to net-zero emissions by 2050, which makes waste-to-energy alternatives an urgent issue for the region. But the switch to and use of alternative energy sources could be expensive, depending on the technology. 

In a study titled “The state-of-the-art of organic waste to energy in Latin America and the Caribbean Challenges and opportunities” (2020), researchers Rodolfo Daniel Silva-Martínez, et al. propose the use of waste to energy technologies (WtEs) as an alternative that would be beneficial on a socio-economic level. 

They noted that while such technologies have been developed “they (the technologies) are still far away to significantly contribute not only to treat the ever-increasing waste volumes in the region but also to supply the regional energy demand and meet their national carbon emission goals”. The team examined the various technologies already being used in the region and proposed that governments look at the application of the most feasible. They also examined the challenges the region faced.

The researchers further noted that “the technical complexity of these technologies aligned with lack of research, high investment costs and political deficiencies” has not allowed for the implementation or deployment of suitable solutions in a few countries like Mexico and Brazil. In the Caribbean sub-region where there is substantial renewable energy potential in solar, wind and geothermal energy and growing investments in renewable energy, that cost could likely be a significant deterrent. 

In their assessments of the technologies, some of which are already being used, the researchers point to significant benefits of upscaling specific types, such as large and small-scale bio-digesters and methane capture from landfills. 

Notably, small-scale bio-digesters and incineration are already prevalent. The sugar cane industry has, for more than a century powered its operation using bagasse waste and sometimes wood. Both Jamaica and Belize are among the smaller countries that have experimented with ethanol. In Belize, the sugar factories continue to generate power to fuel their operations and have recently begun to look at the cultivation and use of a wild cane – the Arundo donax as a source of alternative fuel. 

Aside from the reduction of emissions, the proposed methods would also result in socio-economic benefits that come from safer and more sanitary landfills, cleaner air and the protection of groundwater supplies. A bonus is the potential earnings from carbon credits.

The researchers noted that up to 2011 more than 99 waste-to-energy landfills projects had been approved and financed just in the Latin American region through carbon markets associated with the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism. This resulted in the reduction of more than 19 million tons of CO between 2007 to 2012. 

In its 2016 FOCUS magazine feature on sustainable energy, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) pointed out that an energy revolution had begun to take place in the sub-region of the Caribbean. Several countries from Antigua and Barbuda to Jamaica had begun to install solar and wind farms.

IRENA’s 2014-2015 report, also pointed to the 85 per cent growth in global renewable energy power capacity in the 10 years leading up to the report. The agency noted the more than 70 per cent reduction in the cost of technologies over the same period which made such technologies more competitive to produce electricity in many countries.

The proposals of Martinez et al. could be feasible in countries like Jamaica where the burning of garbage at landfills in Kingston and Montego Bay has become a social issue. There are already reports of the exploration of the development of organic waste to energy (OWtE) processes at the Riverton City Landfill in Kingston. 

The question remains, however: Are these small islands producing enough waste or the type of waste that is required to justify the applicability of large-scale OWtE plants?

On the other hand, with more than US $270 billion invested in renewable energy technologies up to 2014, which back then represented a 15 per cent increase compared to 2013, is there the political will to switch?

Poor Water Distribution Infrastructure Gives Jamaica a ‘Water Scarce’ Label

by Zadie Neufville
This article was first published by InterPress Service on Apr 26 2022
It will take billions of dollars and many years to fix a growing problem that has placed Jamaica into the unlikely bracket of being among the world’s most water-scarce countries due to the unavailability of potable water.

The worsening water crisis of the Kingston and St Andrew (KMA) metropolis results in rationing for months in some years. The lock-offs are exacerbated by droughts, broken pumps and the crumbling pipelines making up the water distribution system. At the same time, in the aquifers below the capital city, more than 104.3 million cubic meters of water, or about 60 per cent of the available resource, remained unusable due to pollution.

A 2020 study, Groundwater Availability and Security in the Kingston Basin found that high levels of nitrates in the city’s main aquifer were making the water unusable for domestic purposes. The study conducted by researchers at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus’ Departments of Chemistry and Geology and Geography, pointed to the contamination by effluent from the septic and absorption pits that litter the city’s landscape and saline intrusion from over-pumping as the cause of the pollution.

Lead researcher Arpita Mandal told IPS via email that the two-year study, which started in 2018, showed no “significant change” in the levels of chloride and nitrates during the period, noting: “The historic data is patchy, but the chloride and nitrate levels have always shown high above the permissible limits”.

The report concluded that there is an urgent need to address the continued contamination of the Kingston Basin, but Debbie-Ann Gordon Smith, the lead chemist in the study, noted that the cleaning process would be extremely lengthy and costly.

According to the study, many of the wells across KSA were decommissioned because between 50 and 80 per cent of the effluent from absorption pits and septic tanks goes directly into the ground. The report said the same was true for many Caribbean Islands, including Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and Grenada.

Noting the concerns for the quality and quantity of water in the aquifers of the KSA, the managing director of the Water Resources Authority (WRA) Peter Clarke pointed to the existence of several working wells in use by companies that treat the water to potable standards for industrial use.

He said that while the contamination from “200 years of pit latrines” (in KSA) continues to cause concern, “the hardscaping of car parks and roofs” means there is less water available to recharge the aquifer. Therefore, to preserve the continued viability of the aquifer, the WRA, Jamaica’s water management and regulatory body, is preparing to put a moratorium on new wells.

Clarke is confident that the island has enough water and reserves of the precious liquid for decades to come. He noted, however, that in Jamaica’s case, it is the distribution and access that makes water a scarce commodity in some areas.
“It is where the people are, where water is distributed, and access to the water that is important,” he said.

In 2015 the state-owned domestic distribution agency, the National Water Commission (NWC), announced an extensive 15 million US dollar programme to refurbish Kingston’s ageing distribution network. The programme included decontamination and recovery of old wells, decommissioning old sewage plants, and rehabilitation of water storage facilities.

In the process, the water company mended 40,000 leaks, which back then were reportedly costing the city 50 per cent of the potable water it produced. They also replaced the ageing pipelines installed before the country’s independence in 1962. The programme continues with the replacement and installation of hundreds of miles and pipelines.

Clarke explained that Jamaica’s groundwater supply is three to four times greater than that which runs to the sea via the island’s 120 rivers and their networks of streams and provides 85 per cent of potable needs. Jamaica uses roughly 25 per cent of its available groundwater resources and 11 per cent of its accessible surface water.

To satisfy the growing demand in the KMA, Clarke said, the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation is considering a new treatment plant in St Catherine among its planned and existing solutions. In 2016, an artificial groundwater recharge system was built at the cost of just over 1 billion Jamaican dollars or 133 million US dollars, on 68 acres (27.5 hectares) of what was once cane-lands in Innswood, St Catherine, to replenish the wells that supply the most populated areas of the metropolis and surrounding areas.

The system currently injects an extra five million gallons of potable water per day to replenish abstractions from the supply wells. The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development announced last month that it is considering similar systems to store excess water for use in times of drought and to reduce evaporation from surface systems like reservoirs and dams in other water-stressed areas of the island,

Both Gordon Smith and Mandal agree that Kingston’s water shortage is worsened by climate variations, increased urbanisation, and the inadequate management of existing resources. In the last few years, a construction boom in the KMA has transformed the KMA, placing increased pressure on the available water supply.

The UWI’s Climate Research Group has warned of increased temperature and extremes in rainfall and droughts. Based on the 6th Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Group warned Caribbean governments to brace for more prolonged and more intense droughts and higher temperatures that will impact, among other things, food production and water supplies.

In the case of the KSA, the NWC has continued to build and upgrade the city’s sewage treatment capacity in the areas affected to end sewage and wastewater contamination of the aquifer. Hopefully, the aquifer will naturally flush itself when the work is complete.

“Jamaica is not short of water,” Clark said. “It’s a distribution issue”.

IPS UN Bureau Report

Commonwealth Climate Finance Hub to Boost Belize’s Delivery of Climate Change Projects

by Zadie Neufville
The following was first published by IPS on April 19, 2022
In September 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK-based Commonwealth Secretariat announced that it had dispatched highly skilled climate finance advisors to four member nations to help them navigate the often-complicated process of accessing climate funds. Belize, the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) only Central American member, was one of the recipients.

Since then, with the support of the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub (CCFAH), Belize has completed a climate finance landscape study, devised a five-year strategy to access international funds, and established a dedicated Climate Finance Unit in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment. The unit works collaboratively with the National Climate Change Office (NCCO), which sits under the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management.

With some 28 climate change-related projects in varying stages of development, Belize needed to find a way to speed up the project development process from concept to implementation if the country were to realise its commitments, said Leroy Martinez, an economist in the Climate Finance Unit. The often-cumbersome application process for the Green Climate Fund (GCF), among other schemes, can mean projects linger for years before implementation.

In January 2022, the government announced the launch of the new Climate Finance Unit. Director Carlos Pol explained that the aim was to “maximise access to climate finance, provide the technical and other support to access and fast track projects,” while helping the private sector identify funding to carry out much-needed programmes. He noted that Belize is also being supported to build human and institutional capacity.

On long-term placement with the NCCO, working under the guidance of Belize’s Chief Climate Change Officer, Dr Lennox Gladden, is Commonwealth national climate finance advisor Ranga Pallawala, a highly skilled finance expert deployed to help Belize make “successful applications and proposals to international funds”.

Climate change impacts from wind, flood and drought have been extensive, Pol said. The damage has led to annual losses of about seven per cent of the country’s GDP, or US$123 million, which, when added to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, elevated Belize’s debt-to-GDP rating to an unsustainable 130 per cent.

Pallawala told IPS that his role includes helping to build and strengthen capacity in climate financing of Belize. He would also “strengthen their capacity to plan, access, deliver, monitor and report on climate finance in line with national priorities, and access to knowledge sharing through the commonwealth’s pool of experts”.

Pol told IPS that, as the Commonwealth’s assigned climate finance adviser, Pallawala assisted in developing a National Climate Finance Strategy to, among other things, identify likely projects and possible funding sources. Pallawala also worked with the National Climate Change Office to carry out a climate landscape study, which Pol said: “Identified the country’s needs, the funding available and that which was needed to achieve the recommendations coming out of the NDC [Nationally Determined Contribution or national climate plan]”.

The Commonwealth Climate Finance Hub work in Belize also aims to support the GCF accreditation process of local institutions, streamline climate finance and seek new opportunities to ensure that climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies are at the centre of the government’s development policies and plans.

The CCFAH will allow the country to streamline its NDC ambitions and help improve its ability to source additional funding from external sources. It will help to develop strong private/public partnership projects, benefit from the expertise within the Commonwealth’s pool of international advisers and fast track project proposals, among other things. In addition, a debt-for-climate swap initiative announced earlier this year will allow Belize to reduce its public debt by directing its debt service payments to fund some climate change projects.

In the current scenario, Pol explained, Belize could use available funds to support the “early entry of projects” to minimise delays in implementation. The country has experienced challenges in this regard in the past, for example, with the start-up of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) Arundo donax biomass project.

In 2016, the 5Cs began an ambitious project to reduce Belize’s fuel bill by using local wild grass as a substitute for the bagasse, a by-product of sugar production used to fuel the furnaces. A local wild cane with the scientific name of Arundo donax was identified as a potentially suitable renewable crop for augmenting the supply of bagasse year-round. But despite a partnership with the national electricity provider BelcoGen, the project experienced delays.

As project manager Earl Green told IPS, the absence of funds to do some requisite studies slowed implementation. In 2018, the GCF provided US$694,000 for a project preparation facility. Even with good results from the pilot phases, the GCF did not fund the studies to determine the growth rates of the wild cane.

With Pallawala on board, delays like those experienced with the Arundo donax project could be a thing of the past. Additional funding is now in place to establish cultivation plots with two species of wild cane have been planted.

Pallawala said his role is to support the CFU in building stronger projects and enhancing existing ones, “not to overlap what others are doing, but to look at all the available sources of funds and help the country develop projects that will capitalise on all the opportunities”.

This year Belize also announced a debt-for-nature swap that effectively frees up funds that would otherwise be used to service debt to pay for its implementation of climate change projects.

So far, the country has received just over US2.2 million in readiness funding; US600,000 in adaptation funding for water projects and US902,937 for fisheries and coastal projects; just under US 8 million to build resilience in rural areas and just under US2.2 million for project preparation funding.

To date, through its advisers, the Commonwealth Secretariat has helped member countries access more than US46 million to fund 36 climate projects through the Climate Finance Access Hub. An additional US762 million worth of projects are in the pipeline.

IPS UN Bureau Report– the original story is here

Tap Community to Stop Human Trafficking, says Survivor

by Zadie Neufville

This article was previously published by the IPS on January 31, 2022
A single line at the end of the United States State Department 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report made headlines in Jamaica and had many perturbed. “Some police allegedly facilitated or participated in sex trafficking,” it read.

While the report cited no incidents, investigations, or police officers’ convictions for sex trafficking, Jamaicans on social media called for investigations. People cited the increasing levels of sexual abuse reported during the COVID-19 pandemic as justification.

US authorities have categorised Jamaica as “a source, transit, and destination country for adults and children trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labour”.

Manager of the Trafficking in Persons (TiP) Secretariat Chenee Russell Robinson told journalists recently that more than 110 victims of sex trafficking were rescued in the last ten years. At an average of ten per year, she believes the number is far too high “because this number represents only the tip of the iceberg”.

Some matters are before the court, and investigations into other activities were ongoing, noting that while girls make up the majority of sex trafficking victims, there are a growing number of boys, too, she said.

Between 2015 and 2019, the number of teens reported missing on the island averaged approximately 1,400 a year, data from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency shows. With numbers increasing annually and the figures for those returning home or recovered declining, the spectre of a rising sex trafficking trade is becoming one of the biggest worries for local authorities.

Child protection activists believe that most missing children who do not return home are victims of sex trafficking. Here, it is not uncommon for families, including mothers, to traffic their girl children in exchange for monetary or material payment, police say. This form of child sex trafficking may be more widespread in some communities.

Experts say that children who are sent by their parents to live with their more affluent relatives in urban areas regularly become victims. And according to the State Department report: “Sex trafficking of Jamaican women and children, including boys, occurs on streets and in nightclubs, bars, massage parlours, hotels and private homes, and resort towns”.

So, while the report commends Jamaica for its strides and multi-agency approach to combatting human trafficking, it scolds the government for reduced spending, a fall-off in apprehension and training. It also criticised the absence of “long-term services to support victims’ reintegration, prevent re-exploitation, or sustain protection throughout lengthy court cases”.

The report noted that Jamaica “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.” These efforts included a trafficking conviction with significant prison terms and restitution paid to the victim, a national referral mechanism that aims to standardise procedures for victim identification, referral to cross-government entities services and an annual report.

Significantly, authorities hold up several improvements The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) Act, first enacted in 2007. Amendments speed up the prosecution of cases by introducing bench trials and increasing the penalties.

On July 9, 2013, the government amended the Act to increase incarceration periods to 20 years. The 2021 amendments removed the alternate and often controversial fine in place of imprisonment.

“Now a person convicted of trafficking can only be imprisoned or imprisoned and fined, so you cannot be fined only,” Russell explained.

Trafficking survivor turned activist, and consultant Shamere McKenzie told IPS in an interview that community awareness, involvement, and the use of technology to enhance the safety of possible victims could be the tools that tip Jamaica into Tier 1.

“There’s a lot we can do as a community to help our young people shape their morals and values and build their sense of awareness,” she said, noting that traffickers can recognise people with low self-esteem.

Since 2016 authorities have funded the development of two apps – Stay Alert and Travel Plan – to make it safer for especially young girls and women who use public transport. McKenzie believes communities and parents must learn to use technologies to keep their children safe.

“We should be teaching people how to protect themselves, how to memorise numbers, develop code words, develop safety methods and use text messages to protect themselves,” said McKenzie, who mentors survivors and educates others on how to spot and avoid the traps.

A former student-athlete, she was lured by someone she thought was a caring friend into 18-months of living hell. Sidelined by a serious hamstring injury, the young Jamaican’s athletics scholarship to a top United States university was suspended. She was forced to work for the extra money she needed for school fees and rent when she accepted a friend’s help.

The short-term offer of a rent-free basement apartment and ‘extra work’ at the trafficker’s nightclub turned into forced sex work after being beaten into submission by a man she believed to be her friend.

While this episode took place in the US, it is not uncommon for Jamaicans and foreigners to be lured young women into prostitution by offering them jobs or simply ’a better life’.

In 2016, a court sentenced Rohan Ebanks to 40 years and imprisoned and fined his common-law wife Voneisha Reeves after trafficking a 14-year-old Haitian girl. The judge convicted Ebanks for rape, trafficking, and facilitating trafficking in person while his co-accused had pleaded guilty to facilitating trafficking.

The fisherman had met the girl’s father on one of his many trips to Haiti and had convinced him to send her to Jamaica for a better life. Three years after the ordeal began, police rescued the teen from Ebanks and Reeve’s home, where she had been looking after the couple’s children.

As the pandemic progresses, Robinson and other members of the Traffic in Persons (TiP) task force warn parents that traffickers have gone online, making it more difficult to track them. They’ve also warned teens and their parents that families are also trafficking their relatives.

The 110 rescued by the TiP task force are among the .04 per cent of the estimated human trafficking survivors worldwide identified. The number is an indicator that most go undetected.

Experts conclude that assessing the scope of human trafficking is difficult because many cases go undetected. However, estimates are between 20 million and 40 million people n modern slavery today earn the perpetrators roughly 150 billion US dollars annually. Some 99 billion US dollars comes from commercial sexual exploitation.

“We must begin to teach our youth to use the technology we have to protect themselves,” McKenzie said.

This article is part of a series of features from across the globe on human trafficking. IPS coverage is supported by the Airways Aviation Group.

Corporate Fear Drives Caribbean Vaccine COVID-19 Mandates

by Zadie Neufville

This article was first published by IPS on November 22, 2021
When face-to-face Cabinet meetings resumed in Jamaica following more than a year of virtual meetings due to COVID-19, Ministers lined up to have their immunisation cards inspected.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the Government “has to lead the country towards normality”.

“The way to do it is for every Jamaican to comply with the infection, prevention and control measures that have been established, which will eventually be relaxed the higher the level of vaccination,” he said after the October 12 meeting.

In the current atmosphere, outbreaks, no-movement days that shut down commerce and vaccine hesitancy send ripples through the economy. So, while Jamaica has no national vaccine mandate, private sector companies and some government agencies are already demanding that staff vaccinate.

In addition to several vaccination drives that target employees, Jamaica Private Sector Organisation joined the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association to put their support solidly behind a campaign for a national mandate.

The groups say that with the low vaccination rates almost two years into the pandemic, Jamaica is being left behind in achieving population immunity, putting the country’s recovery at risk. The groups contend that the social and economic impact will be devastating, and “the ripple effects will continue for years to come”. But even with growing support for a mandate, opposition leader Mark Golding opposes one. Only about 17 per cent of the Jamaican population is vaccinated.

Across the region, governments have already implemented mandates. In Guyana, nationals who want to enter any public buildings, including banks, restaurants, supermarkets and schools, must show proof of vaccination. In the twin-island state of Antigua Barbuda, opposition legislators accused House Speaker Sir Gerald Watt of acting beyond his powers after he prevented them from participating in the sitting of the Senate because they did not show proof of vaccination.

With each outbreak, concern for the tourism industry that drives many regional economies grows. Many countries now have vaccination policies for incoming adult travellers. These include Anguilla, Grenada, St. Barts, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands.

And even as governments ponder mandates, they are also bracing for civil unrest and legal challenges from workers. In a recent opinion, the Jamaican Bar Association said nothing was preventing the Government or employers from implementing mandates. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States outlined its position in a 16-page document titled: “The Legal Dimensions of Mandatory/Compulsory Requirements for COVID-19 Vaccinations, August 2021”.

According to the report, that countries could legally pursue mandatory vaccination laws.
“Having demonstrated … that mandatory vaccination is constitutionally appropriate given the leeway granted in favour of public health imperatives, it is submitted that employers could justify a requirement in a pandemic context, at minimum where the workplace is a high-risk environment, such as health-care, or essential services, or for workers more at risk at the workplace, such as frontline workers interacting with the public,” the document said.

But while public health legislation specifically addresses restrictions in times of pandemic, those who oppose mandates argue that they are a breach of human rights.

President of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, Helene Davis-Whyte, is expecting a national mandate if efforts to boost vaccination numbers fail. She argued for a comprehensive public awareness programme with consultations before such a step is taken and cautioned that a “draconian approach” could discourage some people.

“We are not necessarily opposed, but what we are saying is that you have to do more work because we don’t think that enough work has been done,” she told journalists recently.

And so, armed with their individual legal opinions, governments have been implementing the rules they say will protect their countries. By October 2021, at least seven governments across the region had instituted COVID-19 mandates for government workers.

In August, in Guyana, police were called to evict staff members in the education ministry’s head office who had entered the building without proof of vaccination. Earlier that month, there were mass protests in St. Vincent and Barbados. And in July, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves was hit on the head and injured by an angry protestor during anti-mandate demonstrations in St Vincent.

Barbados, like Jamaica, has not officially backed a vaccine mandate, but Holness acknowledges he may have to make the decision soon. But even with no national mandate in Jamaica increasingly, civil servants find they must be vaccinated to work.

The Ministry of Tourism has raced ahead to vaccinate the 170,000 people who work in the sector. Already workers who come in contact with cruise ship visitors must be fully inoculated.

And as the country eyes a return to full-time school, it’s the turn of teachers and school staff. Medical workers have already been issued a mandate. In the private sector, more than 80 per cent of staff are vaccinated.

In the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector, where several companies became hotspots during the height of the first wave, vaccination is compulsory. In Jamaica, COVID-19 restrictions and 14-days of lockdown cost the sector US$42 million (J$5.88 billion) in revenue.

But it is in the region’s tourism industry that mandates have become the norm. Hoteliers and other service providers seek to prevent lawsuits and shutdowns by demanding that staff be fully vaccinated. In the Bahamas, workers and visitors must be fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated visitors face a 14-day quarantine. Jamaica is aiming for a 100 per cent vaccinated workforce.

A growing number of countries have instituted vaccination policies for incoming adult travellers. These include Anguilla, Grenada, St. Barts, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands.

Meanwhile, the private sector’s desire for a return to normalcy and increased economic activity could push many toward a vaccine faster than any government mandate could.

El Caribe se prepara contra futuros desastres

By: Zadie Neufville

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article
A pesar de sus diferentes capacidades nacionales y su exposición a peligros naturales, los países caribeños han mantenido progresos en el desarrollo a largo plazo y han registrado “buenos niveles” de preparación que les han permitido restaurar rápidamente las actividades económicas después de impactos como desastres naturales y la epidemia de COVID-19, según el Banco Mundial.

En su informe Resiliencia 360°: Una Guía para Preparar al Caribe para una Nueva Generación de Shocks (2021), presentado el 17 de noviembre, la entidad elogia a la región por su sistema de coordinación regional y sus programas de protección social que permitieron una rápida respuesta a la COVID-19.

Sin embargo, señala que a pesar del “buen funcionamiento de estos sistemas, la región sufre de pobreza continua y se vio afectada por los desafíos económicos causados por la pandemia”.

El informe evalúa los impactos históricos y futuros de las diversas perturbaciones naturales y climáticas de los 17 países que conforman la región del Caribe, sus brechas en la construcción de resiliencia y ofrece una serie de recomendaciones para los formuladores de políticas, como fortalecer la eficiencia de los gobiernos, empoderar a hogares y empresas y reducir los riesgos futuros mediante la mejora de la planificación espacial y la protección costera natural.

Su lanzamiento se dio días después de la reunión presencial y virtual realizada en Kingston, capital de Jamaica, con ministros y representantes de alto nivel de 30 países de América Latina y el Caribe para continuar la implementación del Marco de Sendai para la Reducción del Riesgo de Desastres 2015-2030 en la región, y alinear sus acciones con los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible de la ONU.

El Marco de Sendai es un acuerdo internacional adoptado por los estados miembros de las Naciones Unidas y respaldado por su Asamblea General en 2015. Describe los objetivos y prioridades para reducir los riesgos existentes y lograr una reducción sustancial de los mismos así como de las pérdidas de vidas, los medios de subsistencia, la salud y los activos físicos, sociales, culturales y ambientales para 2030.

Al término de la reunión (4 de noviembre), que se realizó por primera vez en un país del Caribe, los participantes emitieron una declaración comprometiéndose a fortalecer las capacidades de sus países para responder y recuperarse de los desastres, incluida la pandemia, y poner a prueba su sistema de respuesta regional, elogiado por el Banco Mundial en el informe presentado el miércoles.

Entre otras cosas, los participantes se comprometieron a reducir la mortalidad, el número de personas afectadas por desastres, los daños a la infraestructura crítica y las pérdidas económicas y al desarrollo causadas por la pandemia de COVID-19 en la región.

Maurice Mason, economista ambiental del Instituto para el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Universidad de las Indias Occidentales, mostró su acuerdo con la afirmación del informe del Banco Mundial de que “aunque la región estaba preparada para manejar los impactos, es muy vulnerable y depende de los cambios en la demanda turística mundial”.

“Con el 90 por ciento de nuestra infraestructura crítica a menos de 8 kilómetros de la costa, altamente vulnerable a las marejadas ciclónicas, el futuro de nuestros pequeños estados insulares debe ser en el corto –y también en el largo plazo– aumentar las restricciones a nuevos desarrollos [cercanos a la costa]”.

Maurice Mason, Instituto para el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Universidad de las Indias Occidentales, Jamaica

Según él, invertir en infraestructura crítica –elementos o servicios indispensables para el desarrollo de un país– es la única manera de generar resiliencia en los países más vulnerables de América Latina y el Caribe.

“Con el 90 por ciento de nuestra infraestructura crítica a menos de 8 kilómetros de la costa, altamente vulnerable a las marejadas ciclónicas, el futuro de nuestros pequeños estados insulares debe ser en el corto –y también en el largo plazo— aumentar los obstáculos para nuevos desarrollos [cercanos a la costa]”, añadió.

Para poder alcanzar los objetivos del Marco de Sendai, los gobiernos de estos países se están asociando con el Fondo de Recuperación Resiliente del Caribe, mecanismo de financiamiento de subvenciones para ayudar en el largo plazo a los países a recuperarse y mejorar su capacidad de adaptación y resiliencia ante los desastres, como parte de su recuperación post COVID-19.

Dicho mecanismo es una asociación entre la Unión Europea, el Fondo Mundial para la Reducción de Desastres y la Recuperación, y el Banco Mundial, que proporcionará asesoramiento técnico, asistencia para las medidas de adaptación y para desarrollar la resiliencia así como para ampliar el seguro contra pérdidas.

“Nuestro turismo está basado en la costa por lo que nuestra economía es altamente vulnerable”, anota Mason, y señala que a pesar de la preparación, el nivel de inversión en seguros sigue siendo inadecuado para proteger a los países de las repercusiones de los impactos de eventos naturales como los huracanes; y muchas estructuras siguen siendo incapaces de resistir los embates de huracanes por encima de la categoría tres.

América Latina y el Caribe se encuentran entre las regiones más vulnerables del mundo a los desastres. Datos del Centro de Investigaciones sobre Epidemiología de Desastres indican que entre 1970 y 2019 se produjeron 2.309 desastres naturales que dejaron 510.204 muertos y 297 millones de personas afectadas o desplazadas, además de daños por US$ 437.000 millones. En no pocos casos se destruyeron economías, hogares y medios de vida.

WhatsApp Image 2021-11-04 at 3.18.48 PM

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

 Caribbean Under Threat: Report Reveals Enormous Challenges for the Region

by Zadie Neufville
This article was first published by IPS on Sept 9, 2021 – Less than halfway into the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season, Jamaica and its Caribbean neighbours were already tallying the costs of infrastructural damage and crop losses from the passage of three tropical storms – Elsa, Grace and Ida. And after a record-breaking 2020 season, the region is on tenterhooks as the season peaks.

But while storm and hurricane damage are not new to the Caribbean, these systems’ increased frequency and intensity bring new reckoning for a region where climate change is already happening. According to data, the effects are likely to worsen in the next 20 years or so, earlier than previously expected.

What is more, the launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report (AR6) confirmed what regional scientists have said for years: the frequency and intensity of hurricanes will increase, and floods, droughts and dry spells will be more prolonged and more frequent. In addition, sea levels are rising faster, and heatwaves are more intense and are occurring more often.

AR6, the so-called ‘red code for humanity’, offers a frightening look at the global climate and what is to come. It also confirmed that for most small island states, climate change is already happening.

In a bid to bring home the reality of what is fast becoming the region’s biggest challenge, two leading climate scientists broke down AR6 to highlight the issues that should concern leaders and citizens of the Caribbean.

In a document named Caribbean Under Threat! 10 Urgent Takeaways for the Caribbean, co-heads of the University of the West Indies Mona, Climate Studies Group (CSG), professors Tannecia Stephenson and Michael Taylor warned: “We can now say with greater certainty that climate change is making our weather worse. It is affecting the intensity of heatwaves, droughts, floods and hurricanes, all of which are impacting the Caribbean”.

In a joint interview with IPS, Taylor and Stephenson noted, “Global warming has not slowed.”

They reiterated the IPCC’s warning that “The world will exceed 1.5 degrees between now and 2040” and urged Caribbean leaders to collectively lobby for deeper global greenhouse gas reductions at the upcoming 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) of the UN Convention on Climate Change. The gathering of world leaders and negotiators will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12, 2021.

While AR6 offered some hope, in that there is still time to limit global heating to between 1.5 and 2.0 degrees of pre-industrial limits, Stephenson noted that there is an urgent need for more drastic cuts in emissions.

That will not be easy, Taylor added, because although the Caribbean’s contribution to global C02 emissions is already low – according to some estimates below two per cent. “The region must drastically reduce its footprint even further, through greater use of renewables, the preservation of marine and land-based forests and by reducing emissions from waste and transportation.”

The takeaway for the Caribbean, Stephenson said, is that the region will face multiple concurrent threats with every additional incremental increase in temperature. Atmospheric warming and more acidic seas and oceans will impact tourism and fisheries and the future of the region’s Blue Economic thrust.

She added: “The Caribbean must prepare itself to deal with water shortages and increasing sea levels which has implication for low lying areas and the many small islands of the region”.

The 20-country grouping of the Caribbean Community has rallied around the slogan ‘1.5 to stay Alive’ based on the premise that viability of the territories here, is dependent on global temperatures remaining below or at 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. But with global temperatures already at 1.1 of the 1.5 degrees, warming is outstripping the pace of the region’s response.

“If there ever was a time to step up the global campaign for 1.5 degrees, it is now,” said Stephenson, the region’s only contributing writer in Working Group 1, of the AR6.

According to the IPCC AR6 report, net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by mid-century can limit global warming to 1.5 or 2.0 degrees within this century. However, the Climate Studies Group has warned that some individual years will hit 1.5 degrees even before 2040, when temperatures are expected to exceed that target.

The signs are everywhere. Last summer, the CSG reported an increase in the number of hot days and nights in the Caribbean. Forecasts also indicate that in the next ten years, the day and night-time temperatures in the region will increase by between 0.65 and 0.84 degrees.

At the same time, the CSG forecasted a 20 per cent reduction in rainfall in some places and up to 30 per cent in others. Trends are also reflecting an increase in the number of dry spells and droughts. Between 2013 and 2017, droughts have swept the Caribbean from Cuba in the North to Trinidad and Tobago in the South, and Belize, Guyana and Suriname in Central and South America.

Since AR5 in 2014, the abundance of evidence links the catastrophic changes to humans, the scientist noted, adding that the changes from human-induced climate change are visible in the extremes of heatwaves, heavy rainfall, droughts, and tropical cyclones. This past summer, wildfires and extreme rainfall caused deaths and forced evacuations in every region of the world, and a cold snap covered Brazil in snowfall and freezing rain.
These intensity and frequency of heat extremes are quickly becoming a cause for concern for the region as the extremes are likely to impact energy use, agricultural productivity, health and water demand and availability. Stephenson urged leaders to make water security a top priority in their mitigation planning.

Three of the world’s most water-scarce countries are in the Caribbean. Water scarce is the term given when a country has less than 1,000 cubic meters of freshwater resources per resident.

The region has a role in deciding how bad things will become, Taylor and Stephenson said. In their 10-point takeaway, they challenge leaders to intensify efforts to keep the current limits on global warming. They must have collective positions on mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage even as the world has already committed itself to some level of increase and impact.

In the run-up to COP26, regional leaders are not only continuing their support for 1.5, but they have also positioned themselves behind the Five Point Plan for Solidarity, Fairness and Prosperity, which calls for the delivery of the promises made in the Paris Agreement.

If nothing else, the region will continue to be severely impacted and must invest heavily to shore up critical infrastructure, most of which are along the coast, said veteran climate scientist Dr Ulric Trotz.

Using Jamaica as an example, he pointed to the US$65.7 million coastal protection works along a 2.5- kilometre stretch of the 14-kilometre-long Palisadoes peninsula in 2010 after the international airport was cut off from the capital city, Kingston, by back-to-back extreme weather events.

“The Caribbean must be prepared for the ‘new normal’ of climate intensities,” Stephenson said. “The stark message is that everybody has to be part of the solution”.

*The Climate Studies Group, Mona is a consortium member of The UWI’s Global Institute of Climate-Smart and Resilient Development (GICSRD), which harnesses UWI’s expertise in climate change, resilience, sustainable development and disaster risk reduction across all UWI campuses.

Jamaica Walking a Tightrope Between Boosting the Economy and Cutting Emissions in COVID-19 Era

by Zadie Neufville

Jamaica has more than a million motor vehicles contributing to increased emissions and traffic jams like this one at the Highway 2000 off ramp at Marcus Garvey Drive.- Gleaner photo

This article was first published on Aug 20, 2021 by Interpress Service
Even as COVID-19 walloped Jamaica’s economy last year, the government overhauled its energy emissions milestones to create what many described as a post-pandemic recovery package, based on stronger carbon targets for the farming and forestry sectors.

According to the plan, the country would reduce emissions from both sectors by almost a third over the next decade, by optimising water and energy use and diversifying food production.

Released at a time when most countries around the globe struggled to manage their economies during the pandemic using measures that were expected to set back their sustainability goals, experts hailed the plan as a game changer for a country in a steep economic decline resulting from COVID-19. With tens of thousands of jobs lost, the government turned to the island’s fast-expanding business process outsourcing (BPO) sector as a much-needed source of jobs, providing a level of diversification from the agrarian society of old. Initially focused on call centres, the sector has expanded to include to more specialised areas including accounting, human resources management, digital marketing, animation and software development.

Climate change expert Carlos Fuller said the new measures “will create new economic opportunities and generate employment for Jamaicans.”

Changes in land use, for development and increased agricultural activities, and reducing deforestation will cut emissions up to 28.5 per cent by 2030, according to the plan, which satisfies both local and international targets. Agriculture currently contributes about six per cent to Jamaica’s total emissions, while land use change and forestry account for 7.8 per cent.

Jamaica is one of the Caribbean’s small island developing states (SIDS). On Monday and Tuesday, representatives of the 38 SIDS worldwide, UN agencies and civil society will gather in person and online to discuss how they can kickstart their economies post-COVID-19 in order to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The SIDS Solution Forum is organised by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in partnership with the UN International Telecommunications Union and co-hosted by the Government of Fiji.

Other current investments in Jamaica have made climate data collection, modelling and analysis priorities. Projects like the Climate Data and Information Management Project should help to improve the collection and analysis of climate data while strengthening early warning systems. The Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project is expected to enhance physical resilience to disasters.

Co-heads of the Climate Studies Group at the University of the West Indies, Dr Michael Taylor and Dr Tannecia Stephenson, recently deciphered the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in terms of what it could mean for the region.

“The intensity and frequency of heat extremes in the Caribbean are increasing and will continue to do so. It will impact energy use, demands for water, agricultural production among other things,” Dr Taylor said.

Jamaica’s emissions and development goals are tied together in the country’s Vision 2030 Development plan, an ambitious guide for this highly indebted nation’s development. Launched in 2014, the document aims to make “Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.”

There have been tweaks, updates and a Road Map, but Vision 2030 remains grounded in four interrelated national goals: Jamaicans are empowered to achieve their fullest potential, society is secure, cohesive and just, the economy is prosperous, and the country has a healthy, natural environment.

In pursuit of the Vision 2030 aims the results have been mixed, said Wayne Henry, Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), the agency tasked with tracking the implementation of the SDGs.

In his September 2020 overview of SDG implementation, Henry noted that Jamaica has recorded positives in the social sector, accountability and governance. For example, there is continued focus on gender equality and the empowerment of women. According to the International Labour Organization, 59.3 percent of managers in the country are women.

But Jamaica has struggled, Henry said, in the areas of security and safety, environmental sustainability and the rate of non-communicable diseases. The murder rate has hovered between 47 and 47.7 per 100,000 in recent years, diabetes and hypertension rates have climbed alarmingly in the 15-and-over age-group, and overall environmental performance has fallen.

Even as the systems for SDG implementation are woven into the national development strategies, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of economies like Jamaica’s. According to Henry, the pandemic shows “how quickly a development path can be challenged.”

COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill and in its wake upended the lives and livelihoods of thousands in the Caribbean, shuttering entire sectors that depend on tourism and according to the PIOJ, contracting the Jamaican economy by 10 percent.

With tens of thousands of jobs lost, the government turned to the island’s fast-expanding business process outsourcing (BPO) sector as a much-needed source of jobs, providing a level of diversification from the agrarian society of old. Initially focused on call centres, the sector has expanded to include to more specialised areas including accounting, human resources management, digital marketing, animation and software development.

But the sector’s are prone to COVID-19 outbreaks, and its dependence on the existing fossil fuel-based energy sector is a negative factor for a country keen on cutting emissions.

Still, Jamaica may well have captured the essence of the SDGs by balancing the temporary growth from the BPO sector with its commitment to reduce energy costs and diversify the fuel mix. It plans, for example, to increase the share of electricity generation from renewables from 9 percent in 2016 to 30 percent by 2030. And in 2019, the government commissioned a 36-megawatt wind farm, which is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 66,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year, equal to taking roughly 13,000 cars off the road

The COVID19 Epidemic has resulted in increased agricultural production, PIOJ reported at the end of May 2020.