Launch of Public Awareness Campaign for COP 21
Wordsworth Gordon spoke on behalf of Civil Society Groups August 2015
Good Morning it is my privilege to bring greeting to you today on behalf of the CSO community. It is good that we are talking about the twenty first edition of the Conference of Parties in fact talking about climate change and how it affects us.
We have negotiators working on our behalf even now as we speak and yet too many of our fellow Jamaicans are yet to recognize the implications of this year’s deliberation and expected agreement.
In June of this year at the discussions hosted by the Embassy of France we were encouraged by Dr. Taylor to remember the number two, representing a two degrees Celsius raise in temperature as a figure for the COP agreement as better for us in Jamaica than a possible deal at four degrees and we were told by PANOS Caribbean that the small island states together had coined the phrase “one point five to stay alive”.
We were told small islands of the Caribbean may be inundated with sea water as soon as thirty years from now, I expect you have heard all of this before, just as well as you know the impending impacts, more rain when its wet, stronger and more frequent storms and of course more droughts. As a farmer I can tell you that drought is the most insidious, just as doctors tells you that blood pressure is a silent killer, drought affects a farmer in the same way.
So we meet and we talk, we coin a phrase and gradually we become more aware, but my question this morning is what are we doing? Regardless of the number agreed at COP21, one point five degrees, two degrees or four degrees; our climate is changing, it will continue to change and we will continue to feel the impacts.
As a member of civil society and the leader of a small community group I say to you today it is time for action; our negotiators must do their jobs, the government must implement policy but we must act and act now.
For those of you who have heard of Jeffrey Town before today it is most probably for one or more of the many awards we have won for mitigation measures and adaptation practices over the years as we try to build resilience and increase our capacity to cope with adverse circumstances. Our group set out on this path because we felt as if our community had been forgotten or simply overlooked, we took the initiative to look for help and it was given. Now is the time to empower other groups, if possible one group in every community across Jamaica so that they can begin to increase their own community’s capacity to cope.
Let me give you some specific examples; one of a series of gabion walls built, is claimed by the residents to have stopped their district being cut in half during the course of flood rains and we have constructed more than 280 cubic metres of gabion walls over six locations since 2008.
The installation of gutters and 650 gallon tanks for sixteen homes on top of the ridge has helped stabilize a hillside and greatly reduced the water stress on the residents particularly the elderly. This particular action reminds me of a meeting I attended in January of this year at Grants Town in St. Mary. There had been a significant rain event and the hillside moved perceptibly, the agencies of the state were asked for solutions and yet with the right type of assistance the community could have begun to help itself. This is what I am talking about by empowerment. Identify the most pressing problem that is being exacerbated by climate change and seek support for a group led solution. My home runs entirely on harvested rain water. How many of you here are collecting your roof water? We have also harvested water from some of our springs and used solar pumps to bring water to central points in the community, making the absence of NWC pipe water less harrowing, others can do this too.
I have spoken already about the sinister nature of drought and yet there are adaptation measures that can be considered. Have you noticed that fruit trees still bare during dry time? The fruits may be smaller or less in number but there is still production, most tubers still produce and if irrigation can be supported for more small farming groups we would have more consistent and affordable supplies in dry times. Our group is drying its starches and making flour with them as part of its own food security measures, can you image if more groups were replicating what we are doing. I say again it is time for action, time for empowerment of the Jamaican people most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. We are the activists, the ones engaged, we know how important the COP 21 agreement is to the world, but we are Jamaicans’ first, let us begin today a movement to empower groups across the country.
Those of us who are able to access the green climate fund, the adaptation fund or the world bank funds just given to the government or even the Caribbean Development Bank’s Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund that is supporting Jeffrey Town to scale up and replicate previous successful solutions.
Let us pledge to apply for these funds to make a change at grass root level and while doing that remember that the issue of food security is as critical as any other disaster risk reduction strategy, agriculture must not only be climate smart it must be brought to the forefront of adaptation measures across Jamaica and the region if we are serious about managing the expected future climate related risks we all face.