I am playing some serious “catch-up” now with my newsy stuff. So much has been happening! Please click on the links for more information on these stories I pulled together for you…I’m afraid some of these stories are somewhat depressing. I will try to find some more encouraging ones, next time!
Jamaica and the Caribbean
The big news! The Jamaican Attorney General’s office has cleared the way for Jamaica to ratify the Paris Agreement. This should happen by the end of the year or early 2017. The Attorney General has made a number of recommendations, which were outlined at yesterday’s pre- COP-22 Consultation at the Marriott Courtyard in Kingston. The Conference on Climate Change – COP-22 will take place in Marrakech, Morocco from November 7 – 18. The consultation in Kingston was held by the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation with funding from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to update stakeholders on plans and issues ahead of the Marrakech conference. I will share much more on this meeting in subsequent posts. So far, 86 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement – which will enter into force on November 4 – unexpectedly early. Good news!
Barbados may begin importing water? As we know, the island of Barbados has no rivers and has been experiencing major drought. The CEO of Amazone Resources in Suriname says Barbados has already ordered a large shipment of fresh water from his country. However, Barbadian Water Ministry officials have said no approval has been given for this. Amazone Resources’ Auke Piek was interviewed at this week’s Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) Conference and Exhibition in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
“Spring, summer, fall and winter”: This is how the Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives, representing the 2nd District Walter Bryan “Mike” Hill described climate change, during a series of Public Forums and media appearances this week in Jamaica. Rep. Hill and Democrat Moises “Moe” Vela’s visit was organized by the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica and the public meetings at the University of the West Indies in Kingston and Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville were in collaboration with the 51% Coalition and Panos Caribbean (implementing partner). My jaw dropped at Rep. Hill’s comment. Of course Mr. Vela strongly disagreed, pointing out that climate change was a critical issue for the world – and future generations – that his candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton took very seriously.
LNG shipment arrives: The first shipment of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) arrived on October 22 at the recently constructed US$750 million terminal in Montego Bay, for theJamaica Public Service Company (JPS) plant in Bogue. JPS and New Fortress Energy have also signed an agreement for a new 190MW power plant at Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine. New Fortress Energy has agreed to privately finance and develop the infrastructure necessary for this. The planned floating storage vessel in Old Harbour Bay will be directly connected to the existing JPS plant via an underwater pipeline. The Environmental Impact Assessment notes there may be disturbance to marine life. I hope that as little is disturbed as possible, bearing in mind the proximity to Goat Islands – which has just had a reprieve from the threatened Chinese-built transshipment port. LNG is seen as a “cleaner” alternative to coal and possibly a transitional energy source, as Jamaica moves towards a renewable energy future (as quickly as possible, one hopes).
Where is the Golden Swallow? Here’s a great article by Caribbean ornithologist Justin Proctor about his search for the elusive Golden Swallow (last seen in the area in 1982) in the Ram Goat Cave at Barbecue Bottom in Jamaica’s Cockpit Country (wonderful names!)
The Rest of the World
Indonesia ratifies Paris Agreement, but… It’s complicated. The huge Asian nation – which is in the Top Ten of the world’s biggest carbon emitters – ratified the Paris Agreement on October 19. Its President Joko Widodo pledged to reduce the country’s emissions (largely caused by deforestation and the destruction of peatlands) by 29% in Paris last year. This sounds good, but the Indonesian Government also plans to build 117 new coal-fired power plants – albeit probably not at a rapid rate – to boost its 50,000 MW grid.
Whaling meeting – mostly bad news, as usual: The 2016 biennial Commission meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) took place in Portoroz, Slovenia this week. As usual, there was some depressing news; but at least the IWC passed a Resolution urging governments to support Mexico in its efforts to conserve the critically endangered vaquita – a small porpoise now considered the most endangered cetacean in the world – which lives only in the northern part of the Gulf of California. Otherwise the meeting was contentious as usual, with Japan and 23 other pro-whaling nations again defeating a proposal to create an sanctuary for whales in the South Atlantic, while 38 countries voted in favor of the sanctuary. Please note: Countries voting AGAINST the whale sanctuary included Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and Suriname – Caribbean nations that are nowhere near the South Atlantic. St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada abstained, while Dominica “suspended” its vote. I wonder why – vote-buying, again?
Arctic sea ice is retreating – fast: We know this summer has broken all records in terms of heat, again. October temperatures – including sea temperatures – have also been high in the Arctic (more than 18 degrees above normal for the time of year), and the extent of sea ice there is at a record low. While not all scientists are in agreement on this topic, because things fluctuate, some believe the ice will be gone as early as 2030. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center notes that the older Arctic sea ice is disappearing (see a new video they released today here). NASA is an amazing source for incredible images of climate change and other environmental phenomena.
Residents still waiting for help, a year after Brazilian mine flood: Remember the horrific event last November, when a dam holding back a giant pond of mine waste broke, releasing an avalanche of mud that killed 19 people, buried entire towns and polluted hundreds of miles of rivers, streams and forest land? Well, 1,200 people made homeless when hundreds of houses, clinics, schools and bridges were destroyed are still living in temporary housing. They say they have not received compensation from Samarco, a joint venture of two of the world’s mining giants, Vale of Brazil and BHP Billiton of Australia. Here’s an interesting report on the uncomfortable relationship between those who live in the destroyed valley and the mining companies. These are very complex issues.
Living Planet Report 2016 is the name of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) annual report, and it is quite gloomy in its predictions for biodiversity on the planet. Can we have ongoing population growth and a living planet? Surely something’s got to give? The WWF says that “global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have already declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012, the most recent year with available data.” A summary of the Report is here. It’s very clear and well laid out. The major threats to wildlife are habitat loss, hunting and exploitation of species, climate change, pollution, invasive species and disease.