A 2020 report by the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme outlines that Jamaica does have a “land degradation problem which, if not addressed, will eventually lead to severe consequences to land-dependent activities.”
When compared to other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Jamaica’s land degradation problem is significant. Land degradation is caused by extreme weather conditions, particularly droughts. According to the report, “some important drivers of land degradation are droughts, agriculture, construction, indiscriminate logging/deforestation and inappropriate policy design.”
Land degradation is defined as a natural or human-induced process that negatively affects the quality and utility of land. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), of which Caribbean states are members, “the world’s soils store more carbon than the planet’s biomass and atmosphere combined”. It says that “loss of soil organic carbon is one of the principal signs of land degradation, and land degradation is one of the leading challenges for sustainable development, biodiversity conservation, and mitigating and adapting to climate change.”
So what does this mean for Jamaica? Well, Jamaica is heavily dependent on its lands for economic sustainability. The report highlights a lack of resources including finances to tackle land restoration initiatives.
A global initiative known as the Bonn Challenge is bringing countries and agencies together to restore 350 million hectares of land by 2030. According to its website, “The Challenge has surpassed the 150-million-hectare milestone for pledges in 2017. Currently, more than 70 pledgers from more than 60 countries are restoring 210 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands.”
While Jamaica has yet to make any pledges, it should take a page from Belize’s book. Belize, which is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), recently hosted the Joint Annual Meeting of the Initiative 20×20, Bonn Challenge, and the Agriculture, Forest, and Other Land Use (AFOLU) 2040 in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.
Initiative 20×20 is a regional partnership to bring more than 50 million hectares of degraded land into the conservation and restoration process by 2030. The initiative was launched at the 20th Climate Change Conference of Parties held in Lima, Peru, in 2014 and is the Caribbean and Latin American region’s response to the Bonn Challenge, the United Nations Forum on Forests, and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
The initiative seeks to provide different countries with the opportunity to contribute to the UN Decade on Ecosystems Restoration. Primarily, it aims to fight against the degradation of ecosystems as countries move towards restoration.
But, fighting degradation and restoring land for the benefit of the world is no cheap task, especially since SIDS continue to be affected by the increasing effects of climate change. This is why Caricom leaders are focused on loss and damage, climate adaptation and mitigation, climate reparation and climate justice.
Belize’s Prime Minister John Briceno said that “these 2030 targets must be realised and will require an all-hands-on-deck approach to restore lands being damaged across the region.”
He added, “We know the benefits of restoration, what we as a global community must now resolve are those best methods and approaches to restore ecosystems.”
Prime Minister Briceno pointed out that these small developing countries require assistance from larger donor countries to ramp up their efforts to restore their lands.
Belize, which has pledged 382,592 hectares, continues to call on “big polluter” countries to help vulnerable countries mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. Joining the prime minister was the country’s Minister of Sustainable Development and Climate Change Orlando Habet who said that “This is a call for joint action. Action can only be successful through concerted local, national, and regional collaboration to find effective and workable solutions. We need to recognise that our natural environment and economic development are not separate and distinct systems. They are linked.”
The executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) Dr Colin Young says that mobilising financing is necessary in order for countries to address land degradation. Minister Habet stressed that countries like Belize have been “persistently making the call for greater…accessible financing to ramp up restoration on the ground and to put the world on a sustainable future. We are also seeking to create our opportunities, taking advantage of converging genders in the international carbon market space.”
This story was originally published by The Jamaica Observer, with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture between Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations.