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NEWLY appointed Cabinet minister Robert Pickersgill wants the country to be sensitised about the importance of climate change, one of his portfolios. "I think it is fair to say that many Jamaicans are not as acquainted as they ought to be about the effects of climate change and how close we are to possible serious seasonal changes," said Pickersgill, the minister of water, land, environment and climate change.

He was responding to questions from reporters during a tour of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica in Kingston yesterday.

The minister said he has information that shows that on an annual basis weather-related problems amount to some $14 billion. "So if weather-related problems an annual basis can cost the country some $14 billion, if you do not do something to preserve the infrastructure, then you are just going around in circles," said Pickersgill.

He said the Climate Change Unit in the Meteorological Service of Jamaica would, therefore, be strengthened, but said he would have to await the recommendations of the Met Service's director, Jeffery Spooner. One of the possibilities, he said, is to have a board put in place... "because I want you to be much more manageable and accountable to the ministry.

Spooner presented the minister with a copy of Jamaica's report presented at the Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban last June. The report outlines problems that Jamaica faces with respect to climate change, including adaptation and mitigation. It also contains recommendations to the various sectors that are impacted and how they are to adapt and mitigate climate change issues.

Meanwhile, the minister said he would be meeting further with representatives of the National Water Commission (NWC) to be briefed on upcoming projects to be undertaken by the agency. "I met with the heads of the various departments. They have some interesting programmes that are going to come on stream. They are going to be laying out plans parish by parish," Pickersgill said.

The minister said that there are 63 constituencies and he is interested to hear of projects for each from the NWC.

Pickersgill also met with staff at the Environment and Land Management Division of the ministry.

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