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‘Grounded and Credible’: Jamaica banks on a ‘greener future’ with 2020 NDC

By UnaMay Gordon and the NDC Partnership

Jamaica earned global commendations in recent years for its fiscal discipline and upward economic trajectory. But, the economy-wide impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the near total shutdown of the economy for several weeks, threatens its economic and social prospects. Tourism, the island’s lifeblood, has been hard hit. The sector, which accounts for about a third of domestic economic activity, primarily depends on North American visitors who are mainly from one of the epicenters of the pandemic and are unlikely to flock to the island’s famed shores in the same numbers for the near term.  These difficulties have scuttled revenue projections and forced adjustments across sectors and national priorities. The fallout in the bauxite and alumina sectors that also drive foreign exchange earnings compounds the unabated whole-society challenge now gripping Jamaica, and other island nations with highly vulnerable and exposed economies. Amidst the pandemic, protecting the lives and the livelihood of Jamaicans is an extraordinary challenge and top priority for the government.  

For this island nation, the response to this complex and evolving crisis hinges on ambitious climate action with urgency. Rather than delaying, Jamaica submitted a revised national climate plan in line with the timeline established under the landmark Paris Agreement. Jamaica’s submission of a more ambitious national climate plan than its last at a time of global crisis, economic uncertainty, and extraordinary demands on government and political attention, affirms its longstanding commitment to addressing the climate crisis.  


Ambitious, Grounded and Credible 


As illustrated in Figure 1 and 2 (below), Jamaica’s newly submitted NDC is bolder: 

  • Ambition: Jamaica’s updated NDC for 2020 unconditionally reduces emissions by 25% compared to BAU by 2030, which means the absolute level of ambition in Jamaica’s unconditional commitment is over 60% greater than its first submission. 
  • Broader sectoral coverage: Unlike its first submission, which drew mitigation targets exclusively from the energy sector, Jamaica’s updated NDC targets also considers land use and forestry, including an aggressive tree planting initiative and REDD+ Program to reduce deforestation. 
  • Adaptation co-benefits: The new NDC targets reducing reliance on heavy fuel oil in electricity generation, which is anticipated to cut air pollution and improve health. The island is also pursuing greater energy efficiency in the water sector to reduce waste and consumption, as well as limit vulnerability to water shortage. These actions are complemented by greater use of climate smart agricultural techniques and watershed restoration 


Figure 1: Jamaica’s Updated NDC Analysis Results 

Source: Vivid Economics (2020). Assessment of Jamaica’s Climate Change Mitigation Potential and Implications for its Updated NDC. Kingston, Jamaica: Climate Change Division. 


Figure 2: Jamaica’s Updated NDC Compared to Original NDC 

Source: Graph elaborated from data found in Vivid Economics (2020). Assessment of Jamaica’s Climate Change Mitigation Potential and Implications for its Updated NDC. Kingston, Jamaica: Climate Change Division. 


Jamaica’s NDC is grounded and credible. The island’s new climate targets are informed by more sophisticated and enhanced data. The climate plan is also anchored in progressive national policies and measures. In a bold move aimed at ensuring clarity and transparency across its plan, the island applied the Paris Agreement Implementation Guidelines, adopted in Katowice in 2018, nearly half decade ahead of schedule (2025). Jamaica’s demonstration of climate ambition also highlights momentum building actions in agriculture and waste management, including through data collection to scale their inclusion in the 2025 updated plan. 

Beginning in 2019, Jamaica received support from the World Bank to undertake economic and emissions modeling to craft its ambitious climate plan. Sophisticated modelling of this nature allowed the island to double its energy target, and structure other sectoral objectives. Throughout the process it drew on effective technical assistance from the NDC Partnership.    

The Partnership’s commitment to Jamaica and all its members remains unwavering. As Jamaica prepares to robustly implement its more ambitious and sophisticated climate plan, The World Bank will continue to support the development of an NDC investment plan. The Bank’s direct support will be complemented by actions under the Partnership’s Climate Action Enhancement Package (CAEP) between 2020 and 2021, notably through action around the Long Term Low GHG Emission and Climate Resilient Strategy initiatives. Several other Partnership members, including the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute, Rocky Mountain Institute, Commonwealth Secretariat, UNEP-CTCN and the Regional Collaboration Center of the UNFCCC in Grenada, have pledged to support Jamaica across its priorities. 


Jamaica’s NDC will inform its COVID Recovery Plan 


Two months after the pandemic hit, the Government of Jamaica established a COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force chaired by Dr. Nigel Clarke, Jamaica's Minister of Finance and the Public Service. The NDC Partnership will support Jamaica’s determination to recover through its recently launched embedded economic advisory support program. This added support will strengthen the country’s capacity to link its climate goals with its long-term economic recovery plans and achieve win-win outcomes aligned with its commitment to the Paris Agreement. Anticipated outcomes include supporting the Planning Institute of Jamaica and providing inputs to the Recovery Planning Sub-committee of the Economic Recovery Task Force.  


Leadership and Sustained Cooperation and Solidarity 


As Jamaica prepares for the hurricane season, its resolve to boost emergency COVID-19 recovery and response, while building up climate resilience, shows leadership that should be encouraged through sustained international cooperation. The Government has taken the bull by the horns by setting up robust policy frameworks, processes and ambitious data-based targets to secure livelihoods. Yet no country can do this alone at the pace required. Jamaica is determined to lead but its international partners must match its resolve at home and abroad.  

This article was written by UnaMayGordon, the Principal Director of the Climate Change Division within the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, and NDC Focal Point, and members of the NDC Partnership Support Unit.