Climate change muddle
We find it troubling that the advisory committee on climate change has not been properly constituted for the better part of 2014. A report in this newspaper stated that the 25-member Climate Change Advisory Committee had its last meeting in April. Its chairman, Dr Conrad Douglas, remains in place, but the other members are yet to be appointed. It's a discomfiting hiatus that should not have been allowed to develop.
If asked to explain climate change, we believe the average Jamaican may be challenged in providing a proper definition. Yet climate change has been identified as one of the most important environmental issues of modern time. Global events of recent years have demonstrated how climate change can have far-reaching impact on the economy, housing and the general infrastructure of a country.
The fact that the Government saw it fit to establish a Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, suggested a triumph of common sense and gave hope that climate-change issues would finally be brought into the mainstream of Government's decision-making.
But now we are not so sure that the approach taken by the ministry is designed to achieve real environmental benefits for the country. It is always a good thing for the work of government departments to be complemented by expert advice available from persons with the technical know-how.
And the exhortation given to the committee by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in 2012 indicated that the intentions were good.
She reportedly said, "My charge to you, members of this advisory committee, is a simple one: that we need to get our own house in order through appropriate actions. We must become strong, converted advocates with all other peoples of the world to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, we must increase the use of renewable energy and other sustainable forms of energy in our systems of production. It is not beyond us to solve this problem, and I certainly look forward to our own creative, scientific, and technological contributions to this process."
According to Dr Douglas, the committee had established the climate-change focal points and had put 27 focal points in place and has also seen to the establishment of a Climate Change Division.
Robert Pickersgill heads the ministry responsible for climate change. The overwhelming testimony from citizens about his stewardship over the years is that he is an underperformer. Mr Pickersgill has never been seen as a hard-working game-changer in the various local opinion polls conducted over time. Yet, he has always been assigned to important portfolios. We believe climate change requires the best skills and energies that can be found.
Take the matter of regulating greenhouse-gas emissions. It is common knowledge that the transportation sector is responsible for a significant amount of the emissions, but how has the ministry engaged this sector in a bid to lower emissions?
The same applies for the electricity sector. How have the Jamaica Public Service Company and other power-generating plants been encouraged to develop a cleaner electricity grid?
Government's climate-change plan must include ways of encouraging and assisting Jamaicans to make adjustments to their daily activities and domestic decisions to meet the challenges of climate change. The country needs decisive leadership in the area of climate change to provide the optimum results.