Bobby can do better - Minister gets high marks for increasing awareness of climate change but flops in other areas
While he is lauded for bringing more focus to climate-change issues, Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill gets thumbs down from environmentalists and sections of society for the failure of his ministry to institute measures to deal with the drought which has affected the island for much of the past three years.
The Goat Islands plans, the Negril breakwater project and the threats being faced by some of Jamaica's protected areas have also come up for discussion, despite a raft of initiatives being proposed by Pickersgill to curtail these threats.
While some believe Pickersgill could be doing a much better job, there are others who argue that he is challenged to do more by the harsh economic climate and tough fiscal policies under which the Government is currently operating.
Executive director of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation
Strength: Under him, the Climate Change Department has been operationalised and the Climate Change Advisory Committee has been operational. I think they have spent a lot of time, money and effort on doing public engagement around climate change.
Weakness: He went to China to sign off on the Goat Islands so for me that's a big negative. On the one hand, you are the minister expected to protect and conserve, and on the other hand, you are giving it away. It's not just the development, but it's the choice of the site and the type of development and the secrecy and the lack of transparency.
Opportunities: There are climate change adaptation opportunities and I think we could be taking advantage of a lot of that. There has also been a number of water-related projects that are taking place, but of course we have gone through the longest drought ever and I don't know if there will be anything different the next drought around.
Threats: It seems as if there is no real commitment to conserving the environment, so on the one hand we predetermine that, yes, this is a protected area, and then do things that will have negative effects.
While much has been spent on press releases, press conferences, etc, I am not sure the impact is being felt on the ground.
Dr Paris Lyew-Ayee Jr
Director of the Mona GeoInfomatics Institute
Strength: He has developed a cadre of leaders around him and he typically allows them to do their job, so in other words, he is not micromanaging and that sort of thing, which in an ideal world can allow good leaders and leaders in the making to flourish.
Weakness: His weaknesses are circumstance of things not entirely under his control, and to be fair, we have had a prevailing economic climate that would have been challenging to anyone. Especially in a physical environment, in addition to the economic environment, he couldn't have prevented the drought.
Opportunities: The drought present some very interesting opportunities for the minister in and of itself, but the opportunities that I have seen moving in the right direction under his portfolio is the climate-change activities. For example, the funding that we are getting now to look at the climate change mitigation strategies across Jamaica. That should free him up to look at anything ranging from drought preparations to sea level rise and hurricanes and things like that.
Threats: The threats will always be that climate change and the environment do not follow political life cycles. So it takes a long time for change to happen in the physical environment, especially when it comes to the climate and those sort of things, so don't expect things to change overnight even if you want it to.
He has a very big ministry and that's a good thing and a bad thing sometimes. It is a very big ministry and it's a very challenging ministry. It's just that we have to make sure that everybody is given a fair chance to do what they are there to do, and there can be no sugar-coating.
Sociologist and development scientist
Strength: I have heard him speak on climate change. I have not heard him speak on land. When there was a drought, he made sure to tell us that there was a drought, not that I heard how he was going to handle the drought.
Weakness: As far as I can see, he is not trained in science in any way. I don't think he has any educational background that could help him understand environmental issues, climate-change issues, and even the water issues.
Opportunities: Everybody can learn and if Mr Pickersgill has the interest, he can say, 'tell me what I need to know about the environment, tell me what I need to know about water and climate change and I am happy to learn', and I am sure he could.
Threats: The real threat of a non-functioning minister of environment is that our environment will go to the dogs. Our protected areas will be invaded by wreckers who some people call developers, because the Ministry of Environment is not interested in protecting the environment, but inviting businessmen to come and do business in the protected areas.
Have not heard him say anything about the environment, about wildlife, about protected areas, about pollutions. These would all come under the environment portfolio. The impression he gives is that he is really not minister of the environment at all. I haven't heard him make any statement about protecting the Goat Islands.
Country coordinator Jamaica (Panos Caribbean)
Strength: Raising awareness on climate-change issues and how they affect Jamaica nationally, regionally and internationally, leveraging partnerships between civil society and Government around climate issues, and mainstreaming climate change in government ministries.
Weakness: Could do more re long-term planning for water management and sustainability in light of climate predictions.
Opportunities: This is difficult to say but the ministry should continue to focus on climate financing and adaptation funding.
Threats: Increased climate impacts such as more hurricanes and longer droughts can put more pressure on this ministry to respond to the needs of Jamaica, and so the ministry has to be very proactive in anticipating these threats.
For climate change, there has been some significant strides for the ministry under Mr Pickersgill, including the draft climate change policy, establishment of the Climate Change Division, and aggressive pursuit of climate financing. I think he is strongest in this area and can improve in the others.