Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Climate change injustice - Professor said Jamaica should seek 'hard labour' sentence for countries guilty of mass pollution

Published:Thursday | October 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott
Lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of the West Indies, Professor Anthony Chen.
Members of the audience listen attentively during the recent ‘Hurricanes and the Caribbean’ forum hosted by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute in partnership with other stakeholders at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters on Monday.

There is a suggestion from a university academic that Jamaica should seek justice in the International Court of Justice for the impact of climate change on its growth and development instead of seeking reparations for slavery.

Lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, Professor Anthony Chen contends that Jamaica stands a greater chance of getting justice if it drags countries before the international court for emitting mass volumes of environmental pollutants.

Reparations, he argued, would require some form of arbitration and other tedious processes.

But for the effects of climate change on Jamaica and the Caribbean on a whole, the professor noted that there is overwhelming evidence and enough experts available to make a solid case against developed countries for the destruction they have caused struggling economies.

"The harmful effects of global warming have been known since the 1990s, but the countries responsible have not taken any significant step to reduce the greenhouse gases," Chen said at the Caribbean Policy Research Institute's (CaPRI) 'Hurricanes and the Caribbean: Risk, Resilience and Response' forum at the UWI Regional Headquarters in St Andrew on Monday.

Chen argued that vulnerable countries with relatively low emissions such as Jamaica continue to pay dearly for a "crime" not of their own doing, but of developed countries, which he said are responsible for more than half of the air pollutants that currently blanket the atmosphere.

"More pressure must be brought to bear on the developed countries," the professor declared. "We can make a case against them, but instead of seeking reparations, we can sentence them to hard labour."


Clean energy


He said that the "hard labour" would be that developed countries would have to work to ensure that clean energy is more affordable for Jamaica and other countries suffering from the effects of climate change.

And recognising that the available clean solar and wind energy is limited by storage of power, Chen said that part of the sentence would mean that the guilty countries would also have to develop sustainable energy-storage systems to maintain supply during downtime.

"We should sentence them to hard labour so that they do research and development to make storage, especially batteries, cheaper," the university academic said.

Chen's presentation comes against the background of the recent devastation from hurricanes Irma and Maria, which have left several Caribbean countries reeling and burdened with a hefty recovery bill.

Only recently, Finance Minister Audley Shaw attributed the 0.1 per cent contraction in the economy in the first quarter of the year to extreme weather conditions affecting the country, which caused the agriculture sector to plummet.