Jamaica faces trek to a green economy
From the "historical momentum in favour of brown industries" - those overly dependent on fossil fuels - to "bias in the political system towards short-run and against long-run perspectives", the deck appears stacked against Jamaica's efforts towards a green economy.
These factors, according to the recently published Green Economy Scoping Study, in addition to others, include IMF prescriptions that preclude Government providing tax incentives to encourage greening.
Still, the study - done with United Nations Environment Programme and European Union support - notes that in as much as these factors are barriers, they are also justification for the transformation of the economy into one typified by efficient resource management, a low-carbon footprint, and which is socially inclusive.
And it cites a variety of opportunities that can be pursued across key sectors - agriculture, construction, energy, tourism, and water - from the private sector's demonstrated leadership in some fields to existing policies and programmes.
Elizabeth Emanuel, one of the study's authors, said the Vision 2030 Jamaica, for which she is programme director, is one such.
"One of the benefits Jamaica has in advancing to a green economy, compared to other states, is that our own national development plan had the foresight to include the green economy as a pathway to prosperity. That plan speaks to the green economy and what a green economy would look like for Jamaica," she told The Gleaner.
And there are some good indicators of what's possible, Emanuel added, noting that there have been, for example, advances in the diversification of the island's energy mix.
"We also have a society that is more aware, companies that are thinking and talking green, and all of these are creating the demand for a green economy," she noted.
According to Emanuel, there is no question of the need to pursue the transition - whatever the constraints.
"The green economy is not just about environmental protection, but it is our planet, our people, our economy and how we marry those three to create sustainable solutions that will advance the prosperity of our land of wood and water," she said.
Eleanor Jones, head of Environmental Solutions Limited, agreed.
"When it comes to what we need, we need to look at our resources management because that is also a part of it ... . But you can't just wave a magic wand. It has to be a structured approach with legislation and incentive ... ," she said.
"We like to talk about the IMF putting in all these strictures, and they have, and you have to watch your budget. But not everything has to cost a lot of money... . We have to encourage our suppliers to retool and encourage our consumers to manage their resources," Jones added.
Colonel Oral Khan, chief technical director in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, said the coming months should see a re-engagement of key actors towards the green economy.
"The various sectors were consulted in the preparation stage. We now need to re-engage with these sectors at the highest levels because there have been a number of changes," he said.
"What we want is for them to own, as much as possible, what has to be done in each sector. We expect that they will go through the list of recommendations that are there and see which ones are to be done in the short to medium term, so they can embrace those and seek to work them into their respective strategic plans. That is the approach we will take," he added.
Among the recommendations from the study are:
• Sustainable land management and water management systems for agriculture;
• Enforce the new building code, as well as adopt codes and standards that mandate green construction practices for the construction sector; and
• Promote and incentivise renewable energy use and water use reduction, as well as planning for climate change for the tourism sector.
There is, too, the recommendation to develop more extensive sewage recycling, as well as reduce energy cost and diversify sources for the water and sewerage sector.