PM defends actions on environment, climate change
Confronted with scepticism from civil society over the value and urgency his administration places on addressing climate change and environmental issues, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has sought to clear the air.
"I don't believe that I could have set up a ministry of climate change," he said, addressing the first concern levelled against his administration,which opted instead to set up a Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, where the climate change and environment portfolios reside.
"That I have taken the portfolio, that I have come here (to the climate talks in Marrakech), that I am participating, that I have been leading on the issues dealing with the environment, that I have been giving a listening ear is sign enough that we take the environmental issues seriously," Holness insisted.
He was speaking to The Gleaner ahead of his statement to the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on Tuesday evening.
In that speech, he emphasised Jamaica's vulnerability to climate change and the need for coordinated and urgent action to ensure resilience.
PRIORITY FOR CLIMATE
Meanwhile, Holness said he expected the advocacy from, in particular, environmental civil society actors to continue.
"I am not expecting the environmental activists to be quiet; that is not the nature of environmental activism. And I expect that their advocacy will continue. The only way that I can show that I am serious is by my action," he said.
Among those who have called for priority for climate change and the environment are the Jamaica Environment Trust and the Windsor Research Centre.
Regional communication NGO Panos Caribbean - which works to amplify the voices of vulnerable and/or marginalised individuals and communities on issues including climate justice and disaster risk reduction - has itself urged priority for climate change and the environment.
"Under the former administration, some important strides were made and it is important - subject to deliberations with technocrats, notably from the Ministry of Environment, including the Climate Change Division and the Meteorological Service - that those gains be used as the foundation to accelerate Jamaica's climate change response efforts," the organisation said in a March 3 release to the media earlier this year, ahead of the new Cabinet appointments only days later.
"Some specific areas on which Panos considers there ought to be priority action are: ratification of the new agreement from Paris; Climate finance; and Climate change mainstreaming, including gender considerations," the entity added.
Jamaica is now engaged with ratifying the agreement even as the new head of the Climate Change Division, Una May Gordon, has signalled the intent to aggressively pursue climate funding. Further, there is a minister of culture, gender affairs, entertainment and sports - Olivia 'Babsy' Grange.