Sat | Dec 2, 2023

Pump more funding into climate change fight, says Frazer Binns

Published:Monday | February 6, 2023 | 1:24 AMAinsworth Morris/Staff Reporter
Senator Sophia Frazer Binns, opposition spokesperson on land, environment, and climate change.
Senator Sophia Frazer Binns, opposition spokesperson on land, environment, and climate change.

In an effort to provide climate justice to Jamaicans, Opposition Spokesperson Senator Sophia Frazer Binns is calling for higher budgetary allocations to the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and, more specifically, the environment and climate change divisions.

During a recent climate justice workshop hosted by Jamaicans for Justice, Frazer Binns lamented the adverse impacts of global warming. The upshot: dislocation, damaged homes, disrupted livelihoods, destruction of forest reserves, ill-health linked to poor air quality, and mining that threatens underground water.

“Any progressive government that is serious about giving effect to climate justice, using a rights-based approach, would ensure that where there are environment breaches, the victims are adequately compensated socially, economically, financially as a means of returning to normalcy,” said Frazer Binns, who shadows the land, environment, and climate change portfolio.

“If one is to be objective, there is no denying that our existing framework, whether it is the legal framework or social framework or moral, financial, or political framework, that there is, in fact, a deficit when it comes on to how we treat with issues of climate justice.”

Frazer Binns is also of the view that modern policies and laws must be accompanied with ongoing public education and engagement.

As the new fiscal year looms, the senator says various ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) jostle for finite budgetary allocations.

“But, what we do not see is a cry for the ministry with responsibility for environment to get the bulk of the budget, and I’ve said in several forums, that unless and until we prioritise in real way, starting with the finances, the issue of the environment and climate change, then all the other ministries, really the work they are doing will not be long-lasting because if we do not have a safe environment,” she said.

After the Third Supplementary Estimates, Jamaica’s Budget for fiscal year 2022-23 was $998 billion.

In a Gleaner interview after the workshop, Frazer Binns was reluctant to suggest a dollar figure for the environment and climate change budget but urged the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation to chart a three- to five-year strategic plan.

The opposition spokesperson credited the former Portia Simpson Miller administration for putting new emphasis on emerging environmental issues by establishing a Ministry of Climate Change.

She also wants more granular environmental focus in each ministry budget.

“From the assessment that is done by each MDA, there should be a line item for environment. This should include not only negative effects, but also projects to aid in environmental protection as well as encourage environmental innovation as we seek to build the green economy,” Frazer Binns told The Gleaner.

“As a small island developing state (SIDS), Jamaica does not and will never have all the resources required to deal with this existential threat. This is where climate justice becomes important, as the North, being the main polluter, must, through loss and damage funding, also provide budgetary support for SIDS, especially in the Caribbean.”

That funding, she said, should finance conservation, rehabilitation, mitigation, and resilience projects.

In her address last week, Frazer Binns said that the momentum for climate justice was building as people become more aware of their rights and adverse impacts on the environment.

She also noted that key groups, such as the Maroons, poor women, the youth, are affected differently by climate change.

“In a nutshell, we could say the south, the small island developing states are, in fact, more impacted by the effects of climate change … We know the poor and the vulnerable are the first to suffer and the ones who are hit the worst; people of colour, the disabled,” Frazer Binns said.