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JM | Nov 3, 2021

Happy Jamaica is on the COP26 deforestation pledge, but what about all we’re doing right now?

Gavin Riley

Gavin Riley / Our Today

administrator
Prime Minister Andrew Holness flanked by Climate Change Minister Pearnel Charles Junior at the World Leaders’ Summit opening ceremony on Monday, November 1. PM Holness leads a delegation representing Jamaica at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo: Twitter @pcharlesjr)

Minister of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change, Pearnel Charles Jr is clarifying that Jamaica was ‘erroneously left off’ of Tuesday’s pledge to do more to end deforestation by 2030 at the 26th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.

Charles Jr, in a tweet on Wednesday (November 3), said he noted the public outcry following the initial 105-country Glasgow leader’s declaration on forests and land use and was glad to highlight that Jamaica’s absence was a “misunderstanding”.

“There were major concerns when the initial list was posted and Jamaica was not included. It was an error and it has been rectified. Jamaica is among the countries committing to work together to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. #COP26 #MHURECCAtCOP26,” Charles Jr posted to Twitter.

(Photo: Twitter @pcharlesjr)

Having verified that Jamaica now appears on the list of consignees to the deforestation pledge, Minister Charles Jr is correct in his statement.

Now minister, while Jamaica’s addition to the deforestation pledge is all good, I have to say it utterly confuses me.

Why are we committing to ending the wanton destruction of forests on the global stage, when, on Jamaican soil, this is so far from our current reality?

If I’m being honest, as embarrassing as it was yesterday for Jamaica to be ‘left off’ such a monumental commitment—the omission was easier to digest. 

Let me level with you because I could understand why Jamaica failed to emerge among the 105 country leaders who made the ‘bare minimum’ promise, given the inconsequential timeline. 

It demonstrated that nothing would be allowed to disrupt the bauxite industry, despite its direct and indirect negative impacts on the wider environment—including communities across rural Jamaica that live with the weight of these decisions. Every. Day. 

As a substantial contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), I’d get it. The economy as rambled on about, over and over at many a Jamaica House address, would make sense. 

While Holness was away representing Jamaica, the JET team visited the community of Gibraltar, St Ann over the weekend. The images and videos captured on October 29 are what the environment group witnessed of bauxite mining happening in the heart of a community—with schools, churches, homes and farms still present and affected. (Photo: Facebook @JamEnTrust)

But, seeing that it’s presumably an “error”, how does the Government of Jamaica then justify the continued granting of mining and other environmental permits, be it prospective searches or not, as recently as September 29, 2021?

Are you telling me that all the forests routinely cleared for bauxite, a US$500 million hotel in Hanover and mega-road improvement projects in St Thomas and Portland will suddenly “stop” in 2030… nine years from now? 

Can I just say how I absolutely HATE how easy it appears for politicians, like yourself, to lie to our collective faces and insult our intelligence when they go abroad and make grandiose statements about “protecting the environment”?

Actually, forget it. 

After this tweet from the State Minister of Information, Robert Nesta Morgan, praising Jamaica’s climate change “leadership” status in the Caribbean? 

(Photo: Twitter @NestaJA)

“Not debatable”, he says.

You lot have some nerve and are shameless with it too. 

Let’s not kid ourselves, Jamaica is in no way a leader in climate change regionally. First, just to be clear, Jamaica has NEVER taken environmental protection seriously.

They say that the truth is raw and unflattering and, according to the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI), since its inception, the environmental portfolio has fallen under 13 different government ministries and been led by 11 different ministers, including two prime ministers.

In its 2018 Beyond PET bottles and plastic bags report, led by renowned environmentalist Diana McCaulay, CAPRI stated that, “Putting the #environment within the purview of other ministries, especially those with stated development goals like tourism or housing, can lead to conflicts of interest. Inevitably, the environmental mandate loses.”

Our coral reefs are overfished, forests shrinking daily, and more people are developing chronic conditions due to the decisions of a select few who feel NONE of the repercussions but reap its benefits.

A magnificent glimpse of Jamaica from the International Space Station. (Photo: Luca Parmitano, Flickr)

We will not be a leader if we continue to skirt around the overhauls needed to save our forests; or if attempts to repeatedly undermine entities such as the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), that operate at taxpayers’ expense, from doing the jobs they are assigned do not stop. 

This obsession with ‘pretty politics’ and administrative optics is killing our country.

What’s so sad about it is we have no one but ourselves to be our barrier to the crisis at hand, as the politicians elected to serve in our best interest…sit in silence.

Perhaps, what Jamaicans need to do is begin looking into other countries to which they might migrate right now, seeing as we’ll be climate refugees in nine years. 

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