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JAM | Nov 2, 2021

JET not surprised by Jamaica’s absence from COP26 deforestation pledge

Gavin Riley

Gavin Riley / Our Today

Reading Time: 6 minutes
While stressing the importance of critical funding to mitigate the impact of climate change, Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) failed to include Jamaica in a list of 100 country leader commitments to end deforestation by 2030. The prime minister is joined at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith and Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke. (Photo: Twitter @KaminaJSmith)

CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) Dr Theresa Rodriguez-Moodie says the organisation is “disappointed but not surprised” that Prime Minister Andrew Holness—leading the country delegation at the 26th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow—failed to include Jamaica in the list of 105 countries that pledged to do more to end deforestation by 2030. 

Rodriguez-Moodie, in an interview with Our Today on Tuesday (November 2), said the island’s glaring omission stands true to policy directions taken by the Holness Administration, which continues to grant mining leases and licences to companies, to the detriment of the people and wider environment.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised. If we did make that commitment we would be taking a stance on industries and practices that are responsible for removing a lot of vegetation, namely bauxite mining,” the JET CEO began.

“And let me be clear, the Government is continuing to grant special mining leases (SMLs) and special exclusive prospective licences (SEPLs); these last for 25 years at a time. So, if we were to make those commitments on the global scale it would mean that we would have to see significant changes in what is being allowed here and we haven’t heard the Government say anything in relation to stopping bauxite mining or bauxite exploration,” Rodriguez-Moodie continued.

CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), Theresa Rodriguez-Moodie. (Photo: Facebook @JamEnTrust)

The local environment watchdog acknowledged the Holness Administration’s three million trees in three years initiative but argued more needs to be done.

Dr Rodriguez-Moodie agreed with Holness’ remarks at the World Leaders’ Summit yesterday that richer countries should help fragile and vulnerable states like Jamaica transition to carbon-neutrality and get closer to climate resilience. The incongruity, she told Our Today, lies in how current and future policies are made with respect to the unavoidable climate crisis.

“So he is not wrong. Small island developing states like Jamaica cannot deal with the impacts of climate change without the intervention from larger countries, economies, but we have to be focused on some of the decisions that we make on a daily basis here at the local level. Yes, you need money, of course, and we cannot find all that money ourselves so this is why you depend on those bigger countries and the pledges they have made; but for the projects we do have funding, we have to look at how we implement them,” she argued.

While Holness was away representing Jamaica, the JET team visited the community of Gibraltar, St Ann over the weekend. The heartbreaking 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)

“When we talk about granting permits to build hotels in areas that involve large-scale removal of mangroves, we’re contradicting ourselves because mangroves are a major contributor to both [climate] adaptation and mitigation. They’re very important nature-based solutions. When we look at tearing down forests to build roads in areas like Portland, we are contradicting ourselves. Looking at building practices [that] are not sustainable and [inconsiderate of] the impacts of climate change in the sense of it’s going to get hotter and we’re going to have more intense periods of rainfall, what are we doing to cope with those things? What are we doing to adapt to those impacts?” Rodriguez-Moodie queried.

“We are still operating in the ways of the past and expecting to see a different result in the future. We cannot continue to sit and take our time in making decisions in how we do things at the local level; we’ve heard different leaders, we’ve heard [from] youth speak about taking bold action. The time is now,” she told Our Today.

Jamaican Twitter users also called out Holness for what they perceived as the island’s ‘intentional omission’ on the just-released 2030 world pledge to end deforestation.

The Jamaican Twitterati slammed Holness for ‘failing its people yet again’, as the nation was missing from the roster of 100 countries that pledged to reduce global deforestation by 2030 at the ongoing COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

COP26, in a statement earlier today, explained that the 100+ countries identified committed to “working collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation.”

Reaffirmation was also made to “highlight the areas of strong progress in recent years and the opportunities before us to accelerate action”.

The 105 country leaders further urged other states to join forces in a sustainable land-use transition, which COP26 contended was “essential to meeting the Paris Agreement goals, including reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.”

“Together we can succeed in fighting climate change, delivering resilient and inclusive growth, and halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation,” the declaration read.

On Twitter, however, on realising Jamaica’s absence from the list of countries, users criticised the prime minister as a hypocrite for repeatedly claiming his administration is serious about climate change yet when given the opportunity to offer ‘lip service’ at the bare minimum, the Government of Jamaica contingent led by him ‘sat in silence’.

(Photo: Twitter @ashindestad)

JET also echoed the majority of Jamaican Twitter sentiments. 

“We need to understand why people are upset, but, if he did commit, he would also have to make some very bold decisions about the existing industries we have and maybe we’re not prepared to make those bold decisions,” Rodriguez-Moodie told Our Today.

Several Caribbean neighbours, including Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, were also noticeably absent from the 105 countries, released on Tuesday.

From left: Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Antiguan Prime Minister and sitting CARICOM Chairman Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley and Trinbagonian Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speak briefly as Caribbean leaders present at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland on Monday, November 1. (Photo: Twitter @KevzPolitics)

Holness, in his remarks on behalf of the nation at the World Leaders’ Summit yesterday, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that the world has the capacity to develop global solutions in record time when leaders believe and agree that the problem threatens our safety and security.

“It also demonstrated the need for equity. Equity is similarly critical to our response to climate change. Countries that have profited the most from carbon over decades, have a responsibility to make resources and technology available to others to adapt and transition to low carbon economies,” he argued.

An October 2001 environmental management study on the rate of deforestation in Jamaica by Lise Tole found that the island was losing forests at an alarming rate—a situation further exacerbated when recent events in Hanover, Portland and St Ann are considered some two decades later.


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