Thu | Nov 26, 2020

Earth Today | What ‘green’ stakeholders want

Published:Thursday | September 24, 2020 | 12:11 AM
The attainment of water security is among the things environment stakeholders want prioritsed by the new environment and climate change ministry.

WITH THE announcement of a new Ministry of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change, stakeholders are hoping for a variety of things – from emphasis on food security to effective planning for climate threats that include sea level rise and coastal erosion, together with extreme weather events, as well as threats to water security.

“Dealing with the challenge of COVID is paramount, but we would not want to forget climate. Climate change is not going away because COVID is here. In fact, COVID is exacerbating the vulnerabilities of climate,” said Professor Michael Taylor, a climate scientist and head of the Faculty of Science and Technology at The University of the West Indies.

He insisted that some sort of balance needed to be struck between prioritising the COVID-19 response and continuing the work to safeguard climate resilience.

“COVID-19 gets the priority because of its immediacy and because of its threat to life. It is a difficult time we are in, and trying to negotiate other things does present a challenge for resources. However, we have to learn how to manage both things. I don’t think the answers are very clear yet. We will have to come to grips with both things,” he noted.

The things related to climate, the physicist said, include “the adaptation plans, the heat plan, sustainable water supply, the threats to infrastructure”.

Follow up on gains

“We have to pick up on all the strands of the climate work we were doing ... the gains that were made that were not followed up on because of COVID which is a major diversion. We will have to pick them up because they have real-life impacts on people’s lives,” he noted.

Further, he said it was past time that water be given sustained attention.

“When we don’t have a drought, we forget the problem. When water is in our pipes, we forget the long-term nature of the problem,” he said.

“There are some good plans in place. I have heard some good things articulated about water – including from the Water Resources Authority. However, we do suffer a bit where when we do have rain and lots of rain, the problem is out of our minds, and it is not until the next drought that we realise we have not implemented all the plans. A drought, for example, is such a creeping thing that you don’t realise you are in a drought until you are in a drought,” Taylor added.

Eleanor Jones, a private-sector actor and head of Environmental Solutions Limited, is batting for integrated planning.

“I like the combination of subject matter and, if run well, is an opportunity for integrating all of the pieces of the sustainable development puzzle – social inclusion, environmental risk management and planning and economic development,” she said.

“One thing I want to see, which I think we are not doing enough of, is integrated planning, and we are talking in urban and rural areas. Planning, planning, planning is absolutely essential. We are seeing some negative effects of the some of the developments taking place without adequate consideration of environmental risk and proper planning,” Jones added.

“It is an opportunity to see the full integration, and I look forward to the leadership that will see the vision and will put some order into what now appears to be disorder,” she said further.

Indi Mclymont-Lafayette, a development communicator and herself a long-time civil-society advocate in the area of climate change and the environment, pointed to food security, among other things.

“I anticipate seeing focus and resources placed on building Jamaica’s climate resilience, especially for vulnerable communities and sectors that will be most impacted. For example, our agriculture and fisheries sectors still need significant investment to be climate resilient and strengthen food security. This is urgent in the COVID-19 pandemic as we see how vulnerable our food supply is,” she said.

“We also have to prioritise livelihoods – how people make their living. So ‘green’ jobs and new opportunities, such as greenhouse farming and aquaponics, have to be explored on a larger scale,”added Mclymont-Lafayette, who heads Change Communications.