JAMAICA’S PM Andrew Holness caused more than a few raised eyebrows yesterday, with the exclusion of the environment and/or climate change from a named ministry in his Cabinet.
And a variety of stakeholders have commented.
Independent blogger and social media activist Emma Lewis said: “I am appalled at the lack of an environment portfolio. I can only assume that this was an oversight on the part of the Prime Minister”.
“Did he simply forget?” she questioned.
“Understandably, there is major and important emphasis on economic growth in the new Cabinet. I understand the three Ministers without Portfolio in the OPM are all charged with ensuring economic growth. This signals to me, in the words of the last environment minister: ‘The economy outweighs all other considerations’. What about sustainable development. What about climate change?” Lewis noted further.
Meanwhile, as reflected in a Gleaner piece I did, published today, other civil society actors working in the environment were equal parts shocked and dismayed even as they hold to the hope that clarification will come — one that reflects some careful thought having been given to the environment, to include water and climate change.
“I don’t think this first signal is a very positive one. It used to be that the environment portfolio moved around from ministry to ministry. Now it would it seem to have disappeared entirely,” JET boss Diana McCaulay has commented.
For his part, head of the Southern Trelawny Environment Agency Hugh Dixon said: “I think with growth and prosperity being the sort of thrust of the new government, it seems to be an awful oversight as the issues that are at the forefront of development are predicated to a great extent on an awareness and sensitivity to [for example] climate change.”
“I would, with caution, say that I hope that wherever it has been dispensed to, it holds some order of priority consistent with its current standing globally and any sort of growth and development agenda,” Dixon added.
In the wake of their comments, the PM today released a statement indicating that the environment portfolio is now under his office.
“Prime Minister Andrew Holness is pleased to advise that the environment portfolio is situated within the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM),” said the statement from his office.
“The Prime Minister has always expressed a keen interest in the environment and considers good and responsible environmental management and planning as critical to facilitating economic growth and sustainable development,” it added.
And locating the portfolio in his office, he promised, bodes well for the priority the issues are to be given.
“The Prime Minister has taken a proactive role where environmental management and climate change mitigation efforts are concerned by situating this important portfolio in his office. With the environment portfolio in the OPM, it will benefit from effective planning and coordination of government activities and ensuing synergies in the land, water and housing portfolios which are also situated in that office,” the statement said.