Why Coal? Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals Urges Disclosure

I had a conversation on radio this morning, hosted by Marvia Lawes, together with Eleanor Jones, CEO of Environmental Solutions Limited – who made several of the points below spelled out in yesterday’s press release by the Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals. We need much more information on this planned project and would urge the Government to inform themselves, each other and the general public in a coordinated way before rushing to a decision. A science-based approach is needed rather than a “we need jobs at all costs” approach. Think carefully, please! The future of our island is at stake. That may sound emotive, but we have to look to the future, at all times. Shall we revisit Vision 2030?

The Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals (JIEP), formed in 2000, is a professional association of qualified persons who work in the environmental field. Members include scientists, engineers, consultants, social scientists, lawyers, educators and economists. JIEP’s press release is as follows:

The Council of the Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals (JIEP) joins with other concerned Jamaicans in calling for full disclosure from the Government on the details of the source of energy proposed under the agreement with a Chinese firm to revitalize the bauxite industry in Nain, St. Elizabeth.

The Council notes with gratitude the inclusion of staff from the environmental regulatory authority in the visits and discussions of energy options. We look forward to seeing the holistic analysis on the full economic costs and benefits for the chosen source of energy, including: the lifetime costs of energy production, the cost of treatment of pollutant emissions and effluent, the cost of any investment or operation costs for ensuring compliance with all relevant national environmental and working standards. This analysis should include critical factors such as the economic cost of health effects and medical treatment from exposure to plant emissions and effluent on workers and communities surrounding the plant.

We take note of the fact that the 2009-2030 Energy Policy for Jamaica commits the Government to including at least a 20% mix of renewable energy sources. Further, in the 2016 Paris Agreement for Climate Change that Jamaica which involved both administrations and was signed on Earth Day, April 22, the Government committed to a future of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Countries around the world – including China and the U.S.A.– have begun major national processes to reduce their dependency on coal due to air quality and public health concerns associated with its extraction and use, as well as coal’s high per unit CO2 emissions, exacerbate Global Climate Change.

If the fuel for the proposed power plant is coal as has been reported, it is our position that a coal-fired plant is counterproductive to Jamaica’s own Vision 2030 and our other commitments on energy, sustainable development and climate change. We hasten to point out that there is a cost associated with sourcing and transportation of coal from overseas, potential impact on human health including long term treatment, and the cost of ensuring that all relevant national standards are met.

Based on our preliminary research, we expect that a comprehensive economic Cost Benefit Analysis will echo other global findings that demonstrate that the long term cost (considering not only its economic, but also the environmental and social factors) of a coal operation, on a cradle to grave basis, is higher than that of alternative, cleaner sources of energy.
Signed Karen McDonald Gayle, President

For interviews contact JIEP Council Members
Dr. Peter Edwards
(peteretedwards@gmail.com; 302-740-5354)
Dr. Suzanne Shaw (suzanne.m.shaw@gmail.com; 581-8471)

You might also like to take a look at these articles: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-30/china-to-suspend-new-coal-mine-approvals-amid-pollution-fight


4 thoughts on “Why Coal? Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals Urges Disclosure

  1. A balance approach is necessary with documented renewable alternatives. It is alway science that will create the viable conditions necessary for our survival as a specie. It is the appropriate usage of the best available technologies implementable that can make this world continued to be inhabitable for all of us. The use of the sun’s energy, wind and water technologies are now more relevant than ever and the application of these technologies are proving more cost effective each and every day. It is not enough to protest against the usage of fossilized fuel sources without the careful detailing of the applicable alternatives. There are industrialized countries that are making serious usage of the renewables technologies providing all the examples that are necessary for documentation.


    1. Absolutely, and we must always consult with the science. The Government’s National Energy Polcy calls for a mix of energy sources. Vision 2030 does this also, while moving towards a “green economy” (specifically stated in that document). I am quite sure our environmental professionals, who work in the field, are aware and apprised of all the other options, including LNG and renewables. The purpose of this release is not merely a protest, but to suggest also (as others have been doing) that it is dangerous to put all our eggs in one basket, so to speak. It is not a question of “If we don’t get a coal plant, then we won’t get jobs.” That is an incorrect approach. Meanwhile, I am not sure whether phrases like “sustainable development,” “green economy,” “diversification” etc are just nice buzz words that mean nothing…


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