Despite 14 years in power, Elizabeth Thompson & her government DID NOT bring environmental legislation to Barbados… They didn’t even try!
On Thursday April 15, 2010 Barbados held a press conference at the United Nations to formally announce the nomination of Senator Elizabeth Thompson for the position of Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The UN report of this conference appears at the end of this article.
The Barbados government and associated political elites believe that former Energy and Environment Minister Elizabeth Thompson has a real shot at being selected for this prestigious United Nations position – and they are pulling out all the stops in lobbying at the UN and with environmental action groups worldwide. That lobbying includes press releases and conferences, emails to environmental action groups from Elizabeth Thompson’s own law firm and on the blogs – at least at BFP – a campaign of “astroturfing”…
“Astroturfing denotes political, advertising, or public relations campaigns that are formally planned by an organization, but are disguised as spontaneous, popular “grassroots” behavior. The term refers to AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.”
… from Wikipedia Astroturfing
Why would a credible candidate need Astro-turfing?
At Barbados Free Press we’ve seen some “Astro-turfing” going on as some of Liz Thompson’s supporters make supporting comments using multiple names and identities in an attempt to make it appear that Senator Thompson has a large number of supporters among Bajans. This campaign seems to be in response to our article Concerned Barbados citizens oppose Liz Thompson’s nomination to United Nations UNFCCC position.
Barbados Free Press will reveal the true identity of at least one of the ‘astroturfers’ tomorrow in a separate article.
Can any Liz Thompson supporter provide a list of her actual environmental accomplishments?
The darnedest thing is happening with the governmental elites who support Elizabeth Thompson for the UNFCCC position: the only reason they can provide for supporting her nomination is that she is “passionate about the environment and climate change” when she speaks and writes magazine articles. They point out that she received a “Champion of the Earth” award a couple of years ago, but when you read the citation it describes how Liz Thompson received the award for how she talks about climate change and the environment.
Talking… as in “a substitute for real actions and capabilities.”
Ah, okay. Other than talk and write magazine articles, what has Liz Thompson done? What has she even attempted to do? What has she accomplished or tried to accomplish for the environment in Barbados?
Has Elizabeth Thompson managed to achieve any real change or accomplishment by bringing people together to actually do something in Barbados? If she was a failure in her role as Minister of the Environment in Barbados, what makes anyone think she could succeed in bringing the world together at the United Nations?
We can’t think of any environmental accomplishments or changes that Elizabeth Thompson has delivered or even attempted to deliver on the island. We can’t even think of one failed initiative of hers – because she did nothing.
None of Elizabeth Thompson’s supporters have taken up our challenge to provide a list of her actual accomplishments for the environment in Barbados.
Okay, folks… we’re listening! Hello???
We can, however, list several environmental activities and initiatives that Liz Thompson should have attempted to make happen during her time in government – but she didn’t even try.
* Environmental legislation? Ha! Nothing. Not even a draft in 14 years. Liz Thompson didn’t even propose simple regulations about the disposal of chemicals or making it mandatory for pipeline and storage tank owners to measure quantities each day to spot leakage!
* Environmental Standards? None! We have none in law or practice after 14 years of Liz Thompson as a Minister of Government. We have no regulations or standards for the use or disposal of hazardous chemicals and waste. UNBELIEVABLE!
* Mandatory recycling on this relatively small island? Nothing. We are awash in garbage.
* Linking climate change and the environment to sustainable, responsible development? Elizabeth Thompson and her government have a clear record of wholesale, uncontrolled development without respect to the environment. Liz Thompson and her government developed any piece of coastline they could get their hands on. They ignored the water and sewage infrastructure and failed to think of the future. (All of that has been said time and time again by Prime Minister David Thompson and his DLP government members up until as recently as a few weeks ago when it became politically convenient to nominate Liz Thompson for the UN position. No wonder Bajans just laugh and shake their heads over this nomination.)
* Protecting the RAMSAR designated Graeme Hall watershed? A sick joke: Liz Thompson and her government were responsible for dumping raw sewerage into the only remaining mangrove forest on the island. Liz Thompson and her government modified the land use plan to permit residential and commercial development on the RAMSAR watershed – depriving future generations of green space and putting the wetlands at risk. Not to mention the decade-long failure to repair and maintain the government controlled sluice gate into the wetlands.
The concept of promoting someone to the UNFCCC because they have actual results in their previous endeavors seems foreign to Liz Thompson’s supporters.
Oppose Elizabeth Thompson’s nomination and save the Barbados environment!
It is our hope that homegrown opposition by many environmentally conscious Bajan citizens to Liz Thompson’s nomination may impact the choice of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his selection committee. The loss of this nomination might cause the Barbados government and political leaders to do more than talk about the environment and climate change. It may save our island. It may result in environmental legislation and standards that will protect our children.
“If the United Nations focuses not on Elizabeth Thompson’s ability as an orator, but on the level of her actual performance as Environment Minister and the environmental and corruption issues that dogged her BLP government and her personally there is no way that Thompson will be selected.”
Here is a copy of the recent UN Press Conference report as it appears on the United Nations Press Conference website… Read it and you’ll see that there is nothing of substance – it’s all about what a great talker Liz Thompson is. That’s all her supporters can say about her…
PRESS CONFERENCE ON BARBADOS’ CANDIDATURE FOR UN CLIMATE CHANGE TREATY CHIEF
Barbados today announced the nomination of Senator and former Energy and Environment Minister Elizabeth Thompson as its candidate for Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, bringing to five the number of countries that have so far nominated candidates for the same position: Costa Rica; South Africa; India; and Indonesia.
Christopher Hackett, Permanent Representative of Barbados to the United Nations, made the announcement at a Headquarters press conference in New York to introduce Ms. Thompson as his country’s candidate for the post. Her candidacy has been presented to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who has to name the official to take over from the outgoing Yvo de Boer of the Netherlands.
Mr. Hackett pointed to Ms. Thompson’s “extensive and rich” leadership experience in national, regional and international issues, which he said qualify her for guiding the United Nations work on climate change affairs. He said given the respected and principled voice his country had in the international community on questions of sustainable development, particularly as reflected in the role Barbados played in the first conference in 1994 on the sustainable development of small island developing States, that someone from that location with her level of experience would be an effective leader of the UNFCCC.
For Barbados, and the wider Caribbean, climate change and sustainable development were important challenges, Mr. Hackett said, adding that Ms. Thompson had received the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Champion of the Earth award, in 2008.
Articulating the case for her candidature, Ms. Thompson made reference to the 2007-2008 Human Development Report, which described climate change as the most important development challenge of the present era. With that in mind, the post she was vying for was of extreme significance at the global level, and its leadership was one of tremendous importance and should be approached with great care. Barbados was of the view that not only was the country from among the region’s most vulnerable to climate change, but for several other reasons her candidature was significant. It was based on three planks; namely, Barbados’ own record and strength; her own record and strength; and lastly, “just sheer competence”.
Expanding on the first plank, she said as a small island developing State with very few resources, Barbados had managed to be recognized and ranked thirty-first on the Human Development Index. Despite being a small island developing State, and despite its very limited resources, the country had managed to address successfully several of the development challenges facing the globe, and to include in its policy framework several very effective policies to address issues relative to the environment and to climate change. Also, the country was known for its good governance and had an excellent reputation in the world community.
Not only had Barbados managed development issues well, but generally, the country was recognized as being well-managed, she said. Added to that, it had a strong environmental record of achievement and of policy; if there was a single country which had the background that would allow it to bridge North and South, developed and developing –- that country was in very many respects Barbados. She declared that having been a member of her country’s Cabinet for 14 years, and having led Barbados’ environmental policy agenda framework from 1994 until 2009, she had contributed, not only to the country’s general management and governance as a Cabinet member, but specifically to its environmental policy, climate change agenda and reputation in that realm.
On the more personal second plank, she said she was politically, professionally and academically qualified for the post in many ways, as evidenced by the persons with whom she shared the UNEP Champion of the Earth award, namely, Prince Albert of Monaco; former United States Vice President Al Gore; former United States Senator Tim Wirth; former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, and now United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator; and former Presidents of the Russian Federation and South Africa, respectively, Mikhail Gorbachev and Thabo Mbeki.
“So, at an international level, my leadership, my skill, the quality of my contribution to environment in Barbados and in the Caribbean has been recognized by the UN. I managed to catch their radar,” she stated. Politically, she added that she had been a politician, and the post of UNFCCC Executive Secretary required political skill and savvy. For some 20 years, she had been engaged in decisions that required the delicate balancing of policy choices against international demands and demands of an electorate and population, as well as against budget considerations. “So, I don’t just see climate change and development issues from the perspective of the negotiating table. I understand how one then has to move the negotiating outcomes to practical implementations. And those are decision that I have had to take”, she explained.
Equally, at the academic level, she said she was a lawyer; held an MBA from the University of Liverpool; a Masters in Law from the Robert Gordon University in Scotland; and is also trained in Economics; renewable energy; international petroleum negotiations; alternative dispute resolution; and in arbitration.
Since leaving the cabinet in January 2008 when her party lost the elections, she had been leader of opposition business in the Barbados Senate, she said, adding that the Government had nominated her because it felt that she had the capacity and the competence to do the job. It was not often that a Government nominated a leader form the opposition, she noted. Additionally, she had also been working as an energy consultant for various agencies, including the Organization of American States (OAS) and other international consultancies.
Also present at the press conference were the Permanent Representatives of Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Camillo Gonzalves; Grenada, Dessima Williams; Jamaica, Raymond Wolfe; the Solomon Islands, Collin Beck; and Saint Lucia, Donatus St. Aimee — all of whom said they endorsed Ms. Thompson’s candidature.
In brief remarks, Mr. Gonzalves, who is the current chair of the Permanent Representatives Caucus of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) at the United Nations, said Ms. Thompson brought a wealth of experience and a multiplicity of skills, and a demonstrated passion to the issue of the environment and climate change and sustainable development, which should make the Secretary-General’s job of selecting a candidate “very easy”. CARICOM generally, and Barbados specifically had long held a leadership position on climate change and sustainable development,
and a great deal of Ms. Thompson’s leadership on the issue could be directly attributable to her work as minister in charge of the environment for over 14 years. She would bring not only the political talent that would be needed in such a sensitive position, but the political gravitas befitting the importance of the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC and raise the profile of the position.
“We think that it is important that she is from a small island State, and that she is from a nation that is somewhat removed from the great power intrigue and not necessarily an ideologue on either the North-South divide or the East-West divide. We think that she will focus on the very important substance of climate change, and for small island developing States, it is critical to us that we get back to the substance of the matter, and divorce ourselves from some of the extraneous matters involved,” he declared. In that regard, CARICOM was “exceedingly pleased” that Barbados had offered her as a candidate for the post.
Asked for her views about the allegations of some Member States that the Copenhagen process had not been an open one, Ms. Thompson said what transpired at the end of the meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009 had been “a last-ditch attempt” to rescue the process from what had appeared to be certain failure. In that regard, she felt that those who were the authors should be commended for making that attempt. At the same time, it should be recognized that a large number of countries had now associated themselves with the accord, which meant that regardless of how the process was characterized, there seemed to be some consensus coalescing around it.
However, she added, it was also clear that there were concerns about the process, and it was her view that the new Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC had to ensure that whatever emerged in the future was party-driven and that countries and regions felt that they had value, that their perspective was being heard and that they could contribute to the process in the interest of their stakeholders and their citizens. A top objective of hers was to ensure there was transparency within the processes and there was scope for all countries to feel represented.
As for those countries that had not fully associated themselves with the Copenhagen outcome, she said it was critical to look at their issues of concern
and to determine how best to address their concerns. It was important too to look at the accord because it contained some positives and because strength could be drawn from those countries that supported it. Whether the process was lamentable or not, the accord was the text on the table. The challenge now for the new Executive Secretary was to determine how best to use it and to make it viable for all the countries, incorporating the many perspectives and concerns.
Asked how she would facilitate better cooperation between developed and developing countries, she said the Executive Secretary should not herself behave as if she had a vested interest in the outcome, because essentially what she was doing was trying to bring countries to the table who had strong vested interests. Her skills as a facilitator and manager of the process, therefore, were critical. To a further related question, she said that as Executive Secretary, she would have come from the bosom of Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and there was no doubt that Barbados was the “birth mother” of the Barbados Programme of Action, which was the United Nations agenda, and she delighted in that heritage.
More importantly, she stressed that she was cognisant of the fact that, beyond her own perspectives and background, her responsibility as Executive Secretary was to the process and to the convention and to all countries, adding: “My greater role is to bring North and South together; to bring developed and developing countries together; to find a way for us to work together on what unites us and what we have in common, and to find an agreement and a solution that politicians and ministers and Governments find acceptable for their countries and their citizens.”
Also important, she said, was to bring academia into the climate change process and to work with non-governmental organizations, which she noted was part of the difficulties encountered at Copenhagen, where many of the latter group had complained that they had not been given enough space to contribute or that their perspectives had not been accepted. She pledged to facilitate the participation of non-governmental organizations because she believed a party-driven consensus was important, and that ultimately, a legally-binding agreement involving all was vital. “But the immediate vision, and the vision has got to be short-, medium- and long-term, the immediate thing is to get parties in a frame of mind to work without rancour at Mexico. That’s the immediate- and short-term goal.” The long term goal would be a legally binding agreement, she said.