Energy efficient lifestyles needed to develop ‘greener’ T&T
This is the second of a two-part series on incentives geared towards reducing greenhouse gases in T&T, collectively written by six students of the University of the West Indies— MATHEW EDWARDS, SALEEM ABDUL AZIZ, MARSILIO MOHAMMED, KEENAN RAMNATH, DARREL LUTCHMAN, AVINDA BHAIROSINGH and FARIA RAMJOHN.
According to the results of a study conducted by a group of Environmental Economics students on which this article is based, the main contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Trinidad and Tobago was found to not surprisingly be the industrial sector.
Transport is listed as the second highest contributor with domestic and agricultural sources being third.
In terms of industrial activity, market-based incentives such as tradable permits on pollution and taxing are necessary in making a step in the direction of more environmentally sound operations.
Levying taxes on activities such as polluting, could result in a paradigm shift where unfavourable items and activities would hold a charge as opposed to activities regarded as positive for society such as savings being tax free.
This would also result in companies investing in the most effective technologies to ensure that standards are met while simultaneously increasing efficiency.
Subsidies are another incentive that has been previously introduced in T&T’s lobby against excessive greenhouse gas emissions,however, this particular instrument has been criticised, since it goes against the fundamental economic concept of ‘polluter pays,’ as the government would bear the costs that the polluter is rightfully responsible for.
One such plan to divert from fuel subsidies as outlined in the 2011 Fiscal budget delivered by Works and Energy minister Winston Dookeran, is the increased use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Additional advantages to this is that it would be environmentally friendly and cost effective.
This plan could represent the start of a ‘greener’ Trinidad and Tobago if it continues to grow in popularity, and the government should be acknowledged for the efforts in promoting sustainability.
In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly for a sustained length of time, various measures in various sectors will be required.
Domestic activities play a lesser but still significant role in greenhouse gas emissions.
Incentives such as increasing the energy tax credit for homeowners who switch to more energy efficient appliances in their existing homes and credit to purchase alternative energy equipment such as solar hot water heaters add to the individual’s desire to be more energy efficient.
While such incentives can be put in place, it is still the individual’s choice to convert to a more energy efficient lifestyle or stick to their traditional ways.
This is proving to be a real issue in the small nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
People’s core ethics and values play a fundamental role in the success of these incentives, and for such initiatives to be successful, ‘sustainable development’ has to be more than just a catch phrase.
The use of renewable energy as opposed to fossil fuels can result in a great reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The implementation of this would take a great deal of participation from both the public and private sector but based on the astounding levels of greenhouse gases currently being emitted, it is well worth delving into.
Renewable energy, coupled with the harnessing of potential biofuels from agriculture, could move T&T’s current rank of 73rd contributor of GHGs globally to a figure that represents a more sustainable, environmentally-sound economy.
If left unchecked, greenhouse gas emissions will continue to increase rapidly.
While this may mean an increase in economic activity, it would not necessarily translate into a greater standard of living or sense of well-being for citizens and will certainly bear grave implications for T&T.
October 2011 marked the nation of Trinidad and Tobago acquiring “developed” status by the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
This benchmark achievement raised the question of what encompasses the term ‘development.’
This notion of ‘development’ does not include theories of sustainability.
Instead of solely striving for economic supremacy and foregoing the opportunity to mitigate the devastating effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the environment while it still is a viable option, a change in the myopic views regarding economic growth needs to be acquired sooner than later.
Economic incentives provide a flexible, easily adaptable, cost effective way in establishing a mutualistic relationship between economic growth and environmental conservation, but lack of willingness and participation from the government, firms and individuals of the nation will only cripple the potential of these economic tools.