Trinidad and Tobago, as a small island development state (SIDS), is particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, such as the rise in sea levels, increased flooding, the increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes, hillside erosion and the loss of coastal habitats.
This was revealed in a document titled Working for Sustainable Development in Trinidad and Tobago, which was made public on Monday at a press conference by the Ministry of Planning and the Economy at the Eric Williams Financial Complex, Port-of-Spain.
Planning Minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, who described the document as very important, said: "What this does, is explain in very factual terms where we are in terms of global standards for a sustainable development agenda. "It says where we are in terms of legislation, action, in terms of development strategy, in terms of the competing interest of growth and development, social and community development and environmental conservation and the balance that needs to be achieved in that."
He said the document also identified what were the country's gaps, areas in which it fell short and areas that need improvement. "It also says what are the critical interventions we need to make for things to happen faster and to make our sustainable strategy better." On page 50 of the document subtitled Climate Change and Sea Level Rise, it identified the country's main sectors that are likely to be impacted:
• Projected increase in air temperature is likely to increase the aridity of soils, thus decreasing crop yields.
• Increase in sea level is likely to result in inundation of coastal areas and salination of soil.
• Increased temperatures can result in the increased proliferation of new and existing pests and diseases and increase the demand for water for irrigation purposes.
2. Human health
• The projected increases in ambient air temperature are likely to increase the spread of vector diseases, since higher temperature and humidity favour the spread of vector-borne insects.
• Projected increases in sea level and precipitation intensity are likely to result in increases in the incidence of waterborne diseases.
3. Human settlements
• Projected increases in precipitation can result in increased flooding, which will have adverse effects on human settlements, commerce, transport and towns and villages. This can add pressure to existing urban and rural infrastructure.
• Increased frequency and intensity of storms and its associated flooding and storm surges can disrupt and destroy several coastal settlements, increasing the incidence of poverty.
4. Coastal zones
• Sea level rise will result in increased inundation, increased erosion and loss of coastline, loss of natural resources such as wetlands and loss of important ecosystems, goods and services.
• Temperature increases would lead to loss of the country's vital coral reefs' ecosystems and fisheries resource. It would also increase coastal erosion.
5. Water resources
• As temperature increases, there is also expected to be loss of available surface water as increased evapotranspiration would take place.
• Decreased precipitation would reduce percolation and recharge of groundwater reserves in aquifers.
The document said the transport and industrial sectors account for the majority of carbon dioxide emissions in the country. "Although the twin-island republic accounts for less than one per cent of the absolute global gas emissions, it is the second largest producer of carbon dioxide emissions on a per capita basis in the world."
However, the country was praised for seeking to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions through the development of compressed natural gas as an alternative fuel for vehicles. The document represented a third of policy documents prepared for T&T. The one that preceded it was the medium-term framework for 2011 to 2014 called Innovation For Lasting Prosperity.
"Both of these documents are aligned very closely to the manifesto of the People's Partnership, which was accepted as policy before the medium-term framework was prepared." Tewarie said another document called The National Performance Framework was expected to be taken to Cabinet soon, which would measure the performance of various ministries.
"What this means now is that we are going to the population and say for each of the objectives that we have set for ourselves...we will be able to say this is the target we set and this is the target we actually met. We will get feedback on whether we fell short of it or whether we met the respective targets."
He said the reason why the National Performance Framework document was not yet brought to Cabinet was because it had gone through a long process of consultation within the different public service departments to ensure all the ministries were on board and understood what were the areas to be accessed.