During COP26 countries were asked to reflect on the agreements they might have signed onto for climate action, such as the Paris Agreement, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change among others. As a global community we are asked to self-evaluate and assess how our own efforts have either mitigated or contributed to the climate “crisis”.
According to the United Nations, many countries are not on track to achieve their mitigation goals. The UN notes that even when you combine all the current climate commitments from different countries, they will put us on track for 2.7°C of warming by the end of the century, even as the Paris Agreement of 2015 aimed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. Looking at the figures themselves it might seem like a miniscule difference, but it holds major climatic effects for the world.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2021 report, current trends have us barrelling toward environmental disaster, with worsening weather anomalies and ecosystem collapse. The climate crisis affects every corner of our planet – from the poles to the tropics, from the rainforests to the glaciers, the deserts to the great lakes. People all across the world have already started experiencing the climate crisis, it is in fact not a distant reality but a present growing threat.
The global south, of which Trinidad and Tobago is a part, and by extension the entire region of the Caribbean, is at an increased risk of climate crisis and related disasters, with some of our island neighbours already facing the more dramatic and devastating effects of the weather, with Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Dorian devastating the northern Caribbean. The strength and frequency of these hurricanes are unprecedented for the region, and demonstrate how high a risk the climate crisis poses for the Caribbean, with millions in damage and loss and thousands of lives being destroyed in the process.
Trinidad and Tobago is not exempt from the effects of climate change so what have we put in place to mitigate our environmental impact as a nation? We have taken quite a few steps.
Since 2013 we’ve catalogued the levels and sources of our greenhouse gas emissions. We strategize ways to reduce carbon emissions from industry, transport and power generation, the three main sources. We’ve reviewed our policies and laws and made them stronger, more effective in protecting the country and the planet. Trinidad and Tobago’s commitment to the Paris Agreement is to reduce our Greenhouse gas emissions from these three main sources by 15% by 2030 and by 30% during the same time frame where public transportation is concerned. Trinidad and Tobago has taken various policy steps, in conjunction with various experts in the field of environmental science to assess and project the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities, take action to mitigate problems and make communities more resilient. Additionally, we’ve developed a greenhouse gas measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) system, built capacity at the EMA, trained emitters, designed a certification programme for inventorying greenhouse gases and developed a financial investment plan to leverage financing for the National Determined Contributions or NDCs which is a key component of the Paris Agreement. As such, the policy framework for mitigation is actually in place. Additionally, these NDCs represent each country’s public commitments to reduce greenhouse gases in the context of their own national circumstances, capabilities and priorities for the post 2020 period.
Trinidad has also ensured gender sensitivity in the NDC considerations, as gender justice should be taken into account, as climate change affects specific genders very differently. Persons’ vulnerability to climate change depends in part on gender roles and relations with rural women in developing countries are one of the most vulnerable groups according to the IPCC 2007 report. They are often dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods.
As for land degradation, we now have a national action programme. The NAP has an inventory of land use, identifies critical issues and problems and a programme for correcting, mitigating and preventing causes of land degradation. These mitigating actions include sustainable land management and risk reduction including early warning systems. We are also on target to achieve land degradation neutrality through a voluntary target setting programme where transformative projects to drive land degradation neutrality are identified. We can see these initiatives towards decreasing land degradation within recent times, where police have carried out various exercises to curtail illegal quarrying in protected areas of the country.
T&T has also empowered the public, private and NGO sectors to build their capacity to better manage these global environmental priorities and issues, as in order to make a difference, a holistic, cross-sectoral approach is needed.
It will, for a while at least, take a lot of effort both on an individual and collaborative scale for us to reach our goals. Let us do our part towards a greener, more climate resilient T&T.