What climate change means for Trinidad and Tobago and the world
By Ria Chattram / TT Newsday
Petroleumworld 11 04 2021
Climate change involves the impact on the earth’s weather patterns that have been heavily influenced by human activity. On October 31, policymakers and dignitaries from 195 countries – including Trinidad and Tobago – embarked on discussions at the UN Congress of Parties (COP26) summit in Glasgow, Scotland and the United Kingdom.
The event runs until November 12 and will look at the achievements and accelerated actions towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
It is regarded as the most important gathering since the Paris COP21 summit in 2015. It is of great importance to the Caribbean and small island developing states (SIDs) which are most vulnerable to the changing weather patterns, such as storms, hurricanes, flooding, Sahara dust, volcanic activity, and more, which affect not only people but the general environment.
With the growing demand for energy, greenhouse (GHG) levels have been out of control, and proper mitigation mechanisms are urgently needed to attain the pledges made in the Paris Agreement of reducing global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, in addition to the long-term goal of limiting global warming temperatures to below two degrees Celsius.
Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, addressing the plenary on Tuesday, called on the international community to step up its efforts at adaptation and to provide funding for already-affected habitats.
PM Rowley said in some cases it was too late to talk of climate-change mitigation, and used TT’s deteriorating coastlines and coral reefs as an example.
"TT is a small island developing state already experiencing the effects of climate change. Loss and damage are already clear in the aggressive erosion of our coastline and the bleaching of our coral reefs. Tackling loss and damage must remain a critical and core issue of any global climate-action framework.
“We need funds like the Green Climate Fund to establish specific streams for loss and damage finance to ensure that this is prioritised in the same way as mitigation and adaptation,” he said.
The trend has been to move towards renewable energy. This energy transition does not only rely on the closure of the fossil-fuel industry and the development of clean energy, but it requires a paradigm shift and concerns the entire society.
Coastal erosion has destroyed buildings along Trinidad south-eastern coast. - AYANNA KINSALE
Biologist Ryan Mohammed told Business Day the implications of climate change for TT and the Caribbean were far graver than expected.
He said if the intended targets were not met, the fallout would include all facets of socio-economic development and sustainability, increases in food prices and the cost of other imported items and a devalued standard of living, among other things.
Already there have been higher prices of food, Mohammed said, and this would increase more if the climate continued to be taken for granted.
“Climate change affects everything. It’s not only that we are going to lose land because of rising sea levels and shifts in weather patterns, but we will also see shifts in biological systems.
“Recently, we’ve seen locusts plaguing south Trinidad and that is a direct impact of deforestation and elevated stresses from the climate. They (animals) will go into panic response for survival,” he explained.
Mohammed said TT needed to pay specific attention to attaining food security and quickly move towards food sovereignty.
And while TT is a small contributor to emissions when compared to the larger countries, it was the largest carbon-dioxide contributor in the Caribbean.
The impact of climate change was most devastating for SIDs because of the way larger countries treated the planet, he said, warning that mitigating the effects on TT involved every citizen, not just government or big businesses.
“In TT, we are now seeing localised increases in temperature. The urban heating effect along the East-West Corridor has caused elevated temperatures, and that is why we have this midday shower phenomenon happening – and our infrastructures cannot handle the rain.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg if we don’t change the ways we treat the environment. Things are going to get worse. The change has to do with more than making statements about projects like the use of electric cars, but having the policy and infrastructure to back it up,” he said.
Government alone cannot deliver on climate goals, and support from the private sector and individuals alike were needed to achieve sustainable development goal 13 –climate action.
The energy transition to low-carbon climate resilience would require co-operation on funding, investment, innovation and shifts in policy.
Mohammed said TT remained an oil and gas state and lagged in the renewables transition when compared to the rest of the Caribbean.
Further afield, “The big companies around the world have invested in renewables, and TT has the potential to transform seamlessly. Dubai, for example, has diversified into tourism, Singapore tapped into its human resources. So we also need to think about where our diversification needs to go.”
Mohammed said there were many UN conventions TT had still not signed, and national laws needed to be amended and enforced. He pointed to the Beverage Containers Bill and littering enforcement as examples that have been slipping by for years.
“We need to change our policies and implement the policies that we do have. We also need a behavioural shift in the people to understand that climate change is not something the big countries have to see about, and we don’t. Climate change affects the small islands first,” Mohammed argued.
He added that a collective and more effective stance by Caricom was also necessary in implementing change in the region.
TT has positioned itself for a carbon-reduction strategy developed for its power generation, transportation and industrial sectors, which have been identified as the country’s major emitters.
The PM added on Tuesday that current path to reach the climate-change target were on an “unsustainable path” and there needed to more focus and effort on “driving renewable and sustainable electrification, improving efficiency, reducing methane emissions and turbo-charging innovation.”
Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Keith Rowley speaks during the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 2. - AP PHOTO
At a cost of $2 billion, overall reduction of emissions from the three sectors is aimed at 15 per cent by 2030 from the business-as-usual model to be funded domestically and conditional on international financing through the Green Climate Fund.
Mohammed said the goals were ambitious, and a lack of infrastructure and policies meant they were not achievable in the timeframe outlined by Government.
“There are no systems in place to assist it. What is more achievable is five per cent, but it is not really going to help us.
“What we need to do is put the mechanisms in place to achieve the milestone (15 per cent). The talk needs to be translated to action from the government, the private sector and responsibility from individuals for their action to reduce their carbon footprint.”
Reducing electricity usage, import consumption, use of plastics and the use of aerosols were some easy steps people can take to help the environment, Mohammed said.
The Prime Minister led a delegation including Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne and Energy and Energy Industries Minister Stuart Young at COP26.
Also representing the Caribbean region was Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who in an impassioned, well-received speech described a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperature as a “death sentence” for SIDs.
She also urged world leaders to make funding available to SIDs on the frontlines for transition to more sustainable energy usage, food consumption, and transportation.
Mottley said had this been done, “The global temperature crisis would be less pressing.”
COP 26 schedule
October 31: opening of conference with procedural opening of negotiations.
November 1-2: world leaders’ summit, where statements from heads of state were presented on the importance of tackling climate change. They also presented their proposals on limiting carbon emissions and keeping the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming target.
November 3: Finance: Mobilising Public and Private Finance Flows at Scale for Mitigation and Adaptation, where there will be financial, economic and funding discussions on climate policy.
November 4: Energy: Accelerating the Global Transition to Clean Energy will examine policy proposals and energy transition from coal, oil and gas to clean energy and energy efficiency.
November 5: youth discussion and engagement on climate change issues. It is themed Youth and Public Empowerment.
November 6: Nature: Ensuring the Importance of Nature and Sustainable Land Use are Part of Global Action on Climate Change and a Clean, Green Recovery will be the event of the day.
November 7: rest day.
November 8: Adaptation, Loss and Damage will look at delivering the practical solutions needed to adapt to climate impact and address loss and damage.
November 9: Gender: Progressing Gender Equality and the Full and Meaningful Participation of Women and Girls in Climate Action, and Science and Innovation, which will look at research and technology to meet climate solutions.
November 10: will look at transport and zero emission in the industry.
November 11: will look at cities, regions and the built environment and advancing action.
November 12: session closed.