Trinidad and Tobago is ultimately in a vulnerable position with respect to climate change. Our Twin Island state, due to our geographical location, general size and our climatic zone, is susceptible to all sorts of climate related issues.
Surrounded by bodies of water, subjected to tropical waves, and with infrastructure that was not built with climate resilience in mind, our state is in no real position to truly weather the storms of climate change. Recent years have been the warmest on record, clear evidence of worldwide manifestations of climate change. In T&T we aren’t immune to global shifts towards hotter climates either, our temperate records show that since the 1960's, Trinidad's average temperature has inched up by about 0.8 degrees Celsius and Tobago's by 0.5 degrees. Rainfall patterns have changed too. Overall, there has been a decreasing trend in rainfall in T&T. At the same time, pounding, seemingly random showers that trigger flash floods happen more often. Scientific climate model projections are showing global temperatures and their serious impacts are only going to get worse, posing major threats to countries around the world, but especially islands and regions like ours. This is an international issue, requiring more than anything, a collaborative effort. No country is truly exempt from the effects of the phenomenon nor contributing to the factors that cause its proliferation, as most of the globe’s energy comes from non-renewable and fossil fuel sources that produce greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
The global community has recognised this grave threat and has put certain initiatives in place to counter it. Representatives from almost every country on Earth gathered in Paris in 2015 to forge an international treaty to do something about climate change, resulting in the now well known ‘Paris Agreement’. The Paris agreement is an attempt by the United Nations and the global community to hold itself accountable with regards to its efforts to combat climate change. Adopted by nearly 200 countries, the Paris Agreement unites the world's nations in a single agreement on tackling global warming, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping global temperature increases to two degrees Celsius and ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius. Recently at the COP26 convention in Glasgow, these targets were adjusted, as many countries have failed to stick to their commitments, however, the agreements and its recommendations and guidelines remain in place. The Paris Agreement requires all signatory countries to commit to reducing emissions from the most economically advanced country to the least developed states. These commitments for bringing down greenhouse gas outputs are called 'Nationally Determined Contributions' or NDCs. They are designed to increase in ambition every five years with each signatory to the Paris Agreement having an NDC and must account for its achievement or non-achievement through an open, transparent review process. The Paris Agreement also requires countries to prepare for the transition to a low carbon economy, also called decarbonization of the economy, report on losses and damage caused by climate change impacts, develop long term, low carbon plans and report on measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Developing nations must also report on financing support received to confront climate change. While making the crucial transition to low carbon economies, signatory countries must recognise human rights; such as the right to health, the rights of indigenous communities, local communities, migrants, the vulnerable in society as well as those with disabilities. A key component of this shift is the preservation of the right to development, inter-generational equity and the empowerment of women.
To fight climate change, and to stick to the stipulations of the Paris Agreement, nations adopting decarbonization policies are expected to usher in a reduced reliance on the burning of fossil fuels while safeguarding the livelihoods of those employed in the sectors currently reliant on these fossil fuels. This is called the ‘Just Transition’ of the workforce. The Just Transition, is a term relating to the shift away from non-renewable energy consumption and production, in all sectors of the workforce, while simultaneously providing opportunities for workers to transition into new jobs, minimizing any financial hardships that may come with this transition. For larger, more diversified economies, just transitioning might be an easier, less painful shift, but for ones like ours, the transition to reduced carbon emissions and fossil fuel free operations might be a bit more challenging. It is vital in the shift that the human factor is taken into account, with the creation of sustainable, quality jobs to ensure no one is left behind as nations move towards their low carbon economy objectives.
Trinidad and Tobago has already developed an NDC implementation framework and a financial investment plan, which means that we know what it will take to achieve our targets and have laid the foundation to get there. Additionally, T&T is also developing its own Just Transition Policy as part of its commitments under the Paris Agreement in the global effort to move towards decarbonization of economies. In fact, Trinidad and Tobago played an important leadership role in developing the agreement by co-chairing negotiations between 2013 and 2014 with Germany. Like all other participating countries, our job is to ensure we live up to our commitments to reduce greenhouse gas output by 2030.
To limit global warming, we must keep on moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies. While Trinidad and Tobago contributes less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, we are ultimately a carbon based economy, and unfettered continuation of our current habits of energy production will eventually, in the long term, spell our demise. We must remain committed to contributing to the global climate solution by reducing our emissions. Implementation of the Paris Agreement is one of our best chances of keeping increases of global temperatures within safe limits. T&T is pitching in to be part of the solution.