Once again, we join with the rest of the world in observing a global day for positive environmental action, World Earth Day. This annual event is a vehicle which stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action. The theme for this year’s Earth Day – “Invest In Our Planet” is an opportunity to highlight the need for change towards a more sustainable world, whilst underscoring the need for every individual to play their part in keeping humankind’s ecological footprint within limits. It challenges us all to act boldly, innovate broadly, and implement equitably in our quest to achieve a prosperous and sustainable future.
Today’s occasion also provides us with a chance to reflect on our actions and practices over the past year, and to access whether we have been able to integrate into our lives the concept of sustainable management of the environment for a healthier and more fulfilling life. This sustainability entails providing opportunities for all, by balancing the social, economic and environmental dimensions of the country’s development.
This year’s observation of World Earth Day is of great significance as it precedes the Stockholm+50 Conference which will commemorate the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment celebrating 50 years of global environmental action. By recognizing the importance of global cooperation in tackling the Earth’s triple planetary crisis – climate, nature, and pollution – the event aims to act as a springboard to accelerate the implementation of the UN Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, including the 2030 Agenda, Paris Agreement on climate change, the post-2020 global Biodiversity Framework, and encourage the adoption of green post-COVID-19 recovery plans. As we approach our participation at Stockholm+50; I am pleased to note that, we have made some critical strides to improve the protection of the natural environment at both the national and international levels.
Trinidad and Tobago in 2018 signed the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which seeks to limit global warming and mandate countries to play a part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This country has demonstrated regional leadership by being the first Caribbean country, and second small island state, to submit its target, also known as the Nationally Determined Contribution or NDC, which stipulates a reduction in cumulative CO2 emissions from three sectors – industry, transportation and power generation – by 15% relative to a business as usual baseline by the year 2030. In this regard, the Ministry is vigorously pursuing implementation of the NDC and in the last year, we have also launched a Monitoring, Reporting and Verification or MRV system, the core of which is the Knowledge Management System or KMS. This system intends to track the type, quality and quantity of greenhouse gases produced by emitting sectors, as well as mitigation actions to reduce or avoid these emissions, it is the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean.
In an effort to contribute to the reduction of the carbon footprint, Trinidad and Tobago is also continuing the phase out of ozone depleting substances. Work has also begun on the largest ever grant funded national project under the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) entitled “Energy Efficiency through the Development of Low-carbon Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technologies in Trinidad and Tobago”.
This country has also experienced significant growth in solid and hazardous waste generation over the last two decades as a result of the increase in population, industrial expansion, urbanization and changing lifestyles. In order to address this issue, the environmental legislative framework has been strengthened with the finalization of the Waste Management (Registration and Permitting) Rules. The Government is also continuing the implementation of a project to facilitate environmentally sound management of Persistent Organic Pollutants, otherwise known as POPs, which are toxic, highly mobile, carcinogenic chemicals.
We are also implementing a revised National Action Programme (NAP) to address land degradation, which includes the concept of Land Degradation Neutrality. This entails the establishment of voluntary targets to meet overarching Sustainable Land Management goals which support the protection, restoration and promotion of the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainable management of forests, combating desertification, reversing land degradation and halting biodiversity loss. Implementation is also ongoing on the revised National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) which is the “blue print” to guide actions to be undertaken to manage the country’s biological resources.
These are only a few national initiatives, but in reality we have only just begun. Occasions such as Earth Day present us with an excellent opportunity to educate, to reason together and to explore the options and the practical solutions available to us to integrate the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social and economic- into the way we live; allowing us to exist in harmony with our natural environment. We must refute the fallacy that there is conflict between economic and environmental health. With the right public policies and investments, Trinidad and Tobago can protect our environment whilst generating employment and growing our economy, in the achievement of our global commitment to sustainable development.
On this World Earth Day and beyond and in advance of the historic Stockholm+50 conference, I urge all institutions, businesses and members of society to become more informed and to take personal responsibility for their actions with respect to the preservation, conservation and wise use of our environment. Positive actions include; practicing good agricultural methods, halting of illegal hunting and deforestation, proper disposal of garbage, maintaining our cars thereby limiting pollutant discharge, carpooling, good environmental practices by businesses, energy conservation, engaging in the use of alternative environmentally friendly technologies and the like.
These actions are but a few which without a doubt will bring about the changes we desire to see. Our concern for the planet begins not only with actions of the Government but with the response of each individual – the choices we make today will ensure a sustainable future – the future that we all need.