By Khandi Morgan
The 2016 Paris Agreement is an international policy instrument adopted and implemented by almost every nation in 2015 with attempts to tackle the negative impacts of climate change. Since then, 197 nations, i.e., almost every country on the planet, have endorsed the treaty. Of those countries, 190 have confirmed their support.
Still to sign the Agreement are major emission countries of Turkey, Iraq and Iran, however, our beloved nation of Trinidad and Tobago has ratified the agreement since February 22nd, 2018 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Upon ratification, immediate legal obligations are imposed at an international law level. This means Trinidad and Tobago has given consent to be bound by the provisions in the treaty.
The Paris Agreement’s main objective is to significantly decrease global greenhouse gas emissions. This is in an attempt to reduce the global temperature increase well below 20C, while also urging efforts to control the increase of temperature to at least 1.50C in this century.
What is the Paris Agreement?
The Paris Agreement includes proposals and commitments from its parties to decrease their climate pollution and to enrich commitments made gradually in years to come. The pact highlights guidelines for developed nations to help developing nations in their climate mitigation and adaptation attempts while creating a regime for the collation of these nations’ individual and collaborative climate objectives.
Regarding mitigation attempts, the 2016 Agreement seeks to establish binding commitments by all parties to make Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This is said to be the core of the Paris Agreement and can be classified as individual long-term goals by each nation. Therefore, all committing parties must regularly report on their emissions and the progress made in implementing and achieving their NDCs subject to international review. New and innovative commitments must be submitted every five (5) years, with the clear expectation that the new NDC will be more ambitious than the previous submission. This circulates accountability and tracks emissions progress among member states in attempts of reducing the global greenhouse gas emissions.
Trinidad and Tobago is the most mechanized and industrialized economy in the English-speaking Caribbean. Being the leading producer of oil and gas in the Caribbean, our economy heavily relies on these resources. Whether by the manufacturing of food and beverages or even cement, oil and gas accounts for 40% of GDP and 80% of our overall exports making it the leading economic sector. Globally, Trinidad and Tobago does not contribute vastly to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Our annual global greenhouse gas emission accounts for less than 1% of the world’s GHG emissions but as a Small Island Developing State we are very susceptible to the effects of climate change. Whether it be through changes in temperature, increased rainfall, rising of sea levels, increased flooding, erosion of hillsides or the damage and destruction of coral reefs, to name a few.
Considering our vulnerability to the effects of climate change in our fossil fueled economy The government of Trinidad and Tobago has addressed the mitigation and adaptation perspectives of climate change. Our intended Nationally Determined Contribution in accordance with the 2016 Paris Agreement is based on our Carbon Reduction Strategy. This was developed for our transportation, power generation and industrial sectors. These are the three largest areas of greenhouse gas emissions in Trinidad and Tobago’s economy. This carbon reduction plan is consistent with the adoption of the provisions of the National Climate Change Policy. This commitment compels Trinidad and Tobago to decrease cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by at least 15% by 2030.
Being one of the first nations to curate an implementation plan for achieving the NDC goals, this plan indicates Trinidad and Tobago’s commitment to the Paris Agreement. The plan was formulated with the help of a wide range of key stakeholders and it involves suggestions for the enriching of institutional capacity, normalizing climate change discourse, identifying institutional arrangements for the three sectors mentioned above and a climate financing plan.
Moreover, before Trinidad and Tobago ratified the Paris Agreement the Ministry of Planning and Development had already begun preliminary work of designing a Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system of the NDC by examining the legal requirements and underpinnings of the development of such a system and through preparation of a budget and a financial investment report for the NDC. Though the intended NDC report is presently awaiting official approval it is still being refined and updated periodically to represent our domestic circumstances.
So in conclusion the Paris Agreement means that we should expect to experience a reduction of carbon emissions and the threat of climate vulnerability in all of Trinidad and Tobago’s sectors. Green jobs are then created, better air quality is developed and it also increases our ability to cope with the effects of climate change. The Paris Agreement also encourages our twin island to continuously consider sustainable development in all areas of our economy. This hopefully allows us to unlock greener alternatives in the foreseeable future.