L to R – Minister of Planning and Development, Camille Robinson-Regis MP, and Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC MP. (Images courtesy Parliament Secretariat)

Minister of Planning and Development, Camille Robinson-Regis MP, has issued a scathing response to comments made by the Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC MP, during the UNC’s Monday Night Forum broadcast, concerning the Prime Minister’s participation in the COP26 Climate Summit.

During the UNC’s meeting on Monday night, the Opposition Leader had stated:

“So Prime Minister Rowley has jetted off to Scotland.  I for one would be very interested to hear what he has to contribute at the conference on Climate Change.  While the other respected world leaders will be discussing this important global issue of climate change and trying to find a solution, what exactly would Dr. Rowley contribute to the conversation?  Is he going to tell them that he dismantled the Environment Ministry I established?  He doesn’t have a Minister of the Environment.  Is he going to tell them about our unprecedented levels of flooding in Trinidad and Tobago that he and his government keep turning a blind eye to?  Is he going to boast to world leaders about giving LED bulbs to citizens as the extent of his plan?  Is he going to mention that they have no plan whatsoever to deal with any of the major issues facing our country including climate change? Well, interestingly, someone recently told me that Scotland has over 50 golf courses and some of the best in the world are in Glasgow where the Prime Minister is, so, if you know you know. Golfing in Scotland? We shall soon find out.”

The following is an official statement issued by the Minister, in response…

As Planning and Development Minister I would not expect the same inanity that Kamla Persad -Bissessar displays in Parliament to rear its flaccid head under the guise of public concern. Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s recent facile comments about Prime Minister Keith Rowley “vacationing in Glasgow” is unfortunate and out of touch with the reality facing not only Trinidad and Tobago but the rest of the world.  

As Minister entrusted with the sacred responsibility of protecting the environment, I ask that the Leader of the Opposition to stop seeking petty points to make up for her recent embarrassment in Parliament and accept the fact that climate change is no joking matter, or a matter with which to play petty politics but a matter of urgent concern regarding the extinction of all manner of life as we know it. I would also like to remind the Member for Siparia that this Keith Rowley administration has nothing in common with her government of yesteryear and so when the Prime Minister and Ministers leave the country on Government Business it is for no other purpose than that. Indeed, if I am not mistaken, I noticed more than a tinge of envy in her tone; however, I can assure the Opposition Leader this was not a UNC Party cruise.  This is serious business for serious people.

The Honourable Prime Minister’s message was well received to significant acclaim for his contribution. Amongst World Leaders our Prime Minister was able to set the context for Trinidad and Tobago’s efforts to date to mitigate against the effects of climate change. Indeed, all of us here in Glasgow felt tremendous pride in the Honourable Prime Minister’s participation in the Leaders’ Summit.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley is leading Trinidad and Tobago’s delegation participating in the 26th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change called COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland as Head of Delegation for the World Leaders’ Summit.   In my Capacity as Minister, I am the Head of Delegation for the High Level Ministerial Summit and the internationally respected Mr. Kishan Kumarsingh, Head of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit of the Ministry of Planning is the Head of Delegation for Technical Negotiations.

Prime Minister Rowley, in his address to the World Leaders Summit in Glasgow Scotland, which aired on local news channels in Trinidad and Tobago and is available on the UN’s website spoke of the need to raise climate change “adaptation, ambition and action” while working for the survival of not just mankind but all species.  Does that sound like someone out to vacation and have “a good time” at taxpayers’ expense? Just on the off chance that the Opposition Leader is as clueless as she appears for her edification as well as the misguided souls who believe her fallacies, some of the achievements and projects highlighted by the Prime Minister are as follows:

“We are in the process of establishing the largest utility-scale solar renewable energy project in the Caribbean with a capacity of 112 megawatts, accounting for 10% of our power needs, and we plan to increase this complement to 30% by 2030.

We have developed an e-mobility policy and we are already implementing measures to phase-in electric vehicles.

We recognize the need to address the socio-economic issues associated with the energy transition and have developed a Just Transition of the Workforce Policy aimed at reskilling, retooling and developing new capacity for a low-carbon economy;

We are pursuing measures to facilitate investment in green hydrogen to provide green feedstock to our vibrant petrochemical industry. We intend to explore the use of industry-generated CO in possible carbon sequestration projects.”

As usual Mrs Persad-Bissessar is out of touch with reality.

Madam, the Ministry of Planning and Development has been for the last six (6) years, the Ministry with responsibility for the environment and this is supported by the Environmental Policy and Planning Division.

As Planning and Development Minister, I wish to remind the Opposition leader that since 1995 Trinidad and Tobago took the bold step of establishing the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) an independent regulatory authority in its commitment to developing a national strategy of sustainable development.

Furthermore in 2018, the Government, in accordance with the EM Act updated Trinidad and Tobago’s National Environmental Policy which was also laid in parliament in November 2018. This Policy clearly articulates the priorities determined by the people of Trinidad and Tobago as critical to achieving environmental sustainability and ultimately sustainable development.

Vision 2030 which is government’s overarching development agenda that builds a pathway to the future, places the environment at the centre of social and economic development and the enactment of the Waste Management Rules is concrete demonstration of government’s commitment.

Other elements of government’s environmental agenda include the 2019 amendment to the water pollution rules, designation of our national bird, the scarlet ibis as an environmental sensitive species, establishment and support of a sea turtle task force, the development of a monitoring reporting and verification (MRV) system to produce accurate, transparent, comparable, complete and consistent information regarding the emission and mitigation of greenhouse gases.  We are also focusing on new cooling methods through district cooling and the continued phasing out of ozone gases in the refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) sector and training of RAC professionals is ongoing.

Finally, I wish to emphasize that climate change mitigation is embedded in the national policy through the National Development Strategy (Vision 2030), where Theme 5 is ‘Placing the environment at the centre of social and economic development’.  It is part of the Roadmap to Recovery through Priority Area 5: ‘Building climate and environmental resilience and is a key part of Trinidad and Tobago’s commitments to attain the global Sustainable Development Goal #13, Climate Action.

The Opposition Leader’s feeble salvo regarding Dr. Rowley illustrates her lack of even basic research skills. The Golf travel season is typically from April to October as November tends to be too frigid. A simple google search would reveal the fact. Perhaps the Member from Siparia has socially distanced herself from the truth.

As someone who recycles untruths, innuendoes, and insinuations Kamla Persad-Bissessar should expound the same energy towards the planet.