“Alone we can do so little,
together we can do so much.”

HELEN KELLER

Pollution! While many may think pollution harms only nature, they are wrong. Pollution harms you! You and your home are not sealed off from pollution. In fact, it is one of this era’s greatest burdens – the entire world is crying out that our haven is no longer what it used to be because of pollution caused by the actions of human beings. Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change and can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat, or light.

Recognising this fact, Trinidad and Tobago is committed to reducing its Carbon footprint. This country is considered to be one of the most industrialised in the Commonwealth Caribbean and as early as the 1970’s Trinidad and Tobago jumped into action by joining the rest of the world in signing agreements that would help address some of the problems brought about by industrialisation. These agreements are called Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs).

How do MEAs work? Well, countries get together and decide on actions they will take to clean up or improve areas of the environment which are negatively affecting life on earth. Some are soft laws, such as the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which is an urgent call for action by all countries in a global partnership.
These SDGs include: Clean water and sanitation; Affordable and clean energy; Sustainable cities and communities; Responsible consumption and production; Climate action; Life below water; and Life on land.

While these are not legally binding, their principles serve as a guide when developing policies and action plans. Other agreements however, such as Conventions or Treaties are legally binding.

Head of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit at the Ministry of Planning and Development, Kishan Kumarsingh, explained that Trinidad and Tobago is a ratified signatory to many MEAs related to climate change and other environmental issues. Such MEAs are:

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – The objective of the Convention is to achieve a stabilization of the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that prevents dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system. The Convention provides a general framework for intergovernmental efforts to address the challenges posed by climate change.

The Paris Agreement – The Paris Agreement, a subsidiary of the UNFCCC and is a legally binding international treaty that aims to address climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

The Convention on Biological Diversity – This Convention is dedicated to promoting sustainable development. The Convention recognises that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and micro-organisms and their ecosystems – it is also about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live.

The Basel Convention – An international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries.

The Stockholm Convention – A global treaty that aims to protect human health and the environment from the effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) – The sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. Signing on to this MEA helps prevent thousands of different types of plants and animals from becoming extinct at a rapid rate. Without such protection of land and biodiversity, humans may eventually become extinct.

Our country has made great strides in these MEAs, becoming somewhat of a role model. As Mr. Kumarsingh noted, Trinidad and Tobago has been recognised in more than one of the MEAs as a leader in terms of the negotiations process, for example on the Montreal Protocol, the Climate Change Convention and the Chemicals and Waste Conventions.

“And we have been recognised as leading in many areas on action,” he pointed out. “In climate action, for example, we were the first small island state in the English-speaking Caribbean to submit our contributions to the Paris Agreement. We were among the first to develop a monitoring, reporting and verification system which is now being used as a case study for other countries. We were among the first to develop a just transition policy and an e-mobility policy that aims at looking at sustainable transport,” he said.

“So, we have been leading the way in many areas of implementing these MEAs that are now forming the template for emulation by other countries. We are being looked upon and called upon to sometimes provide advice on how other countries can implement some of these obligations under the various MEAs,” he added.

He further pointed out, “Trinidad and Tobago recognises that it has to play a responsible part in contributing to the solutions to these global problems enshrined in these various legal instruments and Conventions and as a ratified party, with it comes obligations under these various Conventions. So, we’re talking about national action and global benefit. The obligations are being met through actions taken and coordinated by the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit at the Ministry of Planning and Development through project implementation, sourced funding from various multilateral donors and international funds.”

We are extremely proud of our country’s commitment to a greener, cleaner, healthier earth and ultimately our survival. Dedicated to its ongoing commitments under the MEAs, Trinidad and Tobago’s government works hand in hand with the private sector, non-governmental organisations and international bodies to do its part in mitigating environmental issues. We salute all these organisations for their commitment to the environment.

For more information on environmental issues and activities in T&T, please join our focal point network by completing the Google form found on the Environmental Policy and Planning Division’s Facebook and Instagram pages.