To fight climate change, we have to actually take action. Not just signing treaties, or making promises, but to really do something we need a concentrated effort to make national policy frameworks, and actively follow through with the activities they recommend.
This is the premise that the original 2015 Paris Agreement was built on. It is understood that as a global community, we face climate change and its horrors together. Climate change is no joke, with increasingly hotter temperatures, working outdoors has become more difficult for many nations around the world, seas continue to rise due to melting ice sheets, consuming beaches and threatening homes. Storms are becoming more frequent and increasingly intense with waves surging inland causing massive economic losses.
These stark realities are precisely why it’s so important that countries around the world do their bit to push back on conditions that accelerate climate change. The Paris Agreement is the world’s first international agreement that requires all signatory nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change and all of its devastating impacts.
The Paris Agreement is ambitious so it needs mechanisms to keep signatory countries on track with their commitments. One of the early tasks required by the Agreement was setting Nationally Determined Contributions or NDC’s. These are targets that each signatory state must submit to the UN every five years for reducing their national greenhouse gas emissions; each successive NDC is expected to represent more emission reductions. T&T ratified the Paris Agreement in 2018, but even before then the Ministry of Planning and Development’s climate change experts began quantifying our output of greenhouse gases and charting a plan to reduce those emissions by 2030.
In T&T our main emitters of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane come from three sectors; industry, power generation and transport. Trinidad and Tobago’s current Nationally Determined Contribution is a commitment to reduce collective and cumulative emissions from those three sectors by 15% by 2030.
Industry which includes manufacturing and the energy, power generation and petrochemical sectors will have to achieve emissions reduction through measures such as improved energy conservation and adoption of renewable energy like solar and wind, as well as addressing emissions arising from industrial processes themselves. The power generation sector’s plan for reduction includes increased use of renewable energy and more energy efficient power generation. This involves upgrades to turbines that use both gas and steam to generate electricity, reducing reliance on natural gas by as much as 50%. Also, having consumers pay the true cost of electricity forms part of the overall approach to energy conservation. It’s an important step towards getting homeowners to be more mindful of how they use electricity. Renewable energy can be a cheaper alternative, but in the interim transitory period, while our country builds up the capacity to transition fully to these modes of energy production and infrastructure, certain sacrifices would have to be made. In the transportation sector, reductions in emissions are expected to come from the promotion of alternative fuels such as compressed natural gas (CNG) but CNG is still a transitional fossil fuel, albeit with lower greenhouse gas emissions. Truly emissions-free transportation will come in the form of electric vehicles charged with electricity generated by renewable energy. In the public transportation sector, the target is to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030.
Implementing our NDC targets, though, will cost an estimated two billion US for the 15 % reduction in emissions from industry, power generation and transport. At the COP26 this year, our current Prime Minister, Keith Rowley, noted the expense that something like this can cost for an economy like ours in the short term. However, the longer term effects and damages that are already expected to occur due to climate change is worth the transitory pains. That financial goal can include accessing external financing from international funding agencies like the Green Climate Fund. The 30% reduction in emissions from public transport meanwhile, is expected to be financed with national resources. Under the Paris Agreement, T&T’s next set of NDC targets are meant to be even more ambitious than the existing goals. This is because the world has acknowledged through the Paris Agreement that limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius is absolutely critical.
Meeting our targets is only going to happen by closely following the NDC implementation plan as well as taking advantage of technological opportunities as they become available. The NDC implementation plan lists the actions required in different sectors, the agencies responsible for coordinating emissions reduction projects and says how long each activity should take. Reducing emissions is paramount to securing our future. The NDC plan is our way of achieving it. All our future generations depend on how well we and the rest of the world bring the ambitions of the climate treaty forged in Paris into reality. Averting a hotter, drier future begins with the actions of today.