Climate Change : The Trinidad/Tobago Context What will it come to, for us in Trinidad and Tobago if global warming continues unabated? Will our only option be to find the highest hill and fortify it? Most of the climate change scenarios postulate a bleak future; what with sea level rise, ocean acidification, coral bleaching and destruction of major habitat; not to mention food and water shortages, competition for what limited resources remain and a slowing down or regression in development? Bleak indeed! Of special concern are the impacts of climate change on our mangroves. These are being deforested at a faster rate than rainforests, (Mumby &Hastings, 2007). This is in spite of the protective role they play against hurricane damage which extends not only shoreward to coastal environs but also seaward to increasing the resilience of offshore coral reefs. Tobago’s coral reef, Buccoo Reef is especially vulnerable to a rise in sea water temperature. According to the Environmental Management Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, in 2005, heating caused major coral bleaching when water temperatures reached as high as 30 degrees Celsius. This negatively impacted the livelihoods of tourism boat operators Development plans do not appear to take into account possible sea level rise as in recent years, coastal housing and hotels have grown apace in both Trinidad and Tobago. Additionally, agricultural practices have not reflected awareness of climate change impacts or of climate smart agriculture. Equally important, are the health impacts of increases in temperature due to climate change. These include increased incidence of vector borne diseases such as yellow fever and dengue fever (of which there has already been increasing outbreaks). Additionally, climate change impacts are expected to affect an increased demand for water supply, as a result of prolonged dry seasons; an increased risk of salt water intrusion, already experienced in the South Western Peninsula of Trinidad; coastal erosion as is evident in Cedros (South Trinidad); and increased risk of flooding in areas of vulnerability such as the Caroni River Basin (Trinidad). In the light of what has been stated, one might expect that not much thought has been given to climate change. However that would not be the case. Trinidad and Tobago has been a signatory to a number of international Conventions such as the Kyoto Protocol and drafted a climate change policy in 2010.There also exist many policies which can be harmonized with it, as follows: • National Environmental Policy (2006) •
National Policy and Programmes on Wetland Conservation for Trinidad and Tobago (2001)
Draft National Protected Areas Policy (2009)
Draft National Forest Policy (2008)
Environmentally Sensitive Areas Rules (2001)
Draft Waste Management Rules (2008) and
Water Pollution Management Programme (2005) and Tobago has also established a Green Fund - the National
Environmental Fund of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. “This grant facility is available to Community Groups and Organizations engaged in activities focusing on remediation, reforestation or conservation of the environment.” However, in spite of these instruments implementation lags far behind. This was evident by headlines in a daily newspaper of toxic levels of air in the capital city. (Newsday January 30, 2014) All evidence points to there being a narrow window in which to act in order to “turn down the heat” and prevent a 4o C rise in global warming. According to Professor Stein, there must be a change, a strengthening of the political will a green revolution. The course material advocates sustainable energy for all, clean cities and climate smart agriculture, mainstreaming adaptation and mitigation into all development plans. There is much that Trinidad and Tobago can do in this partnership to reduce global warming. • Reduce our carbon footprint by reducing the amount of vehicle emission • Remove the subsidy on automobile fuel • Invest in clean technology • Give incentives for smart agriculture and re-aforestation • Engage all stakeholders in the efforts • Integrate all the governmental agencies so that there can be synergies in implementation of the policies This list is not exhaustive and much more can be stated. The question is not, can our efforts be successful? but rather can we survive with any other result?