FEATURE ADDRESS: On The Occasion Of The Stockholm+50 National Consultation

May 23, 2022

Salutations

 

  • His Excellency Peter Cavendish, Delegation of the European Union to Trinidad and Tobago

 

  • Mrs. Megan Selmon Kelly, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the United States of America

 

  • His Excellency Yutaka Matsubara, Embassy of Japan

 

  • Mr. Fernández Melgosa, Deputy Ambassador, Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain

 

  • Mr. Christoph Anton, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany

 

  • Mr. Ghislain Commergnat, French Chargé d’affaires ad interim, Embassy of the French Republic

 

  • His Excellency Juan Anibal Barria Garcia, Embassy of the Republic of Chile

 

  • His Excellency Raphael Varga van Kibéd, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

 

  • Mr. Dennis Zulu, UN Resident Coordinator ad interim and Director, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean
  • Mr. Rodolfo Sabonge Secretary General, Association of Caribbean States

 

  • Dr. Rahanna Juman, Acting Director, Insititute of Marine Affairs

 

  • Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Planning and Development
  • Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government

 

  • Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance

 

  • Specially Invited Guests

 

  • Members of the Media

 

  • Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Good Morning,

I have the pleasure of delivering the feature address today at the “Stockholm+50 National Consultation”, as part of the landmark meeting to be held in Stockholm, Sweden on June 2nd and 3rd, 2022.

 

Human civilisation has always had a complex and often asymmetrical relationship with the environment. The negative impacts of human interaction with the Earth have become more apparent over time, as in its relentless pursuit of development and wealth, humanity has been rapidly outpacing the rate of replenishment of natural resources and has increased the magnitude of environmental stressors -- from severe air pollution episodes in New York and London, to mercury contamination of Minamata Bay and methylmercury poisoning in Japan, to a distinctly silent spring due to the poisoning of birds from DDT and other pesticides, to major oil spill disasters.

 

Driven by more robust scientific evidence of declines in ozone concentrations, exponential increases of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, and the threat of crossing other planetary boundaries and causing severe and irreversible environmental damage, all occurring alongside marked economic growth, the international “environmental movement” was strengthened, as all of the areas merged and reached a tipping point.

 

In June 1972 global leaders convened in Stockholm, Sweden for the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. This gathering marked the genesis of the first global-scale assessment of man’s impact on the environment and established the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as the global authority and preeminent advocate for the environment.

 

After five decades of global environmental action, UNEP has had many notable accomplishments for which there is much cause for celebration. Pre-eminent among its successes are the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which has achieved the phasing out of about ninety-eight per cent (98%) of ozone-depleting substances globally, compared to 1990 levels, and a positive trend towards restoration of the ozone layer. UNEP was also instrumental in the formulation of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development in 1992, which reaffirmed and built upon the 1972 Declaration in Stockholm, and led to the formulation of three legally binding agreements: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; all fondly referred to as the ‘Rio Trio’.

 

Twenty years later, emanating from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), in June 2012, the UNEP was strengthened and upgraded and later transitioned to the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, with similar universal membership of all 193 UN Member States.

 

More recently, in March 2022, the UNEA made the monumental decision to banish plastics, and to establish an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution. Once adopted, this treaty will address one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time.

 

Though set in two worlds and decades apart, a unifying thread of placing the environment at the centre of social and economic development, ties Trinidad and Tobago to the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, as has been articulated in Theme V of this country’s National Development Strategy ‘Vision 2030’.

 

Nationally, we have made several strides in the environmental sector and we have also been the beneficiaries of resources from the UNEP, such as technical and financial support to address environmental issues in a number of critical areas. Based on rough estimates, during the period 2010 to 2020 Trinidad and Tobago has been the recipient of approximately three hundred million TT dollars (TT $300 million) in grant funding, which has been disbursed to the implementation of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements or MEAs, to which the country is signatory. These are related to biodiversity conservation, climate change, desertification and land degradation, ozone depletion and toxic chemicals and hazardous waste. Moreover, this assistance can also be linked to the achievement of the non enviro-centric sustainable development goals (SDGs) including poverty alleviation, trade, social development and health. However, it is the tangible outputs of this funding that truly resonates with the national population and the natural environment, which I would like to share.

 

Emulating the success in the international sphere, the work undertaken nationally on the Montreal Protocol is also worthy of commendation. Supported by the UNDP, Trinidad and Tobago has been able to successfully complete and maintain the phasing out of the highly-destructive, ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (or CFCs), since January 1, 2008. Beyond this, Trinidad and Tobago has also developed a hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (or HCFC) Phase Out Management Plan to also phase-out HCFCs, another ozone depleting chemical found in the foam and refrigeration and air-conditioning (RAC) sectors.

 

As a mechanism to instil sustainability, the Ministry of Planning and Development launched a Professional Certification Scheme for the Refrigeration and Air-conditioning (RAC) Industry in April, 2017. As a result, over one thousand (1,000) refrigeration and air-conditioning technicians received training to ensure that containment, handling, servicing, maintenance, recycling and disposal of refrigerants is carried out by accredited technicians in accordance with international good refrigeration practices.

 

In relation to biodiversity, and in fulfilment of one of the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in 2015 Trinidad and Tobago embarked on a notable project entitled “Improving Forest and Protected Area Management in Trinidad and Tobago”, which sought to help prevent biodiversity loss and enhance the management effectiveness of our local protected areas. Important advancements during the five (5) years of the project include:

  • Creation of an online database of biodiversity data, the Trinidad and Tobago Biodiversity Information System (TTBIS), which is a centralised repository of information on local biodiversity;
  • Drafting of national legislation for establishing and managing a Protected Area System Plan;
  • Creation of an Enforcement Officer’s Guidebook highlighting the most-relevant pieces of legislation for safeguarding forests and other protected areas by law enforcement officers.

 

As a small island developing state, the issue of climate change is fundamentally a matter of life and death. As such, Trinidad and Tobago developed the 2015 Carbon Reduction Strategy or CRS in conjunction with the UNDP, as a comprehensive strategy for the reduction of carbon emissions from the three main emitting sectors locally: power generation, industry and transportation.

 

From the CRS we have generated our comprehensive and practical Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, which was tailored to our domestic circumstances. To this end we set ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the power generation, transport and industrial sectors of 15% by 2030 from the “business as usual” scenario; and a reduction of 30% in our public transportation emissions by 30% from “business as usual” by 2030.

 

In order to achieve our objectives and position the country on a low-carbon trajectory, a series of activities has been ongoing including: the creation of a Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) System housed at the EMA; the design of a certification programme for greenhouse gas inventorying and quality control and assurance; and development of a Financial Investment Plan and a gender-sensitive action plan.

 

Added to this, Trinidad and Tobago’s Third National Communication to the UNFCCC provides a comprehensive national greenhouse gas inventory for all sectors, and has been used to inform the development of additional emissions baselines, validate existing ones and consider additional intervention options for the medium and long term through the support of the UNDP.

 

Additional areas in which work has been done include organic pollutants (POPs), a group of highly toxic, mobile and long-lasting chemicals listed under the Stockholm Convention. The strategy that outlines the key measures the country will take to reduce and eliminate the threats posed by these dangerous chemicals is enshrined in the National Implementation Plan (NIP) on POPs, which was first developed in 2013. These inventories were subsequently updated in 2016, as per the Convention’s obligations when new chemicals are added. Further investigative work on POPs was undertaken under a regional project with specific attention placed at the Guanapo Landfill in Trinidad.

 

Collectively, the work embarked upon under biodiversity, climate change and chemicals and waste nationally, all contribute towards addressing the global triple planetary crisis.

 

As a Government, we acknowledge that more work remains to be done to achieve the SDGs and fulfil the provisions of the MEAs. This is also recognised at the global scale and thus, the Stockholm +50 International Meeting is being convened as a catalyst to accelerate the implementation of the UN Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs, including the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the post-2020 global Biodiversity Framework, as well as encourage the adoption of green post-COVID-19 recovery plans.

 

Under the theme “Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity”, this forum will provide the opportunity for reflection on the progress made over the last fifty years; the milestones achieved by UNEP, how to strengthen its role as the global hub on environmental matters; and reflect on how to fortify the inter-linkages between humanity and the environment and foster the accountability required to achieve the collective goals conceived in 1972. These are to be harnessed from three leadership dialogues focused on: the urgent action required to achieve prosperity; sustainable post-pandemic recovery; and expediting the environmental facet of sustainable development.

 

We in Trinidad and Tobago are therefore pleased to have the chance to be part of these global dialogues with other Member States, to commemorate the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and contribute to the formulation of context-specific recommendations on national priorities through these multi-stakeholder, participatory, inclusive national consultations. The key recommendations to be obtained from this national consultation, as well as the predecessor virtual sessions and online exchanges will certainly help to advance the current and prospective work nationally in the environmental sphere, and by extension redound to the benefit of the global community.

 

Our planet is in dire need of bold action, and the solutions lie in your innovative expertise. I therefore encourage you to be inspired and take advantage of this priceless opportunity today to add your voices to that common goal; the clarion call; the vision for our collective future, so that in the next fifty years we, as a country, as part of an interconnected international community, can proudly boast and celebrate the radical positive shifts made in protecting our global commons and restoring our planet.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you.