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Climate change adaptation and mitigation: Building capacity in T&T

Published: 
Sunday, June 14, 2015
EMA

David A Simmons

T&T, like most of its Caribbean neighbours and other Small Island Developing States (Sids), is very much aware of the global phenomenon of climate change and the extent to which issues of rising temperatures, sea-level rise and climate variability (particularly decreased precipitation and extreme events) are likely to negatively impact on the physical and natural environment, and specifically on communities, resource sectors and development activities.  

Among the sectors most likely to be impacted are (i) agriculture; (ii) human health; (iii) human settlements; (iv) coastal zones—given the fact that so many communities are concentrated in low-lying coastal areas—and, (v) water resources.

As a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1994) and the Kyoto Protocol (1998), the Government of the Republic of T&T (GORTT) has committed itself to undertaking various initiatives to not only respond to those impending impacts but the adoption of mitigation measures to limit the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), one of the major contributors to climate change.  

Another obligation arising out of the convention and protocol is the need for the establishment, at the national level, of appropriate policy, legislative and institutional structures to address both the adaptation and mitigation elements of the climate change agenda. 

The Cabinet of the GORTT, in 2012, approved a National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) which provides a blue print for integrating elements of the NCCP into existing and proposed sectoral policies, and providing a vehicle through which climate change adaptation and mitigation can be integrated into the national planning process. 

The GORTT also approved the National Forest Policy and the National Protective Areas Policy; both of which have clear synergies and reinforce each other’s core objectives toward more sustainable development, such as protecting biodiversity and genetic heritage, and maintaining ecosystem services while sustaining livelihoods. Cabinet has also appointed a Ministerial Committee (12 ministries) which is chaired by the minister in the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources to have oversight of the implementation of the NCCP.

T&T, with a relatively sizeable industrial sector, has participated in a number of regional and international initiatives and implemented various policy and legislative instruments, all in an effort to achieve the goals of low carbon growth and sustainable development.  Some notable examples include: the Certificate of Environmental Clearance Rules (2001), the Renewable Energy Policy Framework (2011), the Planning and Facilitation of Development Bill (2013) and the Air Pollution Rules (2015).    

The country has also undertaken several projects by various entities in the public and private sector and civil society and in partnership with local, regional and international agencies.

Some of the notable projects include:
•  The National Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, wildlife and Livelihoods Project (2010-2017)
• The Mainstreaming of Climate Change into National Development and Capacity Building for Participation into Carbon Markets (2011-2013);
• The Low Emissions Capacity Building Program (2011–2016)
• The Piloting the integration of coastal zone management and climate change adaptation in Tobago (2012-2014);
• The Elaboration of a Strategy for the Reduction of Carbon Emissions in Trinidad and Tobago (2013-2015);
• The Wind Resource Assessment Project (2013–2015); and,

The EMA, through the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development, obtained a technical assistant grant from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to undertake the “Institutional Strengthening of the Environmental Management Authority in Relation to Climate Change.”
  
The objective of this project is to undertake a review of policies, primary legislation (in force or proposed), and regulations pertaining to environmental management and sustainable development and propose amendments to these policies, legislations and regulations in order to satisfy the mitigation and adaptation directives and strategies contained in the NCCP, Forests and Protected Areas policies.  

Another initiative tied to this IDB-funded project is the institutional strengthening of the EMA which is aimed at enhancing the capacity of the EMA to fully perform its legally mandated co-ordinating role—to mainstream the priorities set forth by climate change into environment and natural resources management in the context of all development sectors. 

This initiative is critical to the advancement of climate change adaptation and mitigation given the imperatives of ensuring that sufficient capacity is established and a coherent and co-ordinated approach is achieved.  Sids have traditionally complained that the obligations of implementing the various Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) have posed significant challenges given the paucity of technical expertise, the legislation required, and the lack of financial assistance. 

Institutions, however, are at the heart of climate change governance and the mechanisms through which both formal and informal responses to climate change adaptation and mitigation will be addressed, and the required mix of legislative and policy instruments which can be harnessed to effectively respond to those challenges. 
This mix of policy reform and revamping of legislation is a requirement which can only be fulfilled by governments and as such, it requires that they take an active role in building adequate capacity to undertake the adaptation and mitigation measures required.  

The emphasis of both projects is to create a sustainable governance architecture which will ensure adequate institutional and legislative capacity exists to fulfil the obligations emanating from the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol and other regional arrangements to which the country is obligated.

Moreover, it is intended to ensure that the management of climate change occupies a more permanent place in the governance arrangements being designed for climate change management and receives the support and co-operation of other ministries, and private sector entities.
 
At a Stakeholder Consultation (February 2015) convened to discuss findings of the legislative and policy review initiatives, participants agreed that moving the process forward required effective and efficient implementation and monitoring capacities and as such, recommended changes to policies and legislation to reflect that thinking. Among the recommendations made is the need to modernise the institutional and managerial capacity of the EMA, its assessment and management tools in order to support the implementation of the NCCP.

The governance architecture (policy, legal and institutional infrastructure) though often neglected, is therefore seen as a critical aspect of climate change adaptation and mitigation.  T&T, like other Sids, is committed to fulfilling its obligation to the UNFCCC.  

As the country moves forward with the implementation of the various initiatives, we need to ensure that sufficient capacity for climate change management is created, that the governance arrangements are adequately entrenched in legislation, and an effective and sustainable legacy for climate change adaptation and mitigation is established.

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