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A week from today, T&T will be taking part in a global summit where targets will be set and decisions made that will be crucial for the survival of this planet.

The 26th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, aims to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—to build back better, and greener.

One of the main objectives is to keep the temperature of the planet under control–limiting its increase to 1.5 degrees, an ambitious emissions reduction target to which T&T has already committed.

COP26 is taking place during one of the worst warming periods in history and there is now greater urgency to calls for meaningful, and actionable, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The gravity of the climate crisis was underscored recently by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who gave this stark warning: “We are on the edge of an abyss. And we are moving in the wrong direction.”

The situation is particularly dire for T&T and other countries in the Caribbean. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 report states that warming is occurring at 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade, much faster than originally predicted, and small island developing states like ours are extremely vulnerable.

The catastrophic effects of warming, such as the destruction of 70-90 per cent of coral reefs globally will mean loss of shoreline replenishment and protection and the fisheries on which many of our many coastal communities depend.

In our corner of the world, extreme weather events serve as regular reminders that the effects of climate change are already being felt.

It is against that backdrop that T&T’s commitments under the Paris Agreement must be seen. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in industry, power generation and transportation by 15 per cent by December 31, 2030. We have less than a decade to reach that goal and need to ramp up our efforts in that regard.

One of T&T’s Nationally Determined Contributions, shifting from vehicles with internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, was one of the measures in the recently passed 2022 Budget. It is a move that cannot be delayed for much longer given global car manufacturing trends.

Other initiatives include the promotion of energy conservation, national LED bulb replacement, the introduction of energy-efficient building codes, power generation through green processes and carbon capture and carbon storage projects.

All of this comes with a price tag of US$2 billion and will be easier said than done since for this country, a major exporter of LNG, ammonia, methanol, and fertilisers, there will be an economic price to be paid as the world transitions from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy.

This past week, political manoeuvrings and a range of domestic issues have held the nation’s attention but these should not distract from the upcoming climate talks. COP26 is an important event that should influence actions taken at the level of government and civil society for decades to come.

However, we cannot ignore the fact that our very survival requires that policies be put in place and plans set in motion for a better and greener T&T.