Environmental protection is an integral part of any robust climate action plan. The stability of our ecosystems are extremely important to safeguarding the future of our planet. Climate change and its effects aren’t only climatic, but are in fact a multifaceted set of phenomena, all relating to and affecting each other, and involving weather, environmental and ecosystem factors. As such, it is important for countries to factor environmental protection plans into their climate action programmes, in addition to emissions reductions. Regions like the Caribbean are havens for biodiversity. Trinidad and Tobago’s 1981 square miles of lush rainforests, verdant valleys, beautiful coastlines, waterfalls and people are all threatened by manmade pollution. As such, this country has embraced certain environmental policies that are aimed at protecting our ecosystems.

Under the Stockholm Convention a National Implementation Plan was developed in 2013 to provide a five-year road map to strengthen the management of domestic pollution by providing data on sources, use and production of persistent organic pollutants or ‘POPs’, and create a multi stakeholder approach to management. The plan was updated in 2018 and a public awareness campaign started running in 2020. Additionally, we have taken some steps to manage our waste disposal habits.

Leachate can be defined as a liquid that passes through a landfill and has extracted dissolved and suspended matter from it. Leachate results from precipitation entering the landfill from moisture that exists in the waste when it is composed. In simpler terms, when moisture passes through the waste in landfills, be it medical waste, food waste, general plastics, metals etcetera, small particles from the waste dissolve into the moisture, which eventually penetrates the surface of the landfill, seeps deeply into the ground and affects the fresh groundwater supply. Recently, T&T has taken certain steps to better manage its landfills, with the Guanapo Landfill being cleaned up using a leachate treatment plan and an environmental risk management plan. This is expected to reduce leachate, improve water quality and the health of the environment.

The economic benefit of treating wastewater was made clear in a 2015 study conducted in the Caroni Swamp in Trinidad and the Buccoo Reef/Bon Accord Lagoon Complex in Tobago. Results showed that the beneficial economic impact on the environment and to almost 100,000 residents would exceed the cost to invest in making improvements. With regards to air pollutants, T&T has made some reductions in accordance with the commitments we have made under certain protocols. Chlorofluorocarbon and Halon gas use was phased out since 2008 but the work to protect the ozone layer continues. Hydrofluorocarbons are being phased down and replaced with low carbon refrigeration and air conditioning technology. We also continue to strengthen our institutions to comply with the Montreal Protocol and the Kigali Amendment, which focus on air and ozone depleting emissions and pollutants.

Trinidad and Tobago is a gem for biodiversity. With fascinating and unique ecosystems, many of our tourist attractions are hinged on these ecological treasures. Trinidad and Tobago is home to about 450 species of birds, 354 types of fish, 600 butterfly species and over 2000 types of plants. The biological diversity as well as the work to protect and maintain it has been recorded in six national reports to the Convention on Biological Diversity including the most recent in 2019. We have made contributions to the Global Biodiversity Outlook and Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011/2020 and at home we operate with a comprehensive National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. Sixty organisations have contributed to conducting research, crafting new policies, building capacity and developing a new system for improving and managing protected areas. These include 30 fixed forest reserves, 13 wildlife sanctuaries, environmentally sensitive areas and a marine protected area, including the Caroni Swamp, the Matura forest and coastal zone and the northeast Tobago marine protected area.

T&T is making strides in protecting our precious environment. To move forward, we must continue to work hand in hand.