There are many ways in which the world chooses to deal with the climate issue, but one common route is through multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). A multilateral environmental agreement is a type of cross country understanding among three or more parties that puts the groups involved under the gambit of a similar aim or goal. A multilateral environmental agreement can be useful for dealing with a number of global issues but it is especially useful with regards to climate change. Climate change itself is not a single-country issue, but rather something that the entire globe is experiencing, to different degrees, but as one.

As such, in order to combat the cross boundary phenomenon of climate change, certain agreements must be made as a collaborative effort, countries must work in tandem with each other to reach certain environmental and sustainable output goals. Trinidad and Tobago is no exception to this global “group project.” We are signatories to many environmental and sustainable development treaties including the Paris agreement, the Montreal Protocol and others.

However, when it comes to taking these agreements home to our shores to be implemented, it can become a bit of a challenge. There are several initiatives that seek to incorporate the various sectors to better manage the implementation of these multilateral agreements at home.

The Capacity Development for Improved Management of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) for Global Environmental Benefits project is one such initiative funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the Ministry of Planning and Development in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme. The aim of this project was to strengthen the ability of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, to create, leverage and maintain synergies for the national implementation of MEAs and strengthen integrated approaches to environmental management including meeting the MEAs guidance and national reporting requirements to increase national and global environmental benefits. While being signatory to these agreements are noteworthy, ensuring that T&T has the adequate capacities to fulfil its obligations is necessary to ensure that we take the actions we promised.

The problem with implementation is that people don’t necessarily understand that issues concerning the environment do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, every sector, every individual exists within the space of the environment, and as such, should understand the importance of preserving it. Javed Lakhan, Environmental Policy Analyst at the Environmental Policy and Planning Division of the Ministry of Planning and Development noted, “One of the challenges that we had was getting persons to see the environment as not a sector on its own, to realise that environmental issues are present in almost all of the work being done in the public and private sectors as well as in everyday life and the need to consider environmental impacts or issues in their respective sectors is important.” Referring to training that was conducted, he continued, “We went down to a granular level in their specific sectors and showed them exactly how these environmental agreements and environmental issues affect what they do on a day-to-day basis. They had a greater appreciation after the training in the ability to see how the environmental issues apply to their lives.”

Mr. Lakhan noted some key activities accomplished under the country’s MEA capacity development initiative, which included:

A comprehensive review of policy and legislation related to MEA implementation

Making recommendations for improved alignment with MEA obligations and proposed amendments to relevant legislation to integrate national reporting on MEAs.

There was also an extensive stakeholder consultation to inform the ongoing revision of the National Climate Change Policy 2011; An assessment of institutions and coordination mechanisms to map the MEAs’ obligations with the responsible agency or agencies and their mandates in order to guide said agencies along the proper path of policy fulfilment.

Mapping and capacity assessment of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) with respect to their implementation of MEAs and their ability to access the Green Fund of Trinidad and Tobago, followed by the implementation of a programme to improve project and organisational capacity of CSOs is also a critical step. So too is training of government agencies, CSOs and the Green Fund Executing Unit on MEA obligations, which will help to mainstream MEAs into the work of these entities.

Another important aspect of integrating MEAs into national development is education. To this end, the Ministry of Planning and Development has developed an online, self-paced course to facilitate the continuous and sustainable education on MEAs and their obligations.

In addition, the development of a long term strategy and adaptation plan for climate change in accordance with the Paris Agreement, education, outreach and awareness building on MEAs and related issues through booklets, brochures, social media engagement and the launch of a website dedicated to MEAs in Trinidad and Tobago have also been undertaken.

These efforts have supported the development of capacities of decision makers, policy makers and civil society. They have also improved coordination and collaboration among these groups and contributed to an adequate enabling environment for the implementation of MEAs in Trinidad and Tobago in order to not only meet national priorities but also global environmental obligations.