TT and the Paris Agreement

June 2, 2017

I’m sure as of recent, you’ve been hearing a lot on this infamous Paris Agreement, also referred to as COP21, thanks to Donald Trump and his plan to exit it. Many aren’t aware of what the Paris Agreement actually is and what it signifies for the world, and exactly how it affects our energy sector in particular. So let’s kick this off…

What is the Paris Agreement/COP21?

We all know about the issue of climate change and the increasing effects of its impacts over the years. Institutions have been put in place to acknowledge the effects, mitigate, adapt and prevent further damage. One such institution is the Conference of the Parties (COP) which is the ultimate decision-making body (aka the big dogs) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The COP meets yearly, which brings us to COP21, which took place in Paris, France, from November 30th to December 11th, 2015.


The atmosphere heading into Paris in 2015 was different since the detrimental effects of climate change were making themselves now apparent. The main goals to achieve in Paris were:

  • to implement a legally binding agreement that will limit and lessen greenhouse gas emissions, and

  • to aim to keep warming of the earth to below 2⁰C.

Many developments came out of this meeting in Paris, including:

  • for the first time, all countries were required to report their:
            1. emission reduction strategies; 
             2. emission reports.

  • countries must allow themselves to be internationally reviewed,

  • each country must officially submit their own climate actions and is obligated to implement them,

  • Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) were stated, where a “bottom up” approach (meaning individual countries propose what seems to be achievable and reasonable emission trajectories for their cases) was used instead of a “top down” approach (meaning a collective global emission target was established and the negotiators divided country-level responsibilities to achieve this target),

  • increased involvement from countries who previously did not view Climate Change as an issue (e.g. China & India),

  • increased participation of the private sector in the fight against climate change,

  • increased interest in renewable energy.


Trinidad and Tobago’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)

Trinidad and Tobago signed onto the Paris Agreement in December 2015. This means that a climate change action plan, which includes their INDCs, would have had to been prepared and presented. An INDC identifies the actions a national government intends to take under the Paris Agreement agreed in December 2015 at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21). INDCs, therefore, are the basis of post-2020 global emissions reduction commitments included in the climate agreement.

The INDCS are based on the carbon reduction strategy specifically developed for the following three sectors which are heavily dependent on fossil fuels:

1. Power generation;

2. Transportation; and

3. Industrial.


Trinidad and Tobago’s INDCs include:

1. Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 15%, by the year 2030, which costs approximately US$ 2 billion (funded domestically, as well as internationally through the Green Climate Fund);

2. Reduction of public transport emissions by 30% or 1, 700, 000 tonnes of CO2 (compared to 2013 levels), by December 2030;

3. 10% of energy generation must come from renewable energy sources, by the year 2021 (this was pledged by the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Colm Imbert, in the 2016-2017 fiscal budget).

How is being a part of the Paris Agreement beneficial to us?

Trinidad and Tobago is referred to as a small island developing state (SIDS). This means that the country is susceptible to the effects of climate change, which includes rising sea levels, changes to precipitation patterns, increases in temperature, increased flooding (as we ALLLLL know), increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes and loss of coastal habitats to name a few.


We feelin’ hot, hot, hot!!!

It has been recorded, over the last 3 decades (or thirty years), there was an increase in temperatures. The T & T Meteorological Service (TTMS) found that the yearly average temperature has warmed over the period 1981-2010 by 0.8⁰C, when compared to 0.5⁰C between 1961-1990 and 1971-1990, for Trinidad and Tobago, respectively. I can promise you this heat is not as a result of the increase in the population of beautiful women in our country.


Shape up…..or ship out!!!

Trinidad and Tobago has one distinguishing characteristic when compared to other SIDS. We have a heavily industrialized economy, and we are the leading Caribbean producer of oil and gas. As discussing in previous blog posts, oil and gas is the leading economic sector in our country and accounts for 40% of our GDP and a whopping 80% of our exports.

When considering the effects of climate change, as well as our fossil fuel based economy, implementation of climate change action, including mitigation policies, is definitely regarded as a necessity. The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, as a signatory of the UNFCCC, has recognised the importance of addressing, mitigating and eventually prevention further Greenhouse Gas emissions.

Implementing the INDCs is therefore critical and necessary to ensure sustainable development within the country that will benefit us in the short, medium and long terms. By reducing carbon emissions and climate vulnerability in all sectors, the following benefits will occur:

  • many “green jobs” will be created,

  • increased quality of air,

  • decreased public health costs, and

  • enhancement of the coping ability and capacity to the negative effects of climate change.

Now that you have all the information necessary to formulate your own opinion on the matter, I post these questions to you:

  • Do you agree with Donald Trump on pulling out of the Paris Agreement?

  • Do  you believe Trinidad and Tobago can achieve carbon reduction?

  • Do you think the Paris Agreement will be a success?

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