The Government is considering legislative changes to make greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reporting mandatory.

To this end the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) is currently finalising proposals with the Ministry of Planning and Development. Until the legislation comes into effect, the EMA will continue to engage companies on a voluntary basis to provide the relevant board.

In n an interview, the EMA chairman Nadra Nathai-Gyan called on companies in the energy sector to implement a robust environmental social safeguard (ESS) policy to guide the management of environmental and social risks and impacts of projects. The watchdog environmental body said this policy will assist companies to deliver enhanced environmental performance and improve the communities where the respective companies are based.

Some of the specific guidelines are:

1. Dedicate capital to drive innovation and research in renewable energy such as solar and wind.

2. Challenge staff and management to implement clean energy sources and recycling within the organisation and in their daily lives, thus individually reducing carbon footprint.

3. Ensure that the organisation complies with the legal requirements of T&T’s suite of environmental legislation including waste management, air and water pollution rules.

The chairman said these pieces of subsidiary legislation developed under the Environmental Management Act seek to protect various aspects of human health and the environment. She said several companies are already on board.

Questioned about what action can be taken as a small developing nation take to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions as outlined in the Paris Agreement, Nathai-Gyan said, “Not only did T&T ratify the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2018, but in 2020 we embarked on a transparency reporting project under the Paris Agreement, the first in the English-speaking Caribbean to do so. To expand on this, T&T is obligated to report regularly on its greenhouse gas emissions and on the progress in the implementation and achievement of the mitigation measures in the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which are the nation’s plans to reduce the effects of climate change. To track the measures implemented to reduce GHG emissions, the principle of measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) was introduced through a grant of approximately US$1 million under the Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT) of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).”

The chairman explained that for developing countries like T&T, the existing measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) framework includes submitting national communications every four years and biennial update reports every two years as well as setting up a domestic MRV system. In 2020 T&T operationalized its MRV system, which is known as the National Climate Mitigation, Monitoring, Reporting and Verification System.

She said the MRV system is a crucial part of the larger framework for climate action and accounting for emissions and will help to keep track with climate change commitments, both for reducing emissions as well as tracking climate resilience and adaptation.

“This is really a first step, but it is a big step, as this crucial data can assist us in reducing emissions in the industry, power generation and transportation sectors. I am pleased to state that we have already received data from several energy corporations which has been inputted into the MRV. We continue to work and meet with other organisations to highlight the vital need for the MRV and its role in our obligations under the Paris Agreement, “the chairman said.

Nathai-Gyan said there has been some cooperation from companies as it relates to their participation in the MRV and GHG reporting. However, she noted that a lot more work is required. She said the EMA has been hosting sensitisation sessions with corporate bodies and continues to engage entities on the importance and benefits of participation. In July 2022 the EMA hosted five days of consultation workshops with stakeholders from the power generation, industry, transport, agriculture, water resources and health sectors.

In response to whether T&T has the will or the financial resources to bring about meaningful change to the environment, the EMA chairman said everyone has to come on board as there really is no other way.

“We must find the resources and gain commitment from the private sector and citizens at every level. We really have no option. Allow me to quote UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres, who said regarding climate change, ‘We are in the fight of our lives, and we are losing. It is the defining issue of our age. It is the central challenge of our century.

It is unacceptable, outrageous and self-defeating to put it on the back burner.’ So, we must act and collectively we can make a difference,” Nathai –Gyan said.

She said work has already started with the operationalising of the MRV and the discussions on legislative and policy changes to make GHG reporting mandatory.

We have also noted progress, albeit slow toward more sustainable energy.

She noted in 2021 government and consortium partners, bp Alternative Energy T&T (bpATT), Shell Renewables Caribbean (Shell), and Lightsource bp, completing negotiations on the development of a large-scale solar project.

The chairman also reminded that in January, Planning Minister Pennelope Beckles announced that the Solar Park Project has broken ground at the Piarco International Airport.

She said the project is a collaboration between the government of T&T the European Union’s Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Nathai-Gyan said back home at the EMA they are currently pursuing accreditation as a National Direct Access Entity (DAE) to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The Fund was established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to help developing countries respond to climate change by investing in low-carbon resilient development. It seeks to achieve US$100 billion climate finance per year by 2020, with particular attention paid to the needs of societies that are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change including Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

The chairman said the EMA will function as one of T&T’s programme managers for approved GCF funded projects. Once accreditation is approved and finalised, the NDA works with the DAE to complete a country profile and National Roadmap.

Nathai-Gyan renewed the call for everyone to get on board and not just the energy companies.

In an attempt to create greater awareness, she said the EMA has embarked on beach clean-ups, and they recently launched several videos on a host of environmental issues and are actively utilising social media platforms to connect to citizens. She said much more is required, given that behaviour change is a long and complex process. “ But we are getting there. We encourage the business community, and all citizens to engage with the EMA and to treat with the environment as a personal responsibility.”