Play your part in reducing carbon footprint

One of the greatest environmental, social and economic threats our planet is facing is climate change. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), climate change refers to “a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere.” It is now a widely accepted phenomenon that, due to greenhouse gases (eg carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and CFCs), the average surface temperature of the planet is increasing at an unprecedented rate. These temperature increases are causing many unpredictable changes in climate and weather patterns worldwide, which have implications for a range of disasters affecting human populations.

The Caribbean is not immune to these effects, as many nations—most significantly Guyana—are grappling with the projected effects of sea-level rise, which threatens to inundate coastal capitals and ports, and displace millions of citizens. This is on top of the potential ecological damage to mangrove systems, marine habitats, reef life and estuary systems. In T&T, a number of recent events have been attributed to sea-level rise and changes in tidal and coastal patterns. Some visible effects include the reshaping of Icacos Point and coastal erosion on Trinidad’s southern and south-western coasts. In Tobago, minute increases in sea temperature are being investigated as a possible factor in the degradation of the Buccoo Reef.

Other effects of climate change can lead to dire consequences such as:

  • more intense and frequent disasters
  • increased coastal flooding and salt water intrusion into fresh water aquifers
  • more intense heat waves and drought, which have accompanying hazards such as forest fires and landslides
  • higher rainfall in the wet season and more regular, powerful storms which can exasperate flooding concerns
  • altered hurricane tracks so that islands such as T&T may be forced to cope more regularly with this natural disaster
  • reduction/destruction of agricultural and livestock industries

Its many impacts are becoming a key international problem of the 21st century, and many countries including T&T are developing and implementing mitigation and adaptation measures to combating climate change. For example, the Gujarat province in India has a long-term goal of making its capital, Gandhinagar, a solar-powered city. With over 300 sunny days per year and supported by the Indian government’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions, it plans to install 500 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity by March 2014. At home, the Government of T&T has implemented solar powered street lighting and is also exploring alternatives towards expanding the utilisation of solar energy cross country, and wind energy along our North East coastline. Although T&T accounts for less than one per cent of absolute global greenhouse gas emissions, its emissions portfolio is expected to increase as identified by the UNFCCC. This is based on the fact that T&T is an oil and gas producer.

Notwithstanding, the fact that the climate change challenge is being addressed through a number of local initiatives, key of which are:

  • the National Climate Change Policy
  • the National Environmental Policy
  • the National Integrated Water Resources Management Policy
  • National Policy and Programs on Wetland Conservation for T&T
  • the National Forest Policy
  • the National Protected Areas Policy Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for T&T

The Environmental Management Authority remains determined to play its part in supporting the global effort to mitigate the threat of climate change. The EMA’s responsibility rests mainly in the legislative agenda, compliance, monitoring and enforcement in terms of:

  • Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) approval
  • Source water registration
  • Air pollution/emission monitoring

The EMA also engages in a number of public education and awareness initiatives, and promotes various projects aligned with the EMA such as the Nariva Restoration, Wildlife and Livelihoods Project and the Beverage Containers Clean-Up Project. On a global scale you might feel like your lifestyle is insignificant compared to things like oil extraction or vehicle emissions, but the choices we make in our daily lives—how we get around, what we eat, how we live—also play a major role in slowing climate change. Here are a few habits we can adopt.

Green your commute
Walk, cycle, carpool or use public transportation whenever you can. You could save money and also get into better shape.

Be energy efficient
If you already switch off lights—what’s next? Change light bulbs to compact fluorescents or LEDs. Unplug computers, TVs and other electronics when not in use. Wash clothes in cold or warm (not hot) water. Dryers are energy hogs, so hang dry when you can. Look for the Energy Star® label when buying new appliances.

Eat wisely
Buy organic and locally grown foods. Avoid processed items. Grow some of your own food. And eat low on the food chain—at least one meat-free meal a day— since 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production.

Trim your waste
Garbage buried in landfills produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Keep stuff out of landfills by composting kitchen scraps and garden trimmings, and recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass. Let store managers and manufacturers know you want products with minimal or recyclable packaging.

Get informed
Follow the latest news about climate change. Visit or the EMA’s Facebook page for global trends in Climate Change.

Get involved. Support or donate
Many organisations are working hard on solutions to climate change and rely on your voluntary support or donation of your time. Organise a community tree planting exercise, clean up or recycling drive. Spread the word and share knowledge about climate change and what you can do to reduce its impacts. The global community and its challenges impact on us all, no matter how small or insignificant. There is always a way in which you can contribute towards reducing your carbon footprint for the benefit of mankind.

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