As Trinidad and Tobago’s delegation prepares for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt, the country’s lead climate negotiator Kishan Kumarsingh has said notable efforts to achieve the country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) continue but there is also a laser focus on strengthening policy positions and regulations.
When T&T became a party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement at COP21 in 2015, an NDC – action plan to cut carbon emissions and strengthen climate adaption – was created.
Kumarsingh, head of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit of the Ministry of Planning and Development, told Loop News the ministry is ensuring the policies accompanying carbon reduction projects are in accordance with international best practices.
“Our (NDCs) implementation plan and financial investment plan are ongoing,” he explained.
“The policy framework, the institutional framework and the legislative frameworks are being put in place to create an environment which facilitates action.”
In 2021, the Planning Ministry launched a Knowledge Management System (KMS) which serves as the central database of a National Climate Mitigation Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) System.
Local businesses can use the system to submit data relating to their greenhouse gas emissions and what resources are being used to reduce these emissions.
The system has been described as “vital to the country’s efforts to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement” given it helps the ministry track carbon emissions and identify areas where carbon reduction efforts are needed.
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While the system is currently voluntary, laws have been drafted to make compliance mandatory Kumarsingh said.
He said the development of a proper legislative framework to accompany the system is one example of the ministry’s efforts to ensure projects are not only effective but a best practice.
“By incorporating the system into the legal framework, we are not only making it more robust but it will also enable us to meet our reporting obligations in terms of being transparent about how we meet our NDCs.
“It would also tighten up the gaps that we have in our national greenhouse gas inventory.”
Kumarsingh said work is underway to expand the system to incorporate the enhanced transparency framework of the Paris Agreement which was agreed to at COP26.
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With the Paris Agreement rulebook recently being finaliesd, Kumarsingh said T&T’s National Climate Change Policy is also currently under review to further align it to international standards.
“We are looking to develop a separate policy framework for implementing the mechanisms of Article 6 which refer to carbon trading.
“We need to understand the rules and implications of carbon trading because of the requirements now for environmental integrity for no double counting and for correspondence adjustments,” he said.
Given that the country’s economy is reliant on oil and natural gas, Kumarsingh said workers’ rights have been considered as carbon reduction efforts continue.
He recently oversaw the creation of a Just Transition Policy which has been submitted for cabinet approval.
The policy focuses on safeguarding workers’ rights as the economy transitions from carbon-intensive industries to low-carbon development.
“There is also an e-mobility policy (for electric cars) which has also been drafted and submitted to cabinet for approval.
“We recently undertook some outstanding technical analysis we identified when we did the first version of the policy. We have gotten those results and are now analysing them to incorporate them into the e-mobility policy.”
While the ministry is driving most of the work, Kumarsingh said it isn’t being done without feedback as they rely on a national focal point network that is consulted on setting policy frameworks.
Though substantial work continues behind the scenes to strengthen technical aspects of meeting T&T’s NDCs, Kumarsingh is reminding people that visible carbon reduction projects are still underway.
“We have an implementation committee – that is a ministerial committee – that is supported by a technical committee where I serve as Chairman. So far, we have been planning the installation of a 112-megawatt solar plant which will be the largest solar plant in the Caribbean in terms of capacity,” he revealed.
“Additionally, we just turned the sod – with the support of the EU at the Piarco International Airport to develop a solar farm that will provide power for the airport’s operations.”
Kumarsingh said the EU is also supporting the installation of solar panels at 12 public buildings in the near future. Funding is also being sought to construct electric vehicle charging stations throughout the country.
In doing so, the ministry is preparing the country’s infrastructure to meet international requirements when the electric vehicle policy comes on stream.
“That policy will go a long way to reduce emissions in the transportation sector because you want to achieve an objective of absolute emissions-free transportation which would mean electric vehicles charged with solar power.”
There are also plans to develop a green hydrogen plant to support ammonia production in Trinidad and Tobago and phase out the need for hydrogen produced by natural gas.
As the countdown to COP27 continues, Kumarsingh said every conference is an opportunity for countries to reflect on their carbon reduction efforts and refocus where needed.
“The climate change agenda is continuously evolving from one year to the next and from one issue to the next. At this COP, countries are expected to come – as per the request from COP26 – with more ambitious goals,” he said.
In February, Kumarsingh was selected to co-chair the UNFCCC’s work programme on the new collective climate finance goal for 2022.
At this year’s conference, Kumarsingh expects continued discussions among the UN’s work programme on climate loss and damage.
While the topic of financing climate loss and damage will take center stage, the terms and references for the coordinating body of the Santiago Network of loss and damage is an outstanding matter from COP26 that has to be addressed.
This article was submitted by Tyrell Gittens, a journalist, conservationist, environmentalist and geographer from Trinidad and Tobago who recently participated in Climate Tracker’s Caribbean Energy Transition Journalism Fellowship. Tyrell is passionate about the advancement of environmental education.
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