TWELVE years. That’s how much time we have to meet a more sustainable benchmark of 1.5C in global warming, according to a key report published on Monday by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Though we are already down a dangerous path, it is not too late for global leaders to act.
Ahead of tomorrow’s observance of the International Day for Disaster Reduction we call on our Government and civil society to act decisively, through diplomatic channels as well as local initiatives, to implement measures that could save future generations from irreversible harm.
It is important to understanding the nature of the panel that has prepared the latest report. The IPCC is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations dedicated to providing the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change and its political, social and economic impacts. It was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and later endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly. Currently, 195 countries are members of the panel, including Trinidad and Tobago. It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
“Limiting global warming to 1.5C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” notes the panel in its report. “Collective efforts at all levels, in ways that reflect different circumstances and capabilities, in the pursuit of limiting global warming to 1.5C, taking into account equity as well as effectiveness, can facilitate strengthening the global response to climate change, achieving sustainable development and eradicating poverty.”
While Trinidad and Tobago is a small actor, we are nonetheless the source of much greenhouse emissions. And much is at stake in terms of our quality of life. This is not just about the storms that batter our Caribbean neighbours. It’s about the possibility that one day, climate change will change our luck, putting us right in the path of environmental catastrophe.
Though we were heartened to hear Finance Minister Colm Imbert recommit Trinidad and Tobago to some of the principles of the 2015 Paris Agreement in his Budget speech, more important is the question of what measures are being put in place to monitor and review our compliance with policy goals. The use of cleaner fuels and incentives for renewable energy are just part of the picture. We need to go further by using our diplomatic standing to lobby for reforms internationally. And we must also measure whether we have been successful at reducing our local emissions.
“International cooperation is a critical enabler,” notes the IPCC in its report. The panel calls for the enhancing of access to finance and technology and to domestic capacities, taking into account national and local circumstances and needs. But for this to take place we need to have a clear, holistic plan in the first place.