BUDGET 2020 contained measures which trained a spotlight on environmental issues and energy conservation. These bright ideas are welcomed but what is also needed is a fulsome overhaul of the way our society engages in green issues, starting with the disposal of waste, not just styrofoam. The State must live up to its promise of a more aggressive green agenda with budget 2019-2020 serving as a kind of curtain-raiser.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has facetiously described the plan to replace household light bulbs the brightest idea in the budget. Whether that cynicism is justified, the measure sends the right signal and we wholeheartedly endorse it.
Some 400,000 households will be affected in a move that has the potential to bring home, quite literally, the need for change, as does the concomitant proposal to remove all taxes and duties on LED bulbs and appurtenances and the plan to reduce energy usage at schools.
Taking an initial step in the complete elimination of the use of styrofoam and single-use plastics within the national economy is also a step in the right direction. But the ban on importation of styrofoam for use in the food service industry has to be supported by an aggressive reform of solid waste management. What will happen to all of the non-biodegradable materials that have already filled out landfills to the brim, poisoning our ground water and polluting, through combustion, our air quality?
In order to encourage behavioural change, the State proposes to terminate the use of plastic water bottles in government offices and substitute them with coolers with filters. This measure is long overdue. Even the Parliament has already banned plastic water bottles, as gingerly pointed out by the House Speaker on Monday.
It is clear we are transitioning to more energy efficient vehicles; installing solar water heaters on all new housing developments under the Government housing programme and moving to convert the major city centres into smart cities. We await the contribution of the Minister of Public Utilities who will hopefully expand on these initiatives during the budget debate.
Other welcome measures include the proposal to increase the solar water heating equipment tax credit from 25.0 per cent to 100.0 per cent of the cost of the solar water heating equipment up to a maximum of $10,000. This initiative will benefit approximately 12,000 households.
There is an irony to all of this in an economy that is structured on oil and gas revenues. We need to hear whether measures to stimulate green energy sources will be pursued even more aggressively.
The focus on green issues is laudable especially in the context of our perennial vulnerability to storm surges and flooding. With the clock ticking, however, we may need to green light an even more ambitious programme of reform.