On the wrong side of history

Men rummage through garbage along Kangawood Road, also known as Dump Road, that leads to the Forres Park Landfill, on June 30, 2021. File photo/Angelo Marcelle -
Men rummage through garbage along Kangawood Road, also known as Dump Road, that leads to the Forres Park Landfill, on June 30, 2021. File photo/Angelo Marcelle -

The Prime Minister is attending the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Scotland, which begins today – and he will represent one of the great polluters and garbage producers of the region.

Last Monday, Energy Minister Stuart Young, speaking on the importance of sustainable energy production at the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum, specifically called out CNG, along with solar, carbon capture and sand-hydrogen projects, as elements of the government's energy rebalancing plan.

But the country's sole effort at implementing cleaner-burning fuels, the CNG project, has largely stalled. What is the real-world economic value of years of struggling to make CNG mainstream in local vehicles?

In a 2000 study, the EMA found increased use of cheaper diesel fuel in both industrial and public transportation led to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. The planned National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring System promised in that report never materialised.

In March 2018, the Minister of Planning promised at a waste management forum to shut down landfills in Trinidad and Tobago (TT) and to replace them with modern methods of waste capture and disposal.

The four major local landfills have been leaking toxic chemicals into local groundwater for decades.

A 2019 study of solid waste in TT identified garbage in Trinidad landfills as being composed of 27 per cent organics, 19 per cent plastics, 19 per cent paper and ten per cent glass.

If these four substances were recycled or composted, there is the potential to reduce the undifferentiated waste going to dumps by 75 per cent. That number jumps to 89 per cent for those classes of waste in Tobago.

Grand announcements at major environmental conferences are not uncommon, but the government must commit to reporting comprehensively on its efforts in renewable energy.

What is the economic return and value proposition of T&TEC's testing of solar panels for energy capture in powering street lights?

A 2012 installation of photovoltaic panels by T&TEC on the roof of its Mt Hope offices and at UTT's O'Meara campus hasn't led to any serious consideration of solar energy inputs into the electricity grid or any regulatory incentives for private-sector investment in solar-powered electricity generation.

TT is lagging decades behind other countries in initiatives – to give a very few examples ­– such as recycling and re-using non-biodegradable and other materials; persuading or making it easier for people to use more environmentally friendly methods of transport (building more and more highways for cars is certainly not the way to go); reducing plastic use; or littering (such as dumping appliances in watercourses, adding to the growing flooding problem).

It’s difficult to anticipate what actual as opposed to promised improvements this country’s ministers could put forward in Glasgow as evidence of real commitment to actually doing whatever little this small country can to slow and mitigate climate change.


"On the wrong side of history"

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