DR GABRIELLE JAMELA HOSEIN
WEARY CITIZENS are weathering a seemingly biblical combination of flood, locusts and plague. All, including the pandemic, are linked to climate change in some way.
COP26, happening now in Glasgow, Scotland, might feel far away, but it connects directly to these realities at home.
This is the United Nations’ annual climate change conference and COP stands for Conference of Parties, which refers to the signatories of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a 1994 treaty which includes TT among its 197 parties.
Activists of many kinds, from indigenous communities to vulnerable nations, use the conference as a chance to push governments beyond talk to action through marches, protests and building of massive citizen demand.
Climate-justice activists are continuing to call for reduced fossil dependence and carbon-dioxide emissions, conservation of forests and oceans, protection of biodiversity, and transformation of our global economy from one that relies on growth through excessive and environmentally harmful production and consumption.
Farmers, fisherfolk, those in the tourist industry, those living in flood-prone areas, the poor and hungry, women, students and youth of another generation in our region are facing an “existential threat.” This is the one issue around which billions of us could rally because we depend on an Earth in balance for our very lives.
Governments, such as our own, which is why PM Rowley is there, are more concerned about money. Barbados’s PM Mia Mottley declared the Earth in a state of “code red,” warning of the decimation of islands such as Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and low-lying Barbados if global temperatures and, therefore, sea levels (from melting glaciers) continue to rise. She called their impact on the region a “dreaded death sentence.”
The money, described as climate finance, is to come from the richer nations responsible for the bulk of the greenhouse-gas emissions heating the planet and should help poorer nations to cut their own emissions and adapt to the losses from catastrophes predicted from global warming.
Those bigger, wealthy countries have failed to contribute what they promised – US$100 billion a year from 2009-2020. They have also mainly promised to cut to zero net carbon emissions between 2050 and 2070; too little, too late.
TT’s promise is to reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions in three sectors by 15 per cent, and by 30 per cent in the transportation sector, by 2030. This is unambitious, at odds with activist hopes and the planet’s needs, but not much worse than those from governments elsewhere.
Our own PM’s speech highlighted establishment of a solar renewable-energy project to provide 30 per cent of our power needs by 2030. Barbados plans to have 100 per cent of its energy consumption come from renewable sources by the same date. Barbados also plans to stop the sale of petrol and diesel by 2030, replacing them with electric power, biofuels and better mass transport. That’s ambitious.
We are slowly phasing to electric vehicles and there is a policy for transitioning the workforce to a low-carbon economy, and investments in green hydrogen to provide feedstock for the petrochemical sector. There is also a state committee to increase oil revenue as well as explore carbon capture and sequestration of industry-generated carbon dioxide.
Carbon sequestration is considered valuable because there is too much in our atmosphere, but there’s significant debate about this strategy. Some activists argue that it’s a technique for continuing to burn fossil fuels, not reduce overall use. As a polluter-based economy, it’s the State’s technical solution for the fix we are in.
Following his speech, the PM is meeting with Shell and BP in London on development of the Manatee gas field, highlighting the irony of our fossil-fuel dependence, dire failure to imagine alternatives to a near-obsolete economic model, and committed drop into the CO2 bucket.
Anyone interested in survival should be prepared to support what climate-justice activists continue to do. Question government plans. Demand transparency and participation. Present alternatives. Refuse to be fooled by policies on paper. Draw attention to endemic poor implementation. Protest.
Challenge a leader who lambasts those refusing an aluminium smelter or seeking to preserve a coastline in Tobago or Toco. Those are exactly the moments that count on the ground, showing how little the Government sees these as popular struggles to protect coastlines, air and water for our future generations.
COP 26 reminds that there is one message for us. Before it’s too late, defend the planet at all costs, whether politicians like it or not.
Diary of a mothering worker