AGAINST the backdrop of the global climate change conference taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, last week, the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) is challenging Government to act locally to mitigate against this phenomenon even as it thinks globally.
MSJ’s political leader David Abdulah said if Government is serious about protecting the environment then it can begin by implementing the beverage container legislation, as well as, laws to enforce the ban on styrofoam containers.
On his return from the COP26 summit Saturday night, the Prime Minister spoke about the likely impact of climate changes, especially on the car industry, and the need to reduce Trinidad and Tobago’s carbon footprint while it continued to produce natural gas.
At a MSJ news conference on Sunday, Abdulah said it was all well and good for leaders, including Dr Rowley, to give fancy speeches and make commitments at the global level but questioned what they were doing at the local level.
“Yes, climate change and environmental matters are global concerns, but certainly action has to be taken at the local level. Abdulah said this Government and past governments have failed to address the issue of the environment in a sustained and significant manner.
He said it is evident by the perennial flooding in every part of the country as soon as it rains.
“We are experiencing climate change in a very real way,” he said pointing to environmental degradation, loss of natural habitat and plant life.
He said one of the places Government can begin to make significant changes is by making legislative changes.
He pointed to the beverage container legislation which is yet to be passed.
“Can you imagine if we had implemented that legislation 15 years ago how many millions of plastic bottles would not have found their way into drains, streams, rivers and into the sea?
“Millions of plastic bottles would not have gone into waste, dumps, adding to the problem of our solid waste disposal.”
He said it is a simple piece of legislation but there are powerful forces, who use these plastic bottles for beverages but do not want to give a return on the recycled plastic bottles as is done with glass bottles.
He condemned Government for failing to implement a commitment it made two years ago to ban styrofoam containers.
He said such containers did not degrade but, instead, poisoned the landfill in which they end up.
“So Prime Minister Rowley goes to Glasgow and makes fancy speeches, but what is happening here locally in terms of dealing with environmental challenges?”
He said government agenices, such as the local government bodies, Town and Country Division and the Environmental Management Agency which all have some responsibility in managing buildings and construction projects, have failed to protect the hillsides.
He pointed to the changing landscape where huge buildings are being erected on hills, contributing to flooding on the plains.
Abdulah decried the failure to enforce land-use policy to ensure forests are protected and good agricultural lands could be used to grow food.
“Forests are so important to managing our water supply and absorb carbon. We are denuding our forest, failing to protect it from quarrying, legal and illegal.”
In terms of electricity generation which results in emissions even though natural gas is used, Abdulah suggested an increase in rates to the big industrial users.
He said many big industrial users find it less costly to burn electricity rather than engage in energy-saving strategies. He said an increase in the rates would force them into energy-conservation strategies.
Similarly, he suggested increased water rates for commercial and big industrial users so more water can go to households that are suffering from a shortage of water.
He also suggested that the resources from the Green Fund could be used to deal with climate change matters at a community level, such as reforestation, environmental disasters, building and improving drainage.