Robinson-Regis: Trinidad and Tobago must achieve net zero, promote economic growth

Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis. -
Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis. -

Trinidad and Tobago is caught between a rock and a hard place, says Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis in its thrust to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and promoting economic growth.

Speaking at the Energy Chamber’s Caribbean Sustainable Energy Conference 2022 on Tuesday, Robinson-Regis said the reality that TT was an oil and gas-based economy meant that the economic impacts of reduced revenue through reduced demand for fossil fuels can have a serious impact on the prospects for economic growth.

She said that TT must find ways to achieve its commitment to the Paris Agreement and maintain its economy through diversification and climate investments. “TT as a carbon-intensive economy, therefore, also has an obligation to diversify and decarbonise its economy towards meeting obligations under the Paris Agreement. The Government has acknowledged that the global energy transition to low carbon is inevitable, and well underway, in order to avoid catastrophic climate change, and that TT to be part of that transition if it is to not be left behind, therefore needs to get on board as a matter of urgency.”

She said while to shift will incur unintended socio-economic impacts, Government has identified and recognised the importance of creating an enabling working environment through its Just Transition of the Workforce Policy.

The policy hopes to provide substantial economic and social benefits, mitigating and preventing both social and economic disruption from a low-carbon transition, along with potentially creating new jobs and new types of sustainable work, Robinson-Regis said.

“This would provide the policy framework for not only creating the green workforce, but also facilitating the retooling, reskilling, and re-schooling of the existing workforce, a large amount of which comes from the energy industries, to take advantage of the emerging opportunities and minimising potential fallout from unemployability.

“The draft policy outlines the measures needed to smoothly facilitate the transition of TT to a low carbon economy while creating opportunities for the workforce presently engaged in the carbon intensive oil and gas sector. Further, the policy seeks to enable a low-carbon development pathway, while also reducing negative impact on affected workers, aiding the vulnerable and marginalised groups in society, and encouraging investment and education in new low-carbon technologies and pathways that will benefit the nation.”

Robinson-Regis said diversification and investment in green hydrogen was a win-win situation for all stakeholders and was a key example of how TT could maintain and increase its competitiveness in the petrochemical sector.

An area for upcoming and potential business transactions was the European Green Deal, she pointed out, which was poised to implement carbon border adjustment measures such as a tax on imports of goods depending on the carbon content of its raw materials and manufacturing processes.

“As the fourth largest exporter of fertilisers to the European Union, and a prolific user of so-called grey hydrogen extracted from natural gas – a fossil fuel – to manufacture ammonia, TT is therefore likely to attract a border carbon tax. Generating green hydrogen from water using renewable energy will not only reduce or exempt our products from such taxes but actually increase the prospects of fetching premium international prices.

“Utilising this method not only preserves some of our petrochemical industries, but also can open up other areas of business such as hydrogen as a shipping fuel for export. Additional manufacturing opportunities lie in renewable energy components such as solar panels or wind turbines, high-efficiency light emitting diode or LED bulbs as other examples. TT already well placed in this regard with already advanced infrastructure and workforce.”

Robinson-Regis said the Government’s role was to facilitate the requisite policy and an enabling environment to attract such investments and with the recently passed Special Economic Zones Bill, provisions for special concessions will be given to manufacturing undertaken in special geographical areas, which includes sustainable and clean technologies.

The Ministry of Planning and Development, charged with the responsibility for environment and climate change, is currently revising the National Climate Change Policy to incorporate the implementation rules of the Paris Agreement, as well as the latest scientific evidence.

It has also been coordinating the implementation of the nationally determined contribution (NDC), and an investment plan to guide the activities to achieve this.

The Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries and bp Lightsource was expected to implement this year a 112.2 MW solar project for the national electricity grid and finalise a feed-in tariff policy and plan to allow for small scale grid-tied installations of renewable energy by residential and commercial entities.

These two projects, Robinson-Regis said, should achieve the ten per cent of renewable energy goal which the Government previously set.

TT has pledged in its NDC to reduce overall cumulative emissions from power generation, industry, and transportation by 15 per cent by 2030 which is an equivalent of 103,000,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents.

Additionally, TT has also committed to unconditionally reduce its public transportation emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

Robinson-Regis said the estimated cost of meeting this objective was US$2 billion, which was expected to be met through domestic funding and conditional or international financing, including through the Green Climate Fund.


"Robinson-Regis: Trinidad and Tobago must achieve net zero, promote economic growth"

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