Civil society organisations are calling for urgent and accelerated action around climate change noting that there has been minimal progress on roughly half of 30 key climate change priorities.
The CSOs’ call comes as the Government of Trinidad and Tobago gets ready to report to the United Nations in July on the country’s progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The CSOs’ position was presented at the launch of the ‘Trinidad & Tobago Civil Society Report: Spotlight on Sustainable Development Goal 13 Climate Action’ on Monday 15 June by the coordinator of the report, Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI). The report contains 10 overarching recommendations and 30 priorities for climate action which were developed through consultations with 53 CSOs across Trinidad and Tobago, including members of the SDGs Catalysts Network convened under the European Union-funded ‘CSOs For Good Governance’ project (2017-2020).
Candice Ramkissoon, Technical Officer at CANARI and lead author of the report, noted that in 2019 the SDGs Catalyst Network became aware of T&T’s intention to submit a Voluntary National Review (VNR) to the United Nations in July 2020. According to the United Nations, VNRs are “voluntary, state-led, undertaken by both developed and developing countries, and involve multiple stakeholders,” and they “aim to facilitate the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”
Ms. Ramkissoon identified the process as a critical avenue for CSO participation in providing a complementary review of the country’s progress towards the SDGs, saying that CSOs “identified the VNR as an opportunity to prepare a civil society report to ensure that civil society perspectives are captured and our voices are included. We view this as a complementary action to support the report being prepared by the government for the VNR.”
Ms. Ramkissoon went on to describe why climate change was singled out as the main focus of this landmark civil society report saying “as a small island state, climate change is a cross-cutting sustainable development issue that warrants clear, increased attention and urgent integrated action across sectors to address.”
Among the key challenges that the report identifies as facing CSOs addressing climate change are poor access to funding, as well as limited coordination within Government and with civil society and the private sector. To mitigate these challenges, the Report details 10 key recommendations that include improving the functionality and accessibility of the Green Fund, the updating of the National Climate Change Policy (2011), as well as the signing and ratifying of the Escazú Agreement.
The civil society-generated scorecard for the 30 climate change priorities was also presented by Ms. Ramkissoon and gave a visual snapshot of the country’s progress along these priorities using a ‘stoplight approach’ in which red meant little progress, amber meant intermediate progress and green meant significant progress. The ranking of the 30 priorities supports the Report’s assertion that “the response to the climate crisis is not being treated as urgently as it should be,” with 40% of priorities scored as having little progress, 57% having intermediate progress and only one priority – public awareness and engagement in climate change decisions and actions – being scored as having had significant progress.
Also speaking at the launch were Dr. Mark Thomas, Associate Development Coordination Officer, Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Mr. Kishan Kumarsingh, Head of Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit, Ministry of Planning and Development. Dr. Thomas noted the UN’s appreciation of the active role that civil society has played in the development of the VNR and its parallel development of the Spotlight Report, and highlighted the UN’s continuing support to the government and other stakeholders in meeting the country’s Paris Agreement obligations.
Mr. Kumarsingh also commended the participating CSOs and CANARI for the detailed recommendations and priorities within the Report, which he stated aligns with the requirements and recommendations of the Paris Agreement, including a greater focus on gender equity, as well as increased transparency and accountability of climate action. Mr. Kumarsingh also referenced several projects and activities being implemented by the Ministry of Planning and Development including the enhancement of the legal and institutional capacity of the country to address climate change, as well as the development of a monitoring and verification system for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions which will support a national certification scheme for GHG emitters.
A highly interactive and vibrant discussion session followed the presentations and several questions and comments were made around the need for concerted advocacy by civil society around climate change, particularly in building back after the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants highlighted the need for medium and long-term plans to discretely include considerations of environment, natural capital and climate change, while others expressed their hope that the gains made during the nationwide lockdown (cleaner rivers and air) are maintained as the country reopens.
In her closing remarks, CANARI’s Executive Director, Nicole Leotaud, re-emphasised that civil society continues to be willing and able to partner with the Government and private sector towards the truly inclusive implementation of the SDGs and the overall enhancement of the well-being of all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.