The recently launched ‘Sustainable Development Report 2020’ has given Trinidad and Tobago a score of 65.76 out of 100 for its progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, a mark which might earn students a C-grade in T&T’s school system. With this score, T&T gets a ranking of 98 out of 193 countries, with its progress in 12 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also classified as having “significant challenges” and “major challenges” remaining.
According to the United Nations, “the Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere. The 17 Goals were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which set out a 15-year plan to achieve the Goals.”
Now in its 6th year of its publication, the Sustainable Development Report is a global assessment, using the best available data of countries’ progress towards meeting the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. The report aims to complement and support other global reviews and voluntary national reviews and is led by a globally recognised team of experts.
However, it also assesses the trends in achieving the SDGs by countries, and while overall the achievement of the SDGs in Trinidad and Tobago is still hampered by many challenges, there are some positive trends.
The analysis indicates that three SDGs (No Poverty; Affordable and Clean Energy; and Decent Work and Economic Growth) are “on track or maintaining SDG achievement.” In assessing these trends, the report looked at indicators that included the percentage of the population with access to electricity, the unemployment rate, and the percentage of persons living under the poverty line of USD 1.90 per day.
In addition, the trends for achieving 4 other SDGs are “moderately improving”, namely Good Health and Well-Being; Gender Equality; Clean Water and Sanitation; and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the 3 main SDGs concerning the health of T&T’s natural environment are all categorised as having, at best, a “stagnating” trend for Climate Action, and “decreasing” trends for Life Below Water and Life on Land. In assessing these trends, the Report looked at indicators that included CO2 emissions and the percentage of the country’s fish catch that comprise overexploited or collapsed species. The latter was a key driver of the proposed Fisheries Management Bill that was laid in Parliament on June 12 and referred to a Joint Select Committee before the dissolution of Parliament.
The report’s trend for Climate Change echoes that of Trinbagonian civil society which, in a civil society climate action report published on June 15th 2020, highlighted the country’s minimal to poor progress across a suite of civil society-identified climate change priorities.
It should be noted, however, that several key developments in Trinidad and Tobago’s trajectory towards the SDGs may not have been taken into consideration at the time of publication of the 2020 Report. Key among these is the State’s first Voluntary National Review on the country’s progress towards meeting the 2030 Agenda which is to be presented to the UN’s High-Level Political Forum in July 2020. In the country’s first VNR, it will assess progress along 8 SDGs: Good Health and Well-Being; Quality Education; Gender Equality; Decent Work and Economic Growth; Reduced Inequalities; Climate Action; Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions; and Partnerships for the Goals.
Trinidad and Tobago is also expected to continue its process of validating its commitments under the Paris Agreement, the global climate change agreement, as well as revising its commitments to be more ambitious through the establishment of initiatives such as the pilot national Climate Mitigation Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) System.
Note: The ‘grading’ of performance is not an official classification of the Sustainable Development Report.