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The Carbon Zero Initiative of Trinidad and Tobago, CZITT encourages all state entities, businesses and citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to reflect on the impacts and consequences of climate change in their budgets, whether national, corporate or personal.

According to NASA, the planet’s average surface temperature has risen by 0.5 °C since the late 19th century. The United Nations 2018 Emissions Gap Report (EGR) stated that the total annual global greenhouse gas emissions reached its highest levels in 2017, with no sign yet of peaking, and we are experiencing the impacts of 0.9 °C increase with increased frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events.

The EGR 2018 also recognised that the actions of the global community are insufficient. The UN Secretary General described climate change as a “direct existential threat” and lamented that, “[i]f we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.”

Leading scientists also warn that we have less than 11 years to stop the impending climate catastrophe or face the devastating local and global impact of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty. Additionally, top medical professionals agree that the climate crisis represents the biggest threat to the future of global health over the next 25 years.

Trinidad and Tobago is not by any means immune from all of this. We are witnessing record high temperatures and increased magnitude and frequency of storms, causing widespread flooding.

We appeal to the Government and State agencies to include climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in their budgets. Let us think more holistically about key activities.

Take, for example, the issue of flooding. There is the obvious need for proper maintenance of the water courses and steps must be taken to ensure they are not used as garbage dumps. In addition, all infrastructure projects must have acceptable drainage plans. It is also necessary to have resource management plans that allow for access to clean water for farmers and citizens during periods of dry weather.

The State commands the lion’s share of the national spend. Let us spend wisely. In a time of lower revenue, we must focus on sustainability in all spending. We have to cut wastage and invest in the energy, water and food sources of the future.

We also ask businesses to be mindful and incorporate climate change strategies in all aspects of their activities. This includes the following:

• Acknowledge your company’s environmental impact and determine its carbon footprint.

Use the carbon footprint to develop a phased plan of carbon reduction.

• Incorporate the three Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle, in all aspects of the company.

• Use web-based communication services and video conferences instead of business trips.

• Encourage telecommuting.

• Use energy efficient appliances and switch off all “energy vampires” at the end of the day. 

• It is difficult to entirely eradicate our carbon footprint but it can be significantly offset by planting sustainably managed trees.

Many routine tasks impact the environment and influences climate change in some way. For instance, according to Stephen Leahy, a leading international environmental journalist, it takes 7,600 litres of water to produce a single pair of jeans, while one hour’s daily use of a mobile phone produces 1,250 kg of CO2 annually, and sending a short email is estimated to add around 4gCO2 equivalent (gCO2e) to the atmosphere, according to researcher Mike Berners Lee.

By becoming more aware of climate change issues, persons are more willing and able to reduce their carbon footprint. A reduced carbon footprint requires smart budgeting, but ultimately saves money. The following are some ways citizens can budget for climate change:

• Replace red meat like carbon-intensive beef and lamb with chicken. This will cut your dietary carbon footprint by over a half according to studies by National Geographic. A day without meat or dairy, lowers one’s carbon footprint by eight pounds or 2,929 lbs/year.

Eating low on the food chain, i.e., fruits, vegetables, grains and beans, is the best way to lower one’s emissions.

• Avoid fast fashion—this is cheap, trendy clothing that is easily damaged or quickly goes “out of style” and ends up in landfills where they produce methane as they decompose.

Instead, buy quality clothing that will last—and use them as long as possible.

• Switch off lights when they are not in use, and where possible use natural lighting.

• Reduce food waste by planning meals ahead of time, and freezing and reusing leftovers.

• Compost food waste.

• Invest in reusable bags and carry them when shopping.

• Invest in Energy Star appliances which are up to 20 per cent more efficient than non-Energy Star appliances.

• Invest in an electric or hybrid vehicle, or choose a car-free lifestyle and use public transport. If you do invest in a vehicle, ensure proper maintenance including properly inflated tyres and no excess weight. These improve the fuel efficiency of the vehicle.

• Reduce overseas travel and choose non-stop economy class. More fuel is needed for taking off and landing.

• Take time to research the energy efficiency and sustainability of companies you wish to purchase products from and ensure all are from sustainable organisations, i.e., those that reduce greenhouse gases and support action on climate change.

CZITT recognises the climate emergency announced by the United Nations, and acknowledges that we all need to do our part to reduce emissions for the carbon neutrality of Trinidad and Tobago and the global preservation of the planet.

— For more information on CZITT www.czitt.com | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

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