Daily-Express-Editorial

Like other oil and gas-based economies, Trinidad and Tobago is walking the tightrope of reducing carbon emissions while conversely racking up increased revenue from selling carbon-producing oil and gas.

Since Russia declared war on Ukraine on February 24, the balance between those conflicting objectives has definitely ­tilted in favour of milking as much revenue as possible from the ­petrochemical sector. As Finance Minister Colm Imbert has so giddily described, the sector is “going crazy”, with T&T expecting a windfall of up to $2 billion more in revenue from the sector above its budgeted estimate. And that’s just counting the last four months.

Existing, as T&T does, in the twilight zone between the non-­renewable energy sources of oil and gas on one hand, and emerging forms of renewable energies on the other, such as solar, green hydrogen and possibly wind, the Government must be careful about its messaging to the public.

On returning from the OAS meeting in Los Angeles and the Caricom Heads of Government meeting in Suriname a few weeks ago, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was emphatic in stating the region will not allow itself to be dictated to, or punished for maximising the value of its natural assets of fossil fuels. Small countries like ours, he argued, need to be allowed to use their natural resources for self-development. He made the statement in light of new financial regulatory requirements being imposed on countries and borrowers which demand compliance with environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.

Dr Rowley and his Caricom colleagues in Guyana and Suriname may not have to argue too loudly for this in a world where the most industrialised countries are speaking out of both sides of their mouths when it comes to the energy transition the world needs to save itself from the tipping point of climate change.

In Germany three weeks ago, for example, both houses of parliament approved emergency legislation to reactivate mothballed coal-fired power plants in anticipation of Russia tightening the screws on gas supplies to Germany—a fear that has now materialised. Reviled as the dirtiest of all fuels, no one expected coal to make the comeback that it has since war broke out in Ukraine, destabilising global gas supplies. Until the outcome of that war is determined, one can expect the global restraint in the use of fossil fuels to be significantly relaxed since the world is far from ready for the energy transition that is so desperately needed.

We in T&T are also far from being ready, in both ­economic and social terms. However, the signs are already evident that ready or not, we will all be affected by the increasingly ­devastating impact of climate change. Faced with such a reality, the Government and the country’s economic managers must find a way to alert the public to what lies ahead and prepare the path for adaptation. If there is any value to the current boom in prices, it must be to help T&T finance the energy transition.

That calls for a complete rethink of Government policy and personal behaviour.

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