The Hon. Pennelope Beckles: Keynote Address at the Energy Chamber’s Trinidad and Tobago Energy Conference 2022

Wednesday June 1, 2022

“Leveraging the industry’s strengths for the energy transition”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a distinct pleasure to address the Energy Chamber’s Trinidad and Tobago Energy Conference 2022, on the very important topic of “Leveraging the industry’s strengths for the energy transition”.

This conference comes on the heels of various international reports highlighting climate urgency and the climate emergency. The stark findings of the latest reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are both alarming and a check on our reality, even as human-induced climate change manifests itself in the rise in weather and climate extremes.

Even so, global efforts seem to be falling short of what is required to constrain catastrophic climate change. According to the IPCC, even if all the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) announced prior to COP 26 were implemented, warming will still exceed 1.5° Celsius during this century. Projected cumulative future carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over the lifetime of existing and currently planned fossil fuel infrastructure without additional abatement or mitigation exceed the total cumulative net CO2 emissions in pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C. They are approximately equal to total cumulative net CO2 emissions in pathways that limit warming to 2°C.

The IPCC notes that reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the energy and industrial sectors requires major transitions, including a substantial reduction in overall fossil fuel use, the deployment of low-emission energy sources, switching to alternative energy sources, and energy efficiency and conservation. The continued installation of unabated fossil fuel infrastructure will ‘lock-in’ GHG emissions. As Small Island Developing States (SIDS), we cannot afford this, because our survival is at risk.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has now embraced the message of the need for urgent action calling for NetZero by 2050. Its mission now is to shape a secure and sustainable energy future for all. In 2021, the IEA has also developed a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector to achieve NetZero by 2050. Dr. Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the IEA, notes in the Roadmap that there are still pathways to reach net zero by 2050. Dr. Birol notes further that the pathways call for nothing less than a complete transformation of how the world produces, transports and consumes energy, and require all governments to significantly strengthen and successfully implement their energy and climate policies.

For Small Island Developing States like Trinidad and Tobago, it is critically important for our survival that the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement is achieved, that is, Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius (2°C) above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”. 1.5 degrees is the point beyond which many SIDS face existential threats.

Technological advances have been steady and offer opportunities for significant greenhouse gas abatement. The unit costs of low-emission technologies have fallen continuously since 2010: solar energy by 85%, wind energy by 55%, and lithium-ion batteries by 85%; in the same period, their deployment has grown exponentially. However, innovation has lagged in developing countries due to weaker enabling conditions.

 

Nonetheless, Trinidad and Tobago remains committed to implementing measures to achieve our Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement, by creating the requisite policy, legislative, institutional and administrative enabling environment.

 

Therefore, during the period 2021-2025, Government will continue pursuing the Vision 2030 goal of Placing the Environment at the Centre of Social and Economic Development, with continued emphasis on reducing our carbon footprint through the development of green industries and implementing greenhouse gas mitigation strategies.

 

Trinidad and Tobago finds itself in a unique position among SIDs both as a vulnerable state, and also as a relatively high greenhouse gas emitter. There is a maxim in law that says “he who comes to equity, must come with clean hands” We therefore cannot advocate for support to deal with our climate vulnerability, while in the same breath saying that our emissions are relatively small and we should not be making ambitious efforts to green our economy. This would be untenable.

We are therefore fully committed to contributing to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and our other attendant commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement, including committing in our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to a reduction in overall cumulative emissions from the three main emitting sectors (power generation, industry and transportation) by 15% by 2030, from business as usual (BAU). This is an equivalent of one hundred and three million tonnes (103,000,000) of carbon dioxide equivalents or CO2-equivalent, at an estimated cost of 2 billion US dollars, which will be met partly through domestic funding, and conditional on international financing, including through the Green Climate Fund. We have also committed to unconditionally reducing public transportation emissions by 30% by December 31, 2030, and recently completed technical work to validate the baselines used to develop the NDC, which as you well know by now, is derived from our Carbon Reduction Strategy.

Based on this validation, and given the announcement by the Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley at COP 26 in Glasgow, Trinidad and Tobago has increased its goal to having 30% use of renewable energy by the year 2030. This will be reflected in a revised NDC being finalised by the Ministry of Planning and Development.

Prime Minister Rowley reiterated the Government’s position in his keynote address yesterday, stating that “Energy security is a priority for Trinidad and Tobago. Accordingly, we have set in train steps to optimize the exploitation of our oil and gas resources while mitigating the emission of greenhouse gases and adopting low-carbon solutions.”

Under the Paris Agreement, every country will have to account for greenhouse gas emissions and the achievement of their NDCs, including through an international, public, peer-reviewed process. To this end, Trinidad and Tobago has been one of the pioneering developing countries to have designed and operationalised a Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) System. It is the first of its kind in the region and featured as a best practice/ case study regionally and internationally.

The National MRV System is fully operational and being used voluntarily by a number of stakeholders from the private and public sector. The key component of the MRV system, the Knowledge Management System (KMS), is a database which is housed and operated by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).

However, you will agree that notwithstanding the excellent response to providing data to the MRV system, it is not enough, and we are taking steps to include greenhouse gas reporting and verification into the legislative framework for mandatory reporting.

This legal framework is not only aimed at international accounting, but also for domestically tracking our emissions, identifying options to reduce emissions, and guiding domestic policies such as the National Development Strategy, VISION 2030; the National Environmental Policy and the National Climate Change Policy. I have noted the support for such a framework by the private sector during the consultations on the Third National Communication and Biennial Update Report processes.

I am also pleased to inform you that the Government successfully accessed a grant of approximately 1 million US dollars under the Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT) of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to execute a project to strengthen the MRV system and ensure its Enhanced Transparency Framework compliance under the Paris Agreement. The project is being executed by the EMA with oversight by the Ministry of Planning and Development, and its outcomes will also be included in the legislative framework.

The energy transition to net-zero CO2 emissions from the industrial sector is challenging but entirely doable. Reducing industry emissions will entail coordinated action throughout value chains to promote all mitigation options, including demand management, energy and materials efficiency, circular material flows, and abatement technologies and transformational changes in production processes. Progressing the energy transition in the industrial sector will be enabled by the adoption of new production processes using low and zero-emissions electricity, hydrogen fuels, and carbon management.

As it stands, the broad environmental policy and legislative framework in Trinidad and Tobago is premised on the “polluters pay” principle – an internationally accepted principle that underpins environmental law and that is reflected in the various Rules under the Environmental Management Act. However, carbon pollution remains “free pollution” in Trinidad and Tobago. The Ministry of Planning and Development is collaborating with the Secretariat of the UNFCCC to explore the feasibility of a carbon pricing mechanism and framework for Trinidad and Tobago.

The purpose of carbon pricing is to:

  • Facilitate the achievement of the NDC both in the short and long terms; and
  • Deliver sustainable economic, environmental, health and socio-economic benefits.

 

Carbon pricing has many advantages in that:

    1. It is cost-efficient, as proven in theory and practice;
  1. It is a durable and flexible instrument, as it can be revised over time;
  2. It affords the mobilsation of a broad set of measures.

 

Carbon pricing can be uniquely customised to fit the circumstances of Trinidad and Tobago. We should note that more jurisdictions are either applying carbon pricing or making plans for carbon pricing. Carbon pricing already manages around 22% of global GHG emissions; 46 national jurisdictions, and 32 subnational jurisdictions have carbon pricing plans.

 

This is therefore a very exciting area for Trinidad and Tobago as we continue to spearhead new and innovative ways to leverage finance and address climate change. As we progress, we hope to engage all stakeholders to explore the feasibility and finalise a mechanism for carbon pricing in Trinidad and Tobago. To complement this initiative, a policy framework is being developed for participation in the voluntary carbon market under the Paris Agreement, as there has been significant interest from the private sector in this regard.

 

The Ministry of Planning and Development continues spearheading efforts to ensure the requisite enabling framework is in place to address climate change, and ensure that Trinidad and Tobago is compliant with its international obligations and national climate change agenda. To date, we have:

  • The Waste Management Rules, 2021, and the Waste Management (Fees) Regulations 2021 which were made operational from yesterday, May 31, 2022.
  • The National Climate Change Policy, which was laid in Parliament in 2011, and is currently being revised to ensure full Paris Agreement compliance;
  • A Cabinet-appointed Ministerial NDC Implementation Committee;
  • Development of an e-Mobility Policy to provide policy guidance for the development of an appropriate enabling environment for the uptake of electric vehicle applications in Trinidad and Tobago. The Government has already removed taxes and duties on the import on electric vehicles to attain price-parity, and is partnering with the United Arab Emirates’s (UAE) Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund (CREF), to install as a demonstration project, an electric vehicle charging station at the Queen’s Park Savannah;
  • The development of a Just Transition Policy for Trinidad and Tobago, which will cover the workforce, and is consistent with the majority of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which Trinidad and Tobago subscribes, as well as the VISION 2030 provision of leaving no one behind. A project is currently underway to quantify potential green jobs and the required skills.

Additionally, the Ministry of Planning and Development continues to collaborate with other ministries to advance the climate change agenda. We are working with the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries in the implementation of a project with BP Lightsource to add 112.5 Megawatts of solar energy to the national electricity grid. Construction is expected to begin in 2022. The Government is keen to remove any bottlenecks in the process to initiate this project. We are also seeking to finalise a Feed-in Tariff Policy and Implementation Plan soon, in order to allow for small-scale grid-tied installations of renewable energy by residential and commercial entities. These two projects should facilitate the achievement of 10% of renewable energy by 2021; a goal which the Government previously set, and admittedly, is somewhat delayed. However, I assure you that as Chair of the NDC Ministerial Committee, we are working assiduously to advance this work.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, you will agree that while a lot is being done, a great deal more needs to be done to efficiently and effectively facilitate a smooth energy transition.

Our efforts to facilitate an energy transition for our country contribute to the global effort, which, if everyone does their part, can ensure that we stay on track to limit temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Partnering with the industrial sector, and leveraging its expertise and experience to deploy appropriate technology and practices is vital. The Government is counting on the sector for this continued partnership, and to strengthening the same, as we do our part.

I would like to thank the Energy Chamber for inviting me to attend the Trinidad and Tobago Energy Conference, and to share the Government’s actions to date on the important mission of the transition to sustainable energy with this esteemed audience of stakeholders and partners.

I wish all of you continued success as you continue discussions regarding the importance of the energy sector to Trinidad and Tobago