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Earth Today | Civil society wants TT gov’t to ink good environmental governance agreement

Published:Thursday | September 12, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Members of civil society in Trinidad and Tobago who attended the ‘People Protecting our Planet’ workshop on July 23, at the Lloyd Best Institute. They have called on the government to sign and ratify the Escazú Agreement.

CIVIL SOCIETY organisations working on environmental management across Trinidad and Tobago (TT) has called on the government to commit to good environmental governance by signing and ratifying the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Also known as the Escazú Agreement, it is the first regional environmental treaty for Latin America and the Caribbean and the first treaty in the world with specific protection mechanisms for environmental defenders. It was adopted on March 4, 2018 in Escazú, Costa Rica.

It aims to guarantee the full and effective implementation in Latin America and the Caribbean of the rights of access to environmental information, public participation in the environmental decision-making process and access to justice in environmental matters.

This will be achieved through the creation and strengthening of capacities and cooperation, contributing to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in a healthy environment and to sustainable development.

The Escazú Agreement was opened for the signature of the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on September 27, 2018 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, coinciding with the General Annual Debate of the United Nations General Assembly. So far, there are 17 signatories and only one country (Guyana) has ratified. It needs to be ratified by 11 states to enter into force.

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CANARI’s Executive Director Nicole Leotaud notes that TT’s government played a leading role in the negotiations of the agreement and was widely commended for having strong legal, regulatory and policy mechanisms in place to support implementation of this internationally groundbreaking treaty. “Unfortunately, our Government has not yet signed and ratified this critical agreement which can help support civil society’s role in environmental management as a fundamental part of sustainable development of the country,” she said.

According to Leotaud – and other interested CSO stakeholders who signed and delivered an open letter to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley earlier this month – the agreement is an important step forward for environmental protection in the country, helping to combat key issues such as climate change and reduce socio-environmental conflicts.

“Moreover, civil society must be key allies for environmental protection and climate action. The Escazú Agreement would support and facilitate more constructive and effective contributions of civil society in environmental governance,” she said.

The upcoming 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month (September 17-30) is said to present a clear opportunity for affirmative action by the TT government.

“UN Secretary General António Guterres has highlighted the Escazú Agreement as one of the four environmental treaties to be signed/ratified during this General Assembly,” CANARI said in a news release.

Several countries within the Latin America and the Caribbean region have already signalled their intention to sign/ratify the Escazú Agreement on September 26, 2019.