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Earth Today | CANARI urges T&T support for environmental treaty

Published:Thursday | December 3, 2020 | 12:14 AM
LEOTAUD
LEOTAUD

THE CARIBBEAN Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) has called on the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to join the ranks of “forward-thinking, progressive Latin American and Caribbean nations” by becoming a party to the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The agreement, widely known as the Escazú Agreement, is a first-of-its-kind, people-centred regional environmental treaty soon to come into force.

“Nine progressive nations, including Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Antigua and Barbuda have already ratified,” noted CANARI in a news release to the media.

“The treaty comes into force 90 days after the 11th ratification, which is imminent with Mexico and Argentina now moving to complete the final formal steps. Even as these and other Caribbean nations who have signed on to this landmark treaty prepare for its implementation, the Trinidad and Tobago Government has yet to act on the Escazú Agreement,” it added.

WATERSHED MOMENT

According to Nicole Leotaud, executive director of CANARI, it is now “a watershed moment for the Caribbean and the way we view and treat with environmental management throughout the region”.

“It is a sign that governments throughout the region are prioritising their nations’ sustainability as well as the well-being and livelihoods of their citizens,” she explained.

The Escazú Agreement supports public access to timely information about issues affecting the environment, public participation in environmental decision-making, guaranteed protections for environmental defenders, and access to justice in environmental matters.

These provisions are what makes the agreement, as the first environmental treaty developed in the region, especially attractive to leading environmental civil society organisations (CSOs). These CSOs have been instrumental in the embrace of the Escazú Agreement throughout the region; they have worked and continue to work tirelessly to educate stakeholders about the importance of this landmark treaty to their nations and the region as a whole. CANARI has been engaged in doing so both regionally and locally.

“It is extremely disappointing that, despite early leadership by the Ministry of Planning and Development in the negotiation process, Trinidad and Tobago has not yet signed on to this agreement, which will support international environmental commitments the Government has already made on climate change, biodiversity and pollution,” said Leotaud.

“Trinidad and Tobago already has strong policy and legal frameworks in place that will support implementation of this treaty. Committing to the Escazú Agreement will provide opportunities for capacity building and improving the practice of good environmental governance in the country. CANARI is calling on the Ministry of Planning and Development to take action for Trinidad and Tobago to urgently join on to the Escazú Agreement to affirm their commitment to the environment and our sustainability,” she added.

In partnership with The Cropper Foundation, EquiGov Institute and Environment Tobago and supported by at least 60 other national and local CSOs, CANARI has issued letters to the prime minister and public petitions, held workshops, webinars and meetings as well as made numerous appeals via media appearances to raise public awareness and to call on the Government to commit to the Escazú Agreement.

“A healthy environment is critical for Caribbean economies and people, yet our region is one of the world’s most environmentally vulnerable. Trinidad and Tobago unfortunately does not have a good track record in many areas – for example, it is one of the worst nations in the world per capita for carbon emissions and plastic pollution and we continue to have ecosystems being degraded,” Leotaud said.

“The Escazú Agreement provides a key foundation which could improve our chances for long-term sustainable development by recognising the rights of stakeholders to a healthy environment and supporting their participation in decisions that might negatively impact their lives and livelihoods,” the executive director added.