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Trinidad and Tobago: Who is going to pay the Climate Change piper?

Credit: BID

Workshop on Economics of Climate Change Adaptation
Credit: BID

Investing in the future is always a challenging decision, for example planning for retirement  will often seem to be less urgent  when we have pressing daily financial  issues that have to be addressed  now (unless you are near to retirement age of course). Not tomorrow, not in 10 years, but today. But the truth is that, in order to have a financially stable future, we need to know our risks, assess the potential losses and costs associated with them, and plan accordingly.

Governments face a similar challenge when it comes to thinking about climate change: they need to plan now to be able to manage the risks associated with the climate of today, tomorrow and the future.

In Trinidad and Tobago, being a small island state, you face very clear risks: you have fragile ecosystems, limited land space and a concentration of socio-economic activities within a narrow coastal belt including critical infrastructure (think power generation, ports, oil and gas facilities)   which will certainly be adversely affected by rising sea levels and other climate related impacts. According to different studies, climate change will have a significant impact on the country, both on environmental and socio-economic levels, affecting primarily 4 key areas:  agriculture, health, human settlements (particularly in coastal areas), and water resources.  What do you do about addressing the cost of the impacts of climate change?

To help the Government address this challenging task of financially planning for the risks of adaptation to climate change (sorry but unfortunately there is a cost involved based on current greenhouse gas emissions), the IDB has supported the elaboration of a study on the economics of climate adaptation which aims at providing a tool to help design adaptation strategies to increase a county’s resilience against climate change-related hazards. In Trinidad and Tobago, investing in climate adaptation now will pay off in the future: it is estimated that investments in mangrove restoration and the national building code will have payback period of less than five years and positive benefit-cost ratios – those are smart investments!

Adaptation has to be a priority for Trinidad and Tobago, as well as for the rest of the CARICOM states, and this is why this methodology will be shared across the region in an effort to help Caribbean governments plan for the future: the wise decisions of today can certainly help us secure a climate-resilient future. The piper will have to be paid but it is wise to put aside the resources now and in the right place before the costs are too high.

Credit: Let's Talk Climate Change, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)

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