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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08PORTOFSPAIN527 2008-11-18 18:40:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Port Of Spain
Cable title:  

SLOW PROGRESS ON T&T'S NATIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY

Tags:   SENV KGHG ENRG TD 
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VZCZCXRO4080
PP RUEHGR
DE RUEHSP #0527/01 3231840
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181840Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9515
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE 0497
RHMCSUU/DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PORT OF SPAIN 000527 

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR OES/EGC, WHA/EPSC, WHA/CAR
SAN JOSE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HUB TIM LATTIMER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV KGHG ENRG TD
SUBJECT: SLOW PROGRESS ON T&T'S NATIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY

REF: 07 Port of Spain 1159

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PROTECT ACCORDINGLY



1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Although Trinidad and Tobago's leadership has
made a variety of public statements calling attention to climate
change, the country still lacks a clear strategy to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions. The recent creation of a dedicated
climate change unit within the Ministry of Planning, Housing, and
the Environment suggests the GOTT is organizing to address climate
change in a more systematic way as the country prepares to host the
Summit of the Americas and the Commonwealth Heads of Government
Meeting in 2009. Newly proposed energy policy changes that may lead
to reduced vehicle emissions offer further evidence that the GOTT is
thinking more strategically about climate change. However, it
remains unclear how T&T will balance a real world -- as opposed to
rhetorical -- environmental strategy with its industrial development
program. END SUMMARY.



2. (SBU) Following his November 2007 re-election, Prime Minister
Manning shifted the environmental portfolio from the Ministry of
Public Utilities to the Ministry of Housing and Planning. Shortly
thereafter, on the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government
Meeting in Uganda (ref), the PM publicly tasked newly appointed
Minister of Planning, Housing and the Environment, Emily Dick-Forde,
with developing a proposal to address greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions. Neither this shift, nor Manning's remarks sparked
immediate action. In fact, it was not until June 2008, with the
2009 Summit of the Americas and the Commonwealth Heads of Government
meetings looming, that the issue resurfaced on the GOTT's public
agenda.



3. (SBU) In June, Manning addressed attendees at a regional
investment conference, proclaiming that a "global crisis" was
looming. He pointed to climate change as one crisis element and
noted that the Caribbean was already feeling the effects -
witnessing changes in weather patterns, coastal erosion, and greater
threats from hurricanes. The PM highlighted the need to increase
fuel efficiency and the use of alternative energy, but he offered no
concrete plans. In her June 5 World Environment Day address,
however, Minister Dick-Forde heralded T&T's general commitment to
reducing GHG. In this regard, she highlighted a reforestation
program and a long-standing solar water-heating demonstration
project, as well as the Environmental Management Authority's (EMA)
efforts to put into effect new air pollution rules. Further, she
announced that the GOTT had "commissioned the development of a
Carbon Neutral Strategy...[that] will be the basis for the
development of our country's national climate change policy."



--------------------------

---
SIGNS OF REAL MOVEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY?


--------------------------

---



4. (U) Two developments in August suggest there is indeed some
momentum toward defining a climate change policy. First, John
Agard, outgoing EMA Chairman and a member of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change, and Minister Dick-Forde, announced a five
year, US$5 million project to restore the Nariva Swamp. Funded by
the World Bank, the Nariva Swamp Restoration and Carbon
Sequestration Project will replant 1,300 hectares of deforested
land. Under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the carbon
credits generated from this project will be purchased by the World
Bank and sold on the carbon trading market. This collaboration
between the EMA and the Ministry is noteworthy, as Agard has and
continues to publicly encourage the GOTT to take a more aggressive
stance on environmental issues using market incentives.



5. (U) Second, the Ministry of Planning, Housing and the Environment
established the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit. This
new unit is charged with developing a national climate change policy
and is headed by Kishan Kumarsingh (Note: Kumarsingh is chair of
the T&T Cabinet-appointed working group charged with formulating
GOTT notifications under the Kyoto Protocol and a former chair of
the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice of the
U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.) Having led climate
change policy development and implementation at the EMA, Kumarsingh
is well positioned to lead this new unit. In a conversation with
EconOff, Kumarsingh indicated that his mandate is to develop a full
strategy to address climate change. With the Ministry focused on
policy development, Kumarsingh expects the EMA will shift its
climate change focus to implementation. Both the Ministry and EMA
will increase the staff devoted to climate change issues, Kumarsingh
said.



--------------------------



--------------------------


CLEANER ENERGY COMING, BUT NO RENEWABLES PUSH IN SIGHT

PORT OF SP 00000527 002 OF 003




--------------------------



--------------------------





6. (U) The GOTT unveiled several energy policy measures in its
FY-2009 budget that may ultimately reduce motor vehicle emissions,
estimated to account for more than forty percent of local GHG
emissions. In her September 22 budget presentation to Parliament,
Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira announced a higher tax rates
for motor vehicles and an immediate increase in the subsidized price
of premium gasoline from TT$3.00 to TT$4.00 per liter (US$0.50 to
US$0.67). The increase in the price of gas is intended to target
luxury vehicles, as subsidized prices for lower grade gasoline and
diesel remain unchanged. The brunt of the motor vehicle tax rate
increase falls on cars with smaller engines. Local economists
question whether these measures will have any impact on consumption
or traffic congestion. Nevertheless, they are the GOTT's first
serious attempt to shift incentives in response to a massive
increase in motor vehicle ownership (and road congestion) in recent
years. Nunez-Tesheira also announced that the GOTT will convert its
vehicle fleet to compressed natural gas (CNG), increase the number
of service stations equipped to supply CNG, and eliminate taxes and
import duties on CNG conversion kits. While the Minister of Finance
outlined some possible avenues for encouraging CNG adoption,
Kumarsingh indicated that his Ministry has yet to develop a specific
CNG policy or timeline for implementation.



7. (SBU) In the power sector, the T&T Electricity Commission has
improved price incentives and is in the process of modernizing
metering. The GOTT also has signaled its intent to upgrade existing
gas-fired power generating plants with more efficient combined cycle
plants. Nevertheless, T&T still has some of the lowest cost
electricity in the hemisphere. While this has been a key selling
point to attract foreign investment, it offers little incentive to
develop T&T's renewable energy potential. The Ministry of Energy
claims to be considering renewable energy options, but no specifics
are available.



--------------------------


STICKING TO SIDS CONSENSUS FOR NOW


--------------------------





8. (U) T&T's climate change policy perspective remains unaltered
(ref). The GOTT is primarily concerned with sea level rise and
weather pattern disruptions. T&T continues to support the goal of
achieving less than a two degree Celsius increase in temperature
from pre-industrial times, a position favored by most Small Island
Developing States (SIDS). Kumarsingh also noted to EconOff the
GOTT's support for keeping carbon dioxide concentrations below a
maximum level of 450 ppm to avoid catastrophic damage to the
environment. In terms of accountability, T&T rejects the use of per
capita emissions as a metric for evaluating country level carbon
dioxide contributions. (Note: T&T ranks among the top ten per
capita carbon emitters in the world.)



9. (U) As in previous conversations, Kumarsingh identified
adaptation as a priority for T&T, particularly given the nation's
small contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions and the
disproportionate impact climate change will have on SIDS. Yet,
there is growing interest in mitigation as demonstrated by the newly
proposed CNG initiative and reforestation project. Kumarsingh
suggested T&T is interested in increasing such activities by noting
the Ministry's hope to undertake a carbon capture storage
demonstration project and expand its access to the Clean Development
Mechanism. Securing start up financing for such initiatives,
however, may be challenging. While Kumarsingh did not rule out the
implementation of a cap and trade system, he noted a GOTT preference
for industry to self-regulate. Irrespective of current or future
project, Kumarsingh emphasized the importance for technology
transfer to help SIDS adapt to climate change and mitigate its
impacts.



--------------------------


COMMENT: I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW


--------------------------





10. (SBU) With climate change a topic for both the Summit of the
Americas and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings, the GOTT
may face pressure to further define its climate change policy,
mindful of its status as one of the world's top ten per capita GHG
emitters. Ambassador Luis Alberto Rodriquez, T&T's National Summit
Coordinator, told a local audience in June that T&T "should not
ignore our responsibility to strive for environmental
sustainability" and called for the development of alternative energy
sources. Nonetheless, the GOTT also has made clear that as a small
developing country, it feels the heavy lifting on climate change
must take place elsewhere. Whether it moves beyond scattered
initiatives and soaring rhetoric to actual sustained action that

PORT OF SP 00000527 003 OF 003


impacts on its natural gas-based development model remains to be
seen.

AUSTIN