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‘Pres’ first to go carbon zero

CN 2017 file photo: President Anthony Carmona (right) launches the ‘Forest of Fame’ tree-planting project with Principal Dexter Mitchell (left) at Presentation College last Monday.

Presentation College, San Fernando has become the first school in Trinidad & Tobago and the Caribbean to pledge its commitment to becoming carbon zero.

Delivering the feature address last Monday, President Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona said he was proud of his alma-mater for joining the Carbon Zero Initiative. He described it as one of the “transformational initiatives” in which ‘Pres’ has been involved. The college is undertaking the project jointly with CZITT, the Carbon Zero Initiative of Trinidad and Tobago, which aims to reduce carbon footprints by changing behaviour.

President Carmona told the gathering of students, staff, volunteers and sponsors that they are carving a niche since the nation must not be indifferent to the claims demanded by future generations and climate change is not just a hoax. He urged them to foster the next generation of leaders of climate change since the only way to effectively tackle the problem is “to empower people to act”.

He lamented the change in the south-western part of the map of Trinidad due to climate change patterns as land is slowly being reclaimed by the sea. He also noted the impact on the Caribbean region as sea levels rise, and the possible disappearance of many hotel destinations in the next 50 years. The President urged students to stop using plastic bags: “There must not be one single plastic bag in Presentation College”.

As for Trinidad and Tobago’s position on climate change as a nation, he said “From the mouth of our small islands there must be a roar…We must never become climate change cowards.”

At the ceremony, Minister of Public Utilities Senator Robert Le Hunte, also a past student, said he was not surprised that noble leaders in various fields have come from the school since they have always led by example. Water consumption and energy usage, two major contributing factors in environmental sensitivity, fall under the remit of his ministry.

Le Hunte said he has already spoken to all relevant authorities to actively “develop their capacity” in the area of environmental preservation since “in this country we need to move from spectators to citizens”. He encouraged the students to persevere in their efforts, “I urge you to see it through until it becomes a part of the culture of this great institution.”

Principal Dexter Mitchell said “As a Catholic college we acknowledge our Pope’s call for conservation of our environment…God, through creation, cares for us.” He said the college would lead where others will follow, and knowledge without action is useless.

Chief Executive Officer of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), Hayden Romano expressed the hope that the project would drive the country in a “bottom-up approach” to environmental preservation. Romano averred that citizens need to move beyond knowledge of climate change and start practising the right behaviours. He pledged the assistance of the EMA in any way that the college would need.

Support for the project was also pledged by the Presentation College Past Students’ Association, and the college’s Parents’ Council. Council representative David Arthur said the country will build resilience to climate change by reducing carbon emissions and that he was very proud that “a southern school” is the first in the Caribbean to pledge carbon neutrality.

Several members of the school’s staff spoke in detail about the initiative, and the teachers’ efforts were praised by CZITT’s Founder Donald Baldeosingh and Director of Operations Dean Gouveia. Gouveia described the project as the “signature carbon neutral project” and stressed the need for behavioural change in solving environmental problems, describing aims at moving towards being a solar-powered school.

Those gathered were informed of the benefits to reduce the effects of climate change, and the attempts to influence behavioural change by stakeholders in the project. Video presentations were shown, and the ‘Forest of Fame’ tree-planting project at the school was launched.

The school has already introduced separate bins for recyclable waste and taken other bold steps in reducing carbon footprints, which teacher Ravi Sonnylall described as a “very determined drive”. He also announced that they are exploring the introduction of youth vacation internships in the project. – EH