One of the breakthrough outcomes of COP27, Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Change Conference, Egypt, November 6 to November 18, was the Loss and Damage Fund for developing countries hit hard by the ill-effects of climate change. (See page 18 – Church in the World)
The impetus behind the fund is the inequity between the greenhouse gas emissions and the negative consequences of climate change being felt by smaller nations.
According to an article on pbs.org, ‘Many of the world’s poorest countries are the least polluting but the most climate-vulnerable. Here’s what they want at COP27’: “Many of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries have done little to cause climate change, yet they are experiencing extreme heat waves, floods and other climate-related disasters. They want wealthier nations – historically the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions – to pay for the harm.”
The fund may serve Trinidad and Tobago well in the future, given the devastation wreaked on the national community last weekend with the downpours.
According to the ‘Incident Summary Report from the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government’, as of November 28 there were 89 communities affected by flooding; 22 cases of hazardous incidents/fallen trees; and 62 landslides.
Some communities are left without a means of egress because of collapsed roads, which means that relief efforts would have been stymied.
This has been perhaps one of the worst Novembers experienced. The outlook for December and January 2023 is also a cause for concern, given the saturation. The Met Office for Trinidad and Tobago predicts, “December and January both have high chances for near normal to above normal rainfall.”
While the impacts of climate change have noticeably affected the patterns of rainfall over the past years, there are other factors which may have played a part in the devastation.
One such factor is the destruction of mangroves, and their protection to coastal communities, and around swamps. The Institute of Marine Affairs states: “…we did not fully understand the importance of these coastal forests, so as much as 50 per cent were cleared to build houses, businesses and ports” (‘Taking time to appreciate our Mangrove Forests’, www.ima.gov.tt/).
We know that there have also been issues with lack of adequate drainage infrastructure in new housing developments, building over water tables, and not adhering to building codes.
In an interview with Guardian Media, November 11, Society of Planners’ President Grace Les Fouris, who also worked in the Planning Division for 25 years, highlighted a series of violations which she believes have contributed to the current issues of flooding: “…building on riverbanks is a major problem…it violates the 45-metre building setback that was imposed by the Town and Country Planning Division…a lot of the land area where houses are built lies on the flood plains of major rivers and tributaries…. developments on hillsides also contribute to the flooding problem. ‘Development is taking place on our hillsides without the drainage infrastructure that would ensure the proper removal of stormwater,’ she said.”
What we are seeing is the result of decades of corruption, negligent approaches and lack of respect for both the environment and building codes, compounded by worsening climate conditions.
Imagine the unthinking selfishness in the individuals who stole the flap gate at the Sea Lots Pump House. We are creatures of unfortunate patterns here in Trinidad, content to get away with what we can get away with.
Year after year, from captain to cook, we are called severely to be aware of how our own actions impact the innocent among us.
It’s time to mature.