Do it if you dare
By Farah Theodore
For too long those with a sense of social responsibility have lamented the lack of political will that has crippled global action for climate change. It is beyond appalling the lip-service given by public and private bodies to act responsibly with our limited and invaluable natural resources that are continually exploited for the enrichment of a few. Mother nature sends an occasional curve-ball in the form of a pandemic or disaster as a constant reminder to turn away from our deleterious habits.
2020 is and remains a pivotal year in climate action even if most governments use it as a blanket excuse to ignore it while forgetting that this is merely a 'dress rehearsal' for a real climate fallout.
A challenge is put forward to the government of the presumed Nature Isle to turn the facade into reality by ratifying the Escazú Agreement when the Second Meeting of the Signatory countries to the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental
Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean takes place on Dec 9 - 10, 2020. Experts at the UN urge "…the countries who have yet to ratify or adhere to join regional efforts and demonstrate best practice for a more just and sustainable region".
"The Escazú Agreement commits parties to guarantee the right to a healthy environment…it provides citizens and communities with the tools needed to hold States accountable for protecting and fulfilling this fundamental right" stated David Boyd UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment.
This need for accountability is vital particularly in the current situation involving an ecological disaster caused by an asphalt plant located near the Layou river. Never mind, the reality that water security is a global problem, about 0.0001% of the earths water is in rivers and 0.5% is available fresh water…such occurrence is not only grossly negligent but also incomprehensible. Why claim status as Nature Isle parading under the Coat of Arms "Apres Bondie C'est La Ter" yet nonchalantly destroy what the world needs. We do not exist solely for ourselves. We are part of that which is indescribably larger than us.
The path to sustainability involves the key areas such as transparency, public participation and accountability which invariably relies on environmental and administrative law. It is imperative that an environmental court be established, environmental legislation drafted and those already drafted finally be brought before Parliament. The tools for effective transformation need to be utilised to address all development endeavours in the region.
The basic terms of reference employed by the local Physical Planning department in regards to Environmental Impact Assessments paid for by developers and interested parties without convincing review by a professional and independent panel or agency falls short of sustainable development goals.
In 2009, the EU Road Federation (ERF), the Brussels Programme Centre of International Road Federation (IRF) defines roads as sustainable if 'through effective planning design, construction, operation, maintenance and rehabilitation, they have the capacity to…respect the environment'. Also, one of the goals for sustainable roads is 'developing a methodology to audit the environmental quality of road projects during their complete life cycle, from planning to maintenance, including not only planning materials, construction, maintenance, service and demolition, but also evaluation of the optimization of the energy consumption of vehicles'.
It is undeniable the use of asphalt in road construction; with alternatives being explored it is important that measures are taken (use economic instruments) to ensure the polluter is held accountable (bear the cost of pollution) and green standards used to certify goods, services and works.
A 2020 report from the Global Futures initiative found that "unless we reverse nature loss trillions of dollars will be wiped off the world's economies, industries will be disrupted, and the lives of millions will be affected". Investors understand that biodiversity is a fundamental part of long-term business success why haven't our governments taken note?
Did you know? Recently, a Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) was formed to "help financial institutions shift finance from destructive activities and toward nature-based solutions" the words of Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General. The TNFD framework will be developed in 2021 and launched in 2022 by this consortium of global financial institutions.
Caribbean leadership has continually demonstrated a lack of interest in the prosperity of its people in every facet which is heart-breaking after a history of slavery without demands for reparations, and unfettered corruption has laid a path of unimaginable suffering in our immediate future. Bruised egos are irrelevant in the face of environmental injustice. We dare you to make sustainable development the feature and focus of our way forward collectively because as small islands the only way we prosper is moving as one.