UN World Environment Day - President's Speech

United Nations World Environment Day 2020

Remarks from AMCHAM T&T President
Patricia Ghany

The United Nations (UN) World Environment Day 2020 is widely celebrated worldwide as a global day for positive environmental action which we at AMCHAM T&T strongly support. Just last year, we celebrated this day hosting a Clean-a-thon which saw over 300 members of AMCHAM T&T cleaning the Queen’s Park Savannah in POS.

This year, business as we know it has been interrupted by the pandemic, but it has also provided us with an opportunity to focus on our environment and to make some decisive actions on climate change. While the impact of COVID-19 has resulted in a worldwide disruption and lockdown, what has also emerged is the positive impact on the environment - the air and water quality of our rivers, lakes and seas have improved, even our wildlife has started to flourish. But these small improvements in our environment have come at very heavy costs to people and economies. We are experiencing the worst recession since World War II and there is no doubt that the effects of this will continue to be felt for years to come.

While COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our lives and economies, it also poses a unique opportunity to build economies that are more resilient and to engage in sustainable business practices. Protecting the environment is not a luxury, nor is it something we can leave for our children to fix. The cost of COVID-19 can be dwarfed if we do not deal decisively with climate change, which affects the most vulnerable in society. If we do not take action to protect sensitive habitats and species; conserve water, forests and other natural resources; and lobby for more stringent environmental protection enforcement, our ecosystems will collapse. When we alter or destroy aspects of the ecosystems, there are negative consequences, for example – species extinction; water shortages; sea-level rise; zoonotic diseases and natural disasters, including loss of lives.

The time has never been more immediate for us to promote investment in green businesses and green technologies. We must tackle plastic pollution decisively. At AMCHAM T&T, we are cognizant of the role we play in society and believe that we need to tackle this problem head-on. AMCHAM T&T, through its environment sub-committee, has created an environmental charter which organisations have signed onto to demonstrate to other business players their commitment to environmental conservation. It also enhances the competitiveness of businesses, both locally and internationally, by letting potential clients know that they conduct their business in a sustainable and regulatory compliant manner. AMCHAM T&T also hosts the premier annual HSE Awards which is attended by a wide cross-section of business and industry leaders. This is a platform for us to recognize organizations who uphold and achieve the highest levels of sustainable operations focused on environmental conservation

Last October, AMCHAM T&T signed an MOU with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and is the coordinator of the ARISE network in Trinidad and Tobago. AMCHAM T&T has a solid 23-year track record of providing strong direction and leadership on HSSE compliance for the sustainable future of companies, communities, and our nation. Through the work of our ARISE, we have been actively seeking to build resilience amongst the SMEs in Trinidad and Tobago. We are also cognizant that we have just started an active hurricane season so this year we will be working on disaster preparedness, BCP and early warning systems. AMCHAM T&T is also working with PREPARE TT on assessing the probable impact of an earthquake disaster in the country’s capital and would facilitate advocacy and planning around strengthening seismic disaster risk reduction and preparedness measures.

In closing, we urge everyone to not only reflect on the United Nations World Environment Day 2020 Theme - “Time for Nature” but take action to show respect and appreciation for biodiversity. Join the challenge for the month of June and do any or ALL of the following:

  • Start your kitchen garden (if you haven’t already) and post the photos on social media with the hashtag: #timefornature
  • Plant fruit or beneficial trees around your home or workplace and post the photos on social media with the hashtag: #timefornature (a mature tree can absorb 22kg of CO2 from the atmosphere).
  • Start a compost heap with vegetable peelings, grass cuttings
  • Engage in an activity that will reduce your carbon footprint, for example: don’t drive (work from home if possible), turn off all power for 1 hour, refuse single-use plastic and make that change onwards. Deadline for submissions – 26th June 2020 and these will be posted to all AMCHAM T&T’s social media platforms for recognition.

Remember, the time for nature begins today. Happy World Environment Day, everyone.

AGM 2020 - President's Speech