For over 25 years, the responsibility for environmental issues in Trinidad and Tobago was handled by various Ministries under successive governments.
This resulted in a patchwork of approximately forty (40) pieces of legislation addressing various aspects of environmental management and some twenty-eight (28) government agencies involved in carrying out the associated functions and activities.
The result was a lack of institutional and legal focus for environmental management and the continued degradation of the country's resources.
In 1992, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (The Earth Summit), held in Rio de Janeiro, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago committed itself internationally to addressing the country's crucial environmental problems and improving its future environmental performance.
Here, the Government announced its intention to foster and encourage ecologically sustainable development.
In March 1995 the Environmental Management Act No.3 was passed. The Act established the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and provided for its composition, administration, financing and role.
The Environmental Management Act, 1995 was later repealed and re-enacted as the Environmental Management Act (EM Act), Chapter 35:05 of 2000.
Start-up funding for the institution was made available through a World Bank loan with additional assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Authority began operations in June 1995 and now facilitates cooperation among Government Agencies, NGOs and community-based organisations. The EMA is mandated to write and enforce laws and regulations for environmental management, to educate the public about the nation's environmental issues and to control and prevent pollution, as well as conserve natural resources.
The EM Act also required the establishment of a tribunal, known as the Environmental Commission, a superior court of record that hears appeals on decisions taken by the Authority.