VARIOUS stakeholders have committed to helping reduce the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 70 percent by 2030, consistent with the country’s promise under its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the United Nations.
This was among the commitment made by signatories to a covenant signed on April 22 at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City on the occasion of Earth Day.
The covenant signing happened the same day the Paris agreement on climate change was signed by world leaders at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje signed the Paris Climate Agreement on behalf of the Philippine Government, according to the office of Senator Loren Legarda, co-head of the Philippine Delegation at the High Level Signature Ceremony for the agreement.
Environmental and climate justice activists, however, are skeptical because of the current pro-coal policy of the government.
They said with more coal-fired power plant projects in the pipeline, the share of coal in the energy mix will increase, which means that carbon emission will increase instead of decrease.
Paje described the covenant as a manifestation of the country’s commitment to come up with its national determined contributions (NDC), which outlines climate mitigation and adaptation actions that will be implemented beyond 2020.
But activist Clemente Bautista described the signing a “hypocrisy” noting the promotion of coal as source of energy by the government.
He said the Aquino administration has approved 47 coal power projects construction from 2014 up to 2020.
“Under Aquino’s term, carbon emissions from coal power sources have increased by 30 percent,” Bautista said. “It has also inaugurated at least three new coal power plants under its administration.”
She explained that if all approved coal projects will be realized, an estimated total of 60 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be released by 2025.
Paje said the country’s participation in the signing ceremony in New York was an assurance that the Philippines would continue to work with the United Nations and other countries against global warming “for the benefit of climate vulnerable communities around the world.”
“[With the covenant] we will be making actual deliveries on our intended contributions, transforming them into realities across a wide range of sectors, from energy, industry and transport, to agriculture, waste and forestry,” the environment chief said.
In the same statement, Isagani Serrano, president and country coordinator of Earth Day Network Philippines, said the Paris agreement was only one of those the country had signed to end poverty, reduce inequality and share prosperity while trying to save humanity from climate change catastrophe.
Serrano expressed optimism in finding “game-changing ways to capture and store carbon and give us back clean air.”
“We cannot go on the way we have been doing in the past up till now,” he said. “We cannot continue with development that degrades the environment and leaves so many behind.”
Around 50 organizations and agencies were represented during the covenant-signing, committing their support to the Paris accord’s goals.
“We will muster all the energy and resources within our means, sustain advocacy at the grassroots level and rally the executive and legislative branches of the Philippine government, as well as the local government units, so that the Philippines can be true to its commitment in Paris to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels,” Legarda was quoted in a statement as saying.
To achieve the objective of a 70-percent emission reduction in the country, the covenant encourages different stakeholders to participate in the consultation and formulation processes for the NDC Roadmap.
This will ensure that the roadmap would be guided by principles of sustainable development, low emission development, disaster risk reduction and inclusive growth.
Signatories also commit to pursue policies and prioritize programs and projects that would make ecosystems more resilient and communities more adaptive to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.
The Philippines, through the covenant, likewise supports the global effort to plant 7.8 billion trees to serve as carbon sinks. This is also to contribute to the first of five goals of the International Earth Day Movement, which marks its five-year countdown to its 50th anniversary in 2020.
The Senator also said she will rally her fellow senators to act on the Philippine ratification of the Agreement and will call on legislators from other nations to ensure the early entry into force of the Agreement.
Legarda said that while nations await the Agreement’s entry into force, governments must already start the work to implement their respective Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
The Philippines’ Climate Change Commission (CCC) is preparing an NDC roadmap as it reviews its previously submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and converts it into NDC.
“The CCC will revisit, reconstruct, and report on the country’s NDC given the need to update assumptions and to take into account the external environment, such as costs of technology going down and new policy frameworks, among others,” said Legarda.
Even as the Philippines’ NDC will still be conditional to the provision of the means of implementation that the country will receive in the form of financial support, capacity building and technology transfer, the government will continue to collaborate with development partners and donor governments to implement its NDC.