The Philippines has committed to reduce its greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 75 percent under the Paris climate accord it ratified in 2017. This despite the fact that the country emitted an average of 1.98 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita in 2020, which was way below the global average of 4 MT per capita. Manila’s commitment was embodied in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which it communicated to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in April.
Of its GHG emission reduction target, the government said 2.71 percent is unconditional while 72.29 percent is conditional. “Unconditional,” according to the NDC, refers to policies and measures that can be undertaken using nationally mobilized resources, while “conditional” refers to the policies and measures that require support or the means of implementation under the Paris Agreement. The Philippines hopes to achieve its target by focusing on the sectors of agriculture, wastes, industry, transport and energy.
Of all the sectors that generate greenhouse gas, transport is considered the largest source of air pollution, accounting for 34 percent of total GHG emissions, according to the German Agency for International Cooperation or GIZ, which is an international enterprise owned by the German Federal Government operating in many fields across more than 130 countries. Road transport is considered the largest contributor, as it is responsible for 80 percent of the sector’s total GHG emissions. GIZ also noted that under the business as usual scenario, emissions from road transport could increase to 87 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030, nearly triple the 28.4 MtCO2e recorded in 2015.
Government must therefore fast-track efforts to reduce the GHG emissions of this sector if it wants to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement. In particular, government’s plan to raise the coconut methyl ester (CME) blend in diesel (See, “PHL mulls over hiking biodiesel blend to 4%,” in the BusinessMirror, June 21, 2021) should be pushed given its potential to help the country reduce GHG emissions from millions of vehicles. This measure is long overdue, as this should have been done six years ago as mandated by the Biofuels Act of 2006.
Data from the Land Transportation Office indicated that the country has a total of 11.85 million motor vehicles as of December 2020. While the figure is nearly 7 percent lower than the 12.72 million motor vehicles registered in 2019 due to the pandemic, the number of cars, buses, trucks, and sports utility vehicles spewing pollutants remains substantial. The use of biodiesel, particularly one that contains a higher CME content, would go a long way in reducing GHG emissions and improving the country’s air quality. A study conducted by the University of the Philippines-Los Baños indicated that the current 2-percent CME blend has already resulted in a GHG reduction of 1.3 percent.
Raising the CME content in biodiesel will not only protect the environment but also enable millions of local coconut farmers to benefit from the initiative. Demand for copra and coconut oil will increase and help stabilize the prices of the two commodities and other coconut-based products, which will then allow farmers to earn more from their crop.