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Opinion: What the Philippines Can Learn from Morocco, Peru and Ethiopia

Jed Alegado (@jedalegado) is a climate justice activist based in the Philippines. He holds a masters degree in Public Management from the Ateneo School of Government. Chris Wright (@chriswright162) works for the Adopt a Negotiator project, part of the Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA).

NGOs call for an energy revolution at the Bonn talks. Credit: IISD

NGOs call for an energy revolution at the Bonn talks. Credit: IISD

MANILA, Jun 16 2015 (IPS) - (Last week, Australian Climate Activist offered an apology to the Philippines for his country’s lack of action. Today, he partners up with climate tracker from the Philippines Jed Alegado to talk about what the Philippines can do to show its leadership in tackling climate change.)

There has been a lot of pressure on the Philippines in the last week. Climate Change Commission Secretary Lucille Sering faced a senate hearing about the Philippines’ commitment to its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs.

Under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), INDCs were introduced in Warsaw in 2013 to hasten and ensure concrete climate action plans from countries.

We have already seen this year how cities like New Delhi and Beijing have become almost unlivable due to the dangerously polluted air. What will happen to the Philippines if it follows a similar path?

During the visit of French President Francois Hollande to the Philippines last February, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III announced that his country’s INDC will be submitted by August this year after he delivers his final State of the Nation Address. However, during the Senate hearing last week, Sering said that the Philippines aims to submit the INDC before the October 2015 deadline.

In an interview last month, civil society representative to the Philippine delegation, Ateneo School of Government Dean Tony La Vina, clarified the process conducted by the Philippine government for its INDC. According to La Vina,  INDC orientation and workshops were conducted among government agencies in January 2015. A technical working group was formed last March followed by stakeholder discussions last month which included civil society groups, key government agencies and the private sector.

For a country which has played a leadership role and has become a rallying point for the global call for climate action due to its former lead negotiator Yeb Sano and the Super Typhoon Haiyan which wreaked havoc in the central Philippines in 2013, there has been a lot of pressure for the Philippines to come up with a definitive and clear commitment for its INDC.

Last month, Sering announced that the Philippines’ INDC might focus on a renewable energy and low-carbon sustainable development plan: “low emission and long-term development pathway to involve private sector and other stakeholders”. Sering also said that the Philippines intends to increase the use of renewable energy.

However, last week, the Palawan Community for Sustainable Development gave the go-ahead to a company to construct a coal-powered plant in Palawan in the western part of the Philippines, often described as the country’s last frontier. Environmental NGOs based in the province have been trying to stop the construction of this 15-megawatt coal plant to be built by one of the major construction companies in the Philippines.

In the past two years, the government has also approved the construction of 21-coal powered projects despite the President Aquino’s declaration that the Philippines intends to “nearly triple the country’s renewable-energy-based capacity from around 5,400 megawatts in 2010 to 15,300 MW in 2030.”

In spite of these events happening in the Philippines, the second week of the Bonn intersession has also been characterised by developing countries who have stood proud and shown the world just what they can do to stop global warming.

Reform, Accountability and Ambition

It may therefore be timely for the Philippines to take some lessons from three recent INDC announcements that have each drawn great praise at the U.N.

Step 1: Reform

The first lesson comes from Morocco, which this week came out as the first country to address “fossil fuel subsidy reform” in their Climate Action Plan. As the first Arab country to make an international Climate Action Plan, they naturally shocked a lot of people.

However, when you dive into their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 32 per cent by 2030 compared to what they call “business as usual”, I guess it’s understandable that some of us are having apprehensions.

But what is good about their efforts is to “substantially reduce fossil fuel subsidies”. This is one of the truly ‘unspoken’ aspects of transitioning away from fossil fuels.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we need to stop using fossil fuels as soon as possible to keep us below two degrees of warming. In order to give Filipinos a chance at a safe future, we need a global phase-out of fossil fuels by 2050, and the first step to get there is to cut fossil fuel subsidies.

Globally, the IMF estimates that the fossil fuel industry receives 10 million dollars every minute. If the world is ever going to move into a fossil-free future, reforming these subsidies will be critical. This is one way the Philippines can show some real leadership with their Climate Action Plan.

Step 2: Accountability

Late last week, Peru publicly announced their Climate Action Plan. While they haven’t yet officially submitted it to the U.N., what they have produced is very impressive.

In developing their Climate Action Plan, Peru has carefully calculated exactly how much emissions they can cut based on a concrete number of projects which they clearly outline in the plan. As such, their plan to cut emissions by 31 per cent based on business as usual is backed up by 58 clearly outlined different mitigation projects.

This makes it very easy for Peru to ask for support from developed countries to help them improve on their commitments. In fact, they have even outlined how they can increase their emissions cuts to up to 42 per cent with an extra 18 projects.

While they haven’t made a specific ask for international assistance to meet this difference, this level of transparency could make it a very simple step in the future. What’s more, they have now opened this plan up to public consultations until July 17.

They will be holding workshops across Peru and asking a wide range of citizens what their views on the Climate Action Plans are.

If the Philippines want to ask for international support to help increase their ability to combat global warming, this level of international and domestic transparency will be a critical step to take.

Step 3: Ambition

It is definitely true that the Filipinos have not caused climate change. In fact, the Filipinos are among the smallest contributors to climate change per person. What’s more, the energy needs across the country are critical. But is coal really the answer?

With 26 coal plants planned over the next ten years, what will become of the air that everyone has to breathe? We have already seen this year how cities like New Delhi and Beijing have become almost unlivable due to the dangerously polluted air. What will happen to the Philippines if it follows a similar path?

One country seeking to link their development needs to combatting climate change is Ethiopia. Yesterday they released a Climate Action Plan which aims at a 64 per cent reduction on their business as usual predictions.

With 94 million people, and over a quarter of those in extreme poverty, Ethiopia is a great model for the Philippines to follow. They have focussed their emissions cuts around agricultural reform, reforestation, renewable energy and public transport. These are all reforms which are possible for the Philippines to also make.

Ethiopia is not simply giving in to a broken development model that relies on fossil fuels, but neither is it living a “green” fantasy. It is among the fastest growing countries in the world and the fastest growing non-oil-dependent African country.

With international support, it plans to double its economy while still achieving carbon-negative growth. This, Ethiopia believes, is best for not only for the health of its economy in the long term, but their people.

If the Philippines is going to show the type of global leadership it has strived for over recent years at the U.N. climate negotiations, there are three easy steps for them to take forward; Reform, Accountability and Ambition.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

 
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