A DEAL to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees celsius had been reached at the recently concluded climate change summit in Paris. But the world’s climate scientists and activists aren’t optimistic that the deal can hold governments to agreed emission quotas, pointing out that many world leaders are quick on self-aggrandizing promises but fall short on the political commitment to deliver. One such leader is PNoy.
In his speech during the Climate Vulnerable Forum chaired by the Philippines, PNoy called for the full decarbonization of the world economy by shifting to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and zero emissions by mid-century in order to halt global warming. He boasted before world leaders how the Philippines “continues to pursue vital reforms to address climate change,” adding that that his administration was “willing to share [its]experiences, knowledge and best practices” with other nations.
PNoy also bragged about how our country is “increasing the share of renewables in [its]energy mix, which now accounts for 33 percent of the mix,” and how he “put in place the policies and legislation…to address climate change as far as our resources will allow.”
In reality, PNoy never really put his money where his mouth is, because up to now, his administration has not done anything substantial to wean the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. In fact, PNoy is doing exactly the opposite.
What PNoy conveniently forgot to mention in his speech before the 21st UN Conference of Parties (COP21) is that his administration had approved the construction of 45 coal-fired power plants (CFPPs), on top of the 13 CFPPs that are already operational. And to ensure a stable supply of fuel for these power plants, the Aquino administration has granted some 118 coal mining permits throughout the country.
At the rate we’re going, we will have more coal plants than natural gas and renewable-energy power plants due to the slew of approvals by the Aquino administration for coal projects.
Coal currently generates about 42 percent of our electricity, with the rest coming from locally-sourced natural gas and renewables. But with coal-fired plants soon to become the backbone of Philippine power generation, our coal generation share will be over 75 percent by 2030, according to HIS, a global consultancy and energy think tank – and if not arrested sooner, the highest coal share in Asia.
PNoy’s preference for traditional power generators like coal-fired plants has not waned, notwithstanding intense opposition from environmental groups, church workers, human rights advocates, and affected communities.
Apparently, PNoy’s unforgettable line from his 2013 State of the Nation Address still rings true: “Magtatayo ka ng wind; paano kung walang hangin? Kung solar, paano kung makulimlim? (You’ll build wind power generators, but what if there’s no wind? If solar, what happens if the sky’s overcast?)”
In an interview with BBC at the sidelines of COP21, PNoy defended the construction of new coal-fired power plants amid his plea for other nations to address the effects of climate change. Citing the lack of gas-importing facilities and the high cost of renewable, he says other choices like natural gas and renewables, are still not the best options for our country.
Attempting to reconcile his obviously contradictory stance to reducing carbon emissions while at the same time, accelerating the construction of coal-fired plants, PNoy says that “what [his administration’s]trying to do is ensure that [the country has]the most modern coal plants that are in existence.”
But coal is still coal, modern plants or not. PNoy is ignoring not only the true cost of coal on people’s health but also how coal contributes most of the carbon emissions that is fuelling climate change.
PNoy need not look far to see the effects of pollution and climate change caused by the appetite for fossil fuels.
Our neighbor to the north (and PNoy’s favorite nemesis), China, issued a “red alert” – its highest level pollution alert – for the first time around 2 weeks ago. For three days, city officials restricted the operation of factories, schools shut their doors, cars with odd and even-numbered license plates were alternately ordered off the road, and Beijing residents were told to wear face masks outside.
Various studies have estimated that the economic impact of China’s pollution is costing the country upwards of $100 billion a year. Most of China’s carbon emissions come from burning coal to heat homes and fuel power plants, with its rural areas burning more coal than all of Europe combined.
Closer to home, climate change is creating super typhoons like Yolanda. With its 195 mph winds and 13 foot storm surges, it is the first storm of this magnitude to ever make landfall. It wrought havoc throughout central Philippines, causing widespread damage estimated at $10 billion. Two years after its onslaught, Typhoon Yolanda’s death toll is still unknown, with skeletons still being unearthed to this day.
Clearly, when it comes to climate justice, PNoy talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk, much like his touted “daang matuwid” governance.