THE Paris Agreement will be a powerful pillar toward that Duterte goal—a strongly industrialized but healthy nation. Ultimately, its impact would allow Filipinos to study, live, work, and enjoy cleaner cities with healthier environment.
The challenge is to pursue massive industrialization while simultaneously protecting our people—the Philippines being identified as the most vulnerable country in the world—from the disastrous impacts of climate change, most especially the threatened sectors (agriculture, industry, environment, people) that have significant contributions to the growth of our economy.
The Paris Agreement works on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). The premise is that all nations—developed or developing, large or small—emit varying amounts of greenhouse gases. Different countries would therefore take on different kinds of actions to reduce emissions based on their capabilities and current economic circumstances.
Anchored on the CBDR Principle, honoring the Paris Agreement is both a moral and legal obligation of all 197 member nations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), of which the Philippines is a member. This principle compels us to share in the upkeep of the UN, the same principle why every Filipino who earns an income pays taxes, in varying percentages based on their rate of income, to support the government. Our country will be most comfortable with this principle because it largely reflects the “bayanihan” spirit in the Filipino culture.
In any rate, the Philippines has long been engaged in a wide variety of mitigation programs to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions; these include solid waste management, reforestation, air-pollution reduction—in our energy, transport, industry, and agriculture (without compromising food security) sectors—and imposing new standards and green technologies in the building sector.
The low-carbon program is an essential strategy for stimulating the economy, creating more jobs and moving us rapidly to a clean-energy future. Investments toward reduced carbon-dioxide emissions would spur growth in a broad range of manufacturing sectors and environmental services, as is already experienced by countries that pursue massive renewable energy investments.
The Philippines is luckily abundant in alternative energy, from solar and wind to hydro and geothermal. The country is the second-biggest producer of geothermal power in the world. We are in the equator, where the solar radiance is consistent and most powerful. We have all the opportunity to tap and deploy abundant, readily available, cheap, alternative energy.
Coal seems to be the cheapest energy source in the market. However, once the externalities of coal are factored in—such as the costs of pollution and healthcare—the price of coal would be extremely high and uneconomic. In fact, there is now a worldwide cry to price carbon appropriately, apply corresponding taxes, and remove subsidy that makes carbon artificially cheap. We should be transparent and candid about the terrible burdens that coal imposes on our environment and the health of our people, especially the poor who are the most vulnerable. It will be the morally right thing to do.
We must help shape the policy instruments to overcome the barriers. Government should provide benchmarks and incentives for industries, schedules of renewable energy coming into stream and proactive policies to promote new technology and green growth. It will also be essential to mobilize public and private financial resources to cut emissions without undermining the country’s economic growth.
The Philippines commitment of a 70 percent emission reduction is conditioned on financing resources, technology development and transfer, and capacity building. The 70-percent commitment will be a slow transition up to the year 2030. All INDC of the 197 signatory nations to the Paris Agreement will be subjected for review every five years and will be continuously updated, depending on economic growth and development.
The agreement makes clear that developed countries will continue to provide and mobilize the UN Green Climate Fund to support developing countries, with developed countries agreeing to continue their 2020 commitment of mobilizing $100 billion a year, at least until 2025.
The Philippines should be able to tap on this fund as a vital component to help us with our industrialization. Honoring our commitment will send the right signals to the international community engaged in technological and financial support systems that we are committed to cooperate for the welfare of the global community.
The author is a former senator, environment secretary, and vice chairman of the Climate Change Commission.