PH urged to drop coal for renewables

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THE government, energy sector, and consumers should act collectively, decisively and quickly to switch to low carbon options as the effects of climate change are now being experienced by everyone.

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Energy Development Corp. (EDC) president and chief operating officer (COO) Richard Tantoco said that notwithstanding the seeming lull offered by cheaper electricity prices, countries that have depended on coal plants as their main source of electricity have learned that such reliance can ultimately be very costly.

“On an ex-plant basis, coal may readily appear to be the cheaper option – especially with the recent crash in global coal prices – but what other countries may have saved in electricity prices by taking the fast and cheaper route, is quickly being eroded by the mounting social and environmental costs that they did not foresee or simply chose to ignore,” Tantoco said during the 1st Philippine Environment Summit.

“The truth is coal has costly externalities, way beyond the ex-plant price, and these have not been priced-in to the illusory ‘least cost’ equation,” Tantoco said.

Of the externalities, Tantoco cited a study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the environmental and health costs not included in the price of fossil fuels like coal, which amounted to $5.3 trillion for 2015 alone or about $10 million per minute. He also cited figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) on diseases and premature deaths that can be traced to outdoor air pollution caused largely by burning coal.

In terms of disasters, the Philippines and 19 other countries comprising the V20 — or nations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change — face an average of around 50,000 climate change-related deaths per year.

Tantoco said that number is expected to rise exponentially by 2030 and economically, the Philippines faces escalating annual losses of at least 2.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) potential per year, about P360 billion or P150,000 per person.

“The phenomenon that is climate change has never been territorial. It does not matter how much or how little carbon we emit today as a country relative to others — what should really matter is that the whole world recognizes that the Philippines will always be one of the hardest hit by the adverse impact of climate change, year after year,” he noted.

“That as a country with limited resources, our capacity to respond to emergencies, disasters and calamities has proven to be clearly inadequate. We cannot continue to live with this fact unaffected, and we have to make our choices and set policies sooner than later to stop this self-inflicted harm on both a national and global scale,” he said.

Tantoco said that the Philippine government’s commitments to the COP 21, or the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, including that of undertaking GHG (CO2e) emissions reduction of about 70 percent by 2030, is a critical step in the right direction, as he called on all sectors to rally behind the government to honor and be accountable for such commitments.

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