CSOs to PH government: take leadership in decarbonizing ASEAN

After members of the Senate unanimously voted to pass the Paris Agreement last March 14, civil society groups challenged the Duterte administration to deliver on its commitments to reducing the country’s emissions and lead other countries in combating climate change and decarbonization.

This was expressed in a press conference organized by groups at the forefront of the campaign for climate justice and energy transformation, including Sanlakas, the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED), the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), Greenpeace, and the Green Thumb Coalition (GTC) this March 27, 2017 in Quezon City.

Paris commitment must be reflected in national energy policy
“While having its own share of flaws, the Paris Agreement obligates party governments to commit to a 1.5 degrees Celsius global temperature by shifting from dirty fossil fuel energy to renewable energy alternatives,” said Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, Secretary-General of Sanlakas.

“However, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) has yet to reflect this commitment, and its troubling pronouncements on continuing to rely on coal for the next decades, increasing indigenous coal extraction by 100%, and turning to nuclear energy only raises additional concerns, rather than being consistent with the Paris Agreement,” he added.

“Already, the Filipino people are threatened with death by coal from two fronts,” Pedrosa noted. “Not only is the Philippines the second most vulnerable country to disasters brought about by the climate crisis, of which coal use is the leading cause, the Filipino people also suffer directly from each stage of the coal life cycle, threatening their health, natural resources and livelihood.”

“We urge the DOE and the Climate Change Commission to push through with a national energy review, auditing the environmental, economic and social cost of ongoing coal operations,” Pedrosa stressed. He also encouraged the DENR to tighten its grip on enforcing environmental laws and revising its standards to align with current global standards.

Groups to PH gov’t: “Lead ASEAN in decarbonisation by example.”
The press conference also saw the public launching of “Boom and Bust 2017: Tracking the Global Coal Plant Pipeline,” an international assessment report of the coal situation across the globe.

“Overall, the number of coal-fired power plants under development worldwide saw a dramatic drop in 2016,” Gerry Arances of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) noted. “This is mainly due to shifting policies in Asia, including China’s decision to stop new coal plant projects and the decreased financing by coal plant backers in India. A record-breaking 64 gigawatts of coal plant retirements, equal to 120 coal-fired power plants, were also seen in the past two years, mainly in the European Union and the U.S.,” he added.

However, Arances warns, this shift is not seen to be the case in Southeast Asia. “The Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand are among the world’s ten biggest contributors to future coal expansion, accounting for 75% of coal power capacity under pre-construction development outside China and India,” he said. “Malaysia and Myanmar are also among coal’s biggest hotspots, contributing 10 GW of coal power in the pipeline,” said Arances.

“With the ASEAN Summit coming up this April, the Philippines is currently in an urgent position in leading the ASEAN countries to increase their ambition and commitment in reducing carbon emissions in the region,” Arances said. “We urge President Duterte to step up and follow through. The passing of the Paris Agreement is just the beginning, it is now his move.”

Actions against dirty energy to continue
The previous week has yielded global actions calling for the abandonment of fossil fuels, as part of the international Break Free Movement. In relation to this global call from coal and other fossil fuels, Sanlakas, PMCJ, Greenpeace and other active national and local groups have organized a number of mobilizations for the past week, which are set to continue this week.

This includes a mass action on March 29 in front of the DENR by residents of Limay, Bataan regarding the continued operation of the Petron and San Miguel Corporation power plants in the area. “Producing more than 250 tons of waste ash daily, the power plants have exposed the people of Limay to numerous cases of skin, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases,” he discussed. “Both corporations have refused to take responsibility for the effects of its reckless and unlawful coal ash-dumping and have even resorted to harassing the affected community and to spreading lies to the general public.”

“If the government only looks at the situation of coal-affected communities, it is clear that continuing on this dirty energy path is not realistic,” Pedrosa said. “We want the same ferocity in implementing regulations exacted by the government in mining operations to be seen in the case of dirty energy,” he added.

Following this, a day-long activity condemning the surge of dirty energy projects and showcasing the power of renewable energy will be led by these civil society groups on March 31st.