Energy Research Institution Backs CCC Pronouncements on National Energy Policy Shift to RE, Stresses Need for Just Transition Programs

photo from  of The Philippine Star

QUEZON CITY — Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), an independent, non-profit, non-stock, think-do institution engaged in issues of the environment, energy, and development in the Philippines, expressed its support for the pronouncements on an energy policy shift as stated by the Climate Change Commission (CCC) during the commission-spearheaded National Energy Policy Review program held on September 28, 2017.

“The Commission’s strong emphasis on the need to make key shifts in the nation’s energy policy is a much needed tone in our government given the pressing climate realities we face today,” said CEED Legal Research and Policy Officer Avril De Torres.

“Without proactive policies on shifting current destructive trends in the energy and environment, the country cannot hope to see better environmental conditions for itself and achieve its Nationally Determined Contribution on emission reductions that it committed to as party to the Paris Agreement,” said De Torres.

“One such proactive policy direction is that which targets the fossil fuel industry, especially the coal industry. Policies such as the imposition of taxes on coal usage and on carbon emissions helps address the issue of high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change in general,” added De Torres.

De Torres cited numerous data that hold the combustion of fossil fuels, especially of coal, responsible for being the largest human source of carbon dioxide emissions. Quoting a 2016 study made by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commision, De Torres stated that coal combustion was responsible for about 46% of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, with 31% of which is emitted from coal-fired power plants.

“The fossil fuel industry is a major contributor to the global GHG emissions. Imposing an excise tax on coal and other such tax mechanisms on fossil fuel products would discourage dependence on fossil fuel,” said De Torres.

CEED Research Policy and Advocacy Officer Arvin Buenaagua claimed that a shift away from carbon-intensive energy sources not only reduces GHG emissions, but also helps reduce the costs of coal that burden a number of sectors, spanning from coal-affected communities to regular electricity consumers.

“Although not reflected in the price by which coal sells, coal comes with financial costs that are externalized and paid for by society at large. These costs could take many forms, such as rehabilitation costs and lost revenue from communities whose environmental resources and sources of income have been destroyed by the establishment of coal-fired power plants,” explained Buenaagua.

“This makes a proactive shift to cleaner and more sustainable energy sources imperative — especially as the Philippine renewable energy sector has been making great strides in driving down its costs and improving its technologies,” said Buenaagua.

Aside from the reduction of carbon emissions and prevention of further environmental destruction as caused by tapping into renewable energy sources, Buenaagua also cited significantly lowered electricity prices offered by a sprouting renewable energy market — prices that are projected to hit as low as below Php 5 per kWh.

While expressing concurrence with the Commission’s projected energy policy shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, CEED highlighted the importance of further developing a just transition program.

“A global transition to renewable energy is happening, at any rate,” said Buenaagua, citing countries like Sweden, Germany, and China where shifts from carbon-intensive energy are transpiring, “but it must be made conscientiously so as not to leave anyone behind.”

De Torres pointed out the lack of program that centered on groups most heavily affected by a shift away from the fossil fuel industry.

“The nascent Philippine just transition program, which includes RA 10771 or the Philippine Green Jobs Act of 2016, although enthusiastic in setting a landscape for a greener economy, overlooks workers and coal-affected communities who have served as the backbone of the fossil fuel industry and who are situated to be the backbone of this new, green economy,” said De Torres.

De Torres cited the growing, global movement of workers, situated in energy-shifting economies, demanding for a just transition program. If the government is serious in its shift away from the fossil fuel industry, it should heed transition concerns of workers.

“Just transition proponents have said this a number of times: a sustainable energy transition is a just transition,” said De Torres.

“We cannot hope to build a future ran by clean energy if we leave behind the very people who have been powering our economy,” concluded De Torres.