Environment and energy think-tank tells PH policymakers: Study your climate science

An environmental think-tank on Friday urged Philippine policymakers to review what they know of the climate crisis, following a plethora of alarming scientific findings made available to the public this week.

The Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) said, the newly released coastal risk screening tool and the findings of a global network of 11,000 scientists are valuable additions to the existing pool of credible scientific material that should spur wide-spread changes in the way the country’s different sectors and industries are run and regulated.

CEED Executive Director Gerry Arances said, “Despite nearly two decades of participation in global climate talks, and despite being among the nations most vulnerable to climate-related risks, the Philippines has for the most part been following a development path that seems to perceive atmospheric circumstances as an irrelevant consideration. This is especially apparent in our energy sector. In 2018, 67% of our energy supply mix is composed of climate-change inducing fossil fuels. But rather than decrease or completely phase out coal as the 1.5 degree C goal demands, DOE’s 2017-2040 Philippine Energy Plan projects a 6.4% annual increase of coal supply in a business as usual scenario and a 5.3% increase in a clean energy one.”

These highly insufficient climate efforts need to change, argued Arances, with the new studies exposing the country’s even greater vulnerability than previously thought. According to the ‘World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency’ published on Tuesday, radical measures are necessary to save humanity from “untold suffering due to the climate crisis.“

“If today’s emissions are left as they are and if business-as-usual practices prevail, by the year 2050, many of the country’s shorelines are set to move inland not by mere inches or meters, but by breadths as wide as cities. 300 million people in the Philippines and around the world are residing in communities that are on their way to becoming Atlantises of the modern day,” he warned.

“That is why UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for an end to Asia’s coal addiction’ is timely. It is a re-echoing of what President Duterte said in his State of the Nation Address last July that the country must be fast-tracking renewable energy development and reducing coal dependence, except the government body whom the President was speaking to must have been asleep during the speech. Hopefully, Guterres’ statement and the recent studies would nudge the Department of Energy awake,” Arances added.

Scientists are not alone in their call for radical climate action. Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) and a Board Member of CEED, noted that the Church has been vocal in its call for “a transition to clean energy sources as a means of caring for our Common Home.”

“Science and faith have often been pitted against each other but today, as people from all walks of life unite in battling a threat whose terribleness the world has not faced before, so have the two. Pope Francis has, in the past, called for an end to destructive energy from fossil fuels through his well known encyclical Living Laudato Si; the CBCP repeated this call through their Pastoral Letter on Ecology that was released in July. The changes that science cries for now are also the cry of the Earth and the cry of those who wish to truly be stewards of His creation,” said Gariguez.

Atty. Avril De Torres, Research, Policy, and Law Program Head of CEED, added that with the impacts’ onset being well within the lifetime of many individuals living today, all sectors must now be one in seeking reforms that the climate emergency calls for.

“Many still refuse to recognize the urgency of cutting down emissions at unprecedented rates. Abroad, we just bore witness to America’s shameless declaration to withdraw from the Paris Agreement despite being among the biggest polluters globally. In the Philippines, we have an Energy Secretary who still thinks we need more coal to serve as a ‘bridge fuel’ in shifting to a clean energy future.”

“Now the recently published findings are telling us to unify our voices at scales that have not yet been seen to hold those responsible for the climate crisis accountable,” she said.

De Torres, who is also a convenor of the national youth group the Ecological Justice League, added that “a shift in the climate conversation is already long overdue. No longer should it be about whether we should mitigate our emissions, but about how we can transition to a net-zero carbon society at the required speed and scale.”

“Southeast Asia and the Philippines should now be shaking off their status as dump sites of coal. Any politician, any policymaker, who gets in the way of this and who instead chooses to protect fossil fuel profits are revealing themselves to be enemies of the people and the environment,” continued Arances.

“Science says that the benefits of already available solutions such as renewable energy sources are just waiting to be seen, and we must now tap into them.”