WITHDRAW FROM COAL: Church, civil society, and energy advocates demand new decade’s resolution from PH banks

In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its special report on a global temperature rise of 1.5°C, which served as a wake up call that impacts of reckless emissions of the past are much worse than previously thought. But despite the horrors it brings, the 1.5°C rise from pre-industrial levels is already the best possible scenario still left for humanity, as it translates to a greater chance of survival for more climate-vulnerable communities and species in comparison to less ambitious or business as usual global pathways. The catch, however, the IPCC warned then, is that the world has roughly twelve years left to create a radical shift to low-carbon societies if we still want to grab ahold of the 1.5 lifeline.

The 12-year deadline required that the use of coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels, must be reduced from its 2010 levels by 78% in 2030, and to near zero by 2050. For climate vulnerable Philippines, this is not a matter that can be comfortably postponed or delayed. Typhoons of intensifying destructiveness visit the country in increasing frequency. Several major cities are poised to follow Atlantis and be claimed by rising sea levels. Food security is threatened by the depletion of natural and marine resources. In every direction, there is the appearance of an emergency that needs to be addressed NOW.

As the Philippines has been repeatedly identified as one of the countries most threatened by climate change, it must be taking the lead in making sure coal bids the world goodbye the soonest. Instead, and despite the recognition of our own government of the susceptibility of our country to the drastic effects of global warming, the Philippines continues to invest in coal as a source of power.

In and beyond the Philippines, coal power remains only because it is profitable to a very small segment of the population. It is the power of money which continues to threaten humanity with extinction through catastrophic climate change. It is therefore only appropriate to use the power of money to threaten coal power with extinction.

In the Philippines, 13 local banks have lent or underwritten US $6,303 million to coal interests from 2017 to 2019. BDO and BPI alone account for more than half of this enormous sum at 54.67%. These banks have not only been setting us up for greater disaster, they also failed to see that financing coal is toxic even to them.

As renewables continue to become even more viable, and as the global response to the climate crisis strengthens with the expected rise of policies restricting coal‘s playing field, coal is on its way to become mere stranded assets and liabilities. These banks, are only setting up trouble for themselves.

Already, we see hope. Since 2018, no new coal-fired power plant has entered into construction in the country, resulting in the delay or cancellation of as much as 4,054 MW of coal power. In July 2019, President Duterte in his State of the Nation Address commanded the government body responsible for overseeing the country’s energy sector, the Department of Energy (DOE), to “fast-track the development of renewable energy sources,” and to “reduce dependence on traditional energy sources such as coal” – a first pronouncement of its kind from a Philippine president in at least a decade.

The stage is thus ripe for decisive action to finally rid the world of coal power.

Today, the Church, civil society organizations, and advocates of clean energy gather to uphold the care of our people and our Common Home by urging Philippine banks still funding coal to cut off the funds which empower coal developers to continue poisoning the Filipino people and the environment. We call on the Filipino public, the depositors and shareholders of local banks, to join us in strangling the lifeblood of coal power plants in the country. Through this action, we can properly act to respond to the climate emergency we all face.

The beginning of 2020 mark the world’s entry into the last decade left to avert even more catastrophic climate change. We thus demand to Philippine financial institutions still keeping coal alive to withdraw their support to the ecological and climate crisis – to withdraw from coal.