Powering Progress Together 2016: Collaboration for a sustainable future

All images courtesy of Shell Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Lasting change cannot happen without collaboration. 

This was the overarching theme for Shell’s 2016 Powering Progress Together Forum, which was held last Thursday, March 3 at the Fiesta Ballroom of the Manila Hotel. 

This is the 3rd and last time that Shell is hosting the Asian leg of the forum in Metro Manila. Climate change experts as well as advocates on sustainable development from the academe, business, and both non-government and government sectors gathered to discuss how the world and the Philippines can take concrete steps towards a more resilient future.

As expected, the COP 21 deal was a major focus throughout the forum. Most of the day’s presentations and panel sessions addressed the pact to keep the global temperature rise this century to below 2 degrees Celsius.

Energy transitions and climate challenge 

The morning sessions began with panelists saying that climate change cannot be addressed overnight. “This is a century-long journey,” said David Hone, Shell’s Chief Climate Change Adviser.

In his opening presentation, Hone proposed that the most sustainable way to reduce global warming isn’t just to get rid of fossil fuels, but to maintain a good mix of energy sources that can address society’s ever-increasing needs. According to Hone, this mix includes fossil, nuclear, bioenergy, solar, wind, and other forms of energy.  

He also raised the benefits of putting a price on carbon. One way of doing this is through carbon taxation, a practice where a price is attached to carbon emissions as a disincentive. According to  his fellow panelists Dr. Edvin Aldrian, vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, along with Department of Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada, the existing carbon-pricing scheme used in Europe might not be as effective for the Philippines and other South East Asian countries.

For Aldrian and Monsada, the best model for the region would be a mix of adjusted carbon-pricing schemes and something similar to China’s cap-and-trade system, but with a different pricing level.    

WIDENING HORIZONS. Atem Ramsundersingh encourages the audience to think beyond what they can imagine

WIDENING HORIZONS.

Atem Ramsundersingh encourages the audience to think beyond what they can imagine

Low-carbon technologies

Atem Ramsundersingh, CEO of WEnergy Global, started his presentation with an activity. He had the audience stand up and reach their hand out in front of them and turn their body around up to the farthest point they can reach. Then, he instructed them to close their eyes, imagine that point, and go even further. Finally, he asked everyone to open their eyes and physically point at that new spot. 

In doing this, Ramsundersingh illustrated how people tend to limit themselves and not go beyond the norm. He said that with a little alignment and understanding, we could think outside the box and create life-changing innovations. 

This was his philosophy while working on the Sabang Project, an ambitious effort to provide clean, low-carbon energy to Barangay Cabayugan in Puerto Princesa. Consisting of a solar power plant, the largest clean battery pack in South East Asia, diesel generators, and a 15km smart grid, the Sabang Project’s goal is to supply 24/7 power to about 650 residences, hotels, and other businesses in the area, which began to thrive from the tourism generated by the Underground River, one of the New7Wonders of Nature.

Henry Abreu presented his company, TALINOev, as another case study. TALINOev develops electric vehicles for mass transportation in dense megacities, using innovative software and hardware that optimizes electric vehicle performance and enables sustainable public transport business models. 

For Abreu, the widespread use of clean energy can only be possible if it meets the primary needs of the end users – those who ride jeeps, tricycles, and tuk-tuks. In other words, aside from being good to the environment, e-vehicles also need to be efficient, affordable, and fast.

WORKING TOGETHER. Mayor Del De Guzman, Rafael Lopa, and Guillermo Luz discuss the importance of collaboration between the public and private sector

WORKING TOGETHER.

Mayor Del De Guzman, Rafael Lopa, and Guillermo Luz discuss the importance of collaboration between the public and private sector

Collaboration in action

The afternoon panel, which consisted of Rafael Lopa, Executive Director of the Philippine Business for Social Progress, Del De Guzman, Mayor of Marikina City, and Guillermo Luz, Private Sector Co-Chairman of the National Competitiveness Council of the Philippines, discussed the importance of collaboration between public, private, and civil society sectors. 

De Guzman shared Marikina’s efforts to raise environmental awareness among its citizens. This is done through policies and projects like mandatory trash segregation for all households, a rainwater harvesting system for toilet facilities and potable drinking water, and Marikina’s bike lane, which is currently the longest bike lane system in the Philippines. 

For Luz, one area on which the local government, national government, and private sector can work on together is the development of better cities. “In 2050, up to three fourths of the world’s population will live in urban areas versus only one third in the 1950s,” he said.

He further adds that cities are the “growth drivers of an economy,” but the Philippines still has much to do to make its urban areas more livable, competitive, sustainable, and resilient. The challenge is to create more developed cities in all regions and facilitate progress beyond Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao. “We need to disperse the growth across thirty, forty, fifty cities,” Luz said. 

Finding inspiration from art and faith 

For Daan Roosegaarde of Studio Roosegaarde, we can take inspiration from art, science, and the environment to make an advocacy more personal, relatable, and moving. 

He shared as an example the Van Gogh Path in the Netherlands, which is a bicycle path lined with solar-powered glowing pieces. Designed by Roosegaarde’s studio, it connects Vincent van Gogh's heritage locations in Brabant, the artist’s hometown, and was inspired by Starry Night, the artist’s most famous work.  His most recent project that went viral is the Smog-Free Tower, which produces smog-free bubbles of public space, allowing people to breathe and experience clean air for free. Roosegaarde compresses the carbon collected from the air and produces tangible souvenirs like smog-free jewelry.

In his inspirational keynote, Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, Trustee of The Manila Observatory and President of Ateneo de Manila University took it a step further by saying that more than just enjoying the beauty and resources the world has to offer, we must learn to create it ourselves. “We cannot just raid the table of life, we need to create with nature, with one another; we have to build bridges,” Villarin said. 

He added that it’s not through fear of climate change or the end of the world that we can address environment concerns. He said: “Fear is never a lasting motive; I think in the end it is love that will bring us together.” 

Coming together

The Powering Progress Together forum is organized by Shell as a platform for different sectors to come together to discuss challenges as well as innovative solutions for a more sustainable future.

Sankie Simbulan, Shell Philippines Exploration Social Performance Manager and Lead for the 3-year forum in Manila from 2014-2016 shared: “We all have unique gifts to share and when these are all put together, combined with a spirit of persistence and optimism, we can build a better world. That is the true essence of solidarity, of bayanihan. This is an advocacy that we hope the 3-year conference has inspired, a legacy that this forum on resilience and collaboration leaves behind among those it has reached."

You can watch the entire forum in the playlist above. – Rappler.com