Is the Philippines ready for climate action?

Renee Julienne M. Karunungan
Is the Philippines ready for climate action?
Do we have enough commitments to even reach our 2ºC target? And is the Philippines committing enough to leading the world into a carbon neutral future?

The Philippines, in its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), committed to a 70% carbon emission by 2030, based on a business as usual model. The INDC is every country’s commitment to mitigate carbon emissions and to lay out plans for climate change adaptation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The INDCs play a big role in tackling climate change and in ensuring that we stay below 2ºC of warming from pre-industrial levels. This target was set in 2010 during the Conference of Parties (COP) in Cancun.

However, scientific studies have said that even 2ºC of warming is already highly dangerous. The research, led by climate scientist James Hansen, together with 16 other scientists, say that 2 degrees of warming could cause sea level rise which will make most of the world’s coastal cities uninhabitable.

Currently, the world has already warmed at 0.8ºC from pre-industrial levels and the world has seen more catastrophic events in the past few years. Haiyan (Yolanda), the strongest typhoon to make landfall in history, claimed more than 6,000 lives in the Philippines. The India heat wave earlier this year caused the death of more than 2,500 people. Small island states such as Marshall Islands and Tuvalu have started looking for land in other countries for their people to live in as sea level has been making their islands sink.

These are only some of the climate impacts that have been affecting developing nations the most. Because of this, vulnerable, developing nations like the Philippines have called for an even higher target of 1.5ºC of warming. And it is through the INDC’s that we can calculate every country’s commitment to mitigating carbon emissions and see if we can reach the target we have set.

While we are currently set for a 2ºC target and hoping for a more ambitious 1.5ºC, 155 countries have already submitted their INDCs, the last one being United Arab Emirates (UAE). The question is, do we have enough commitments to even reach our 2ºC target? And is the Philippines committing enough to leading the world into a carbon neutral future?

According to a new report from the MILES Project Consortium, the current commitments will reduce a significant amount of carbon emissions but are still not ambitious enough to limit global warming to 2ºC.

The Philippines, for its part, has committed to a conditional 70% emission reduction by 2030. However, the document submitted by the Philippines does not show data or concrete action plans on how we will achieve this goal. So the question is, how do we plan to achieve this?

The Philippines has been investing in a lot of coal power plants. Only this year, the government approved more than 50 new plants to be constructed in the next few years.

“For us to achieve this 70% mitigation, we need to start putting caps on coal power plants. We may need to do everything on the checklist of every environmentalist,” Tony La Viña, a Philippine negotiator, said.

Even the UAE, who doesnt have a concrete emissions target in their INDC, has at least committed to 24% clean energy by 2021. Meanwhile, Philippine plans for mitigation remain to be unclear. But certainly, this cannot be achieved by continuously approving coal power plants.

“We need to quickly move away from unabated coal generation. We need to phase out green house gas emissions and it will require temendous transformation in the way we provide electricty,” says Kelly Levin of the World Research Institute.

“Coal is not going to be the future if we are going to achieve emission trajectories to be in line with a 2 degree target,” Levin adds.

No doubt that the 70% commitment of the Philippines to mitigate carbon emissions is ambitious. However, this 70% ambition will only remain as an ambition without clear plans on how to achieve this target, and without political will to stop coal power plants from being built. If we are indeed sincere in achieving this target, policies will have to change in favor of the environment instead of corporations. Are we ready to make this shift? – 

Renee Juliene Karunungan, 25, is the communications director and climate justice campaigner for Dakila. She is also a climate tracker for Adopt A Negotiator.

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