Search on for PH cities with best low-carbon, resiliency plans

MANILA, Philippines – The search is on for the most sustainable and climate-resilient city in the Philippines. 

Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) launched the Earth Hour City Challenge 2016 on Thursday, August 27, formally opening a call for entries from Philippine cities.

This is the first time the Philippines will be joining the Earth Hour City Challenge, a contest that started in 2011. Previous Global Earth Hour Capitals include Seoul in South Korea, Capetown in South Africa, and Vancouver in Canada.

At the end of the campaign, the winning city in the country will be named the National Earth Hour Capital. Philippine cities will also get a chance to be named the Global Earth Hour Capital, a title which cities from 20 other countries will be vying for.

Cities will be assessed for how ambitious their plans and actions for urban development are in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving the use of resources, and promoting green lifestyles among their citizens, Ria Lambino of WWF-Philippines said during the launch.

The campaign aims to highlight out-of-the-box ideas from cities with the goal of being more liveable and sustainable. 

“We invite Philippine cities to join, inspire others, and multiply the effect in terms of innovation,” said Lambino.

Submitted city plans will be evaluated by an international panel of judges composed of experts in the fields of climate change, sustainable development, and urban planning. (INFOGRAPHIC: 6 ways climate change will affect PH cities)

Aside from the chance of winning, participating cities will also benefit from feedback from the panel assessing their urban development plans. 

Urban carbon footprint

What kind of city is the jury looking for?

Cities that plan to invest significantly in renewable energy and lower their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will be at an advantage, said Gia Ibay, WWF-Philippines climate and energy program head.

Becoming a low-carbon city includes streamlining garbage management, enforcing the Green Building Code, cracking down on air pollution, and making transportation systems more efficient. 

The campaign is also looking for cities that, through their policies and programs, enable citizens to pursue lifestyles that have a small carbon footprint.

Interested cities have until September 15 to send their Expression of Interest to WWF-Philippines. Letters may be sent to ibellen@wwf.org.ph or faxed to (02) 426-3927.

WWF-Philippines and sustainability think tank ICLEI will help applicant cities fulfill data requirements of the Earth Hour City Challenge. 

The National Earth Hour Capital and Global Earth Hour Capital will be announced in April 2016.

Chance to go green

The need for sustainable cities has never been more apparent, say scientists.

Cities are hubs of growth and development, and thus have also become centers of consumption. Because of high population in cities, they are also areas of high risk for natural disasters. (READ: 8 of 10 world's most disaster-prone cities in PH)

Around 70% of carbon emissions already come from the world’s cities, according to WWF. This figure is expected to grow, given that by 2050, the number of people living in cities will almost double. 

Experts say that $350 trillion will be invested in urban infrastructure over the next 3 decades, mostly in developing countries in Asia.

These immense investments present a golden opportunity for cities to become sustainable. 

“Our battle against climate change will be lost or won in cities,” concluded Ibay.

The goal of the Earth Hour City Challenge is to convince cities to steer their investments and planning towards technologies, practices, or infrastructure that will lessen carbon emissions, conserve energy use, and promote green living.

Ibay said there are already many Philippine cities going in this direction. She cited initiatives like disaster risk reduction practices, use of wind farms, promotion of the Green Building Code, and water quality management.

There are also cities that regulate the use of plastic, enforce recycling of garbage, or hold car-free days in order to fight air pollution. 

“This challenge is not about having the most high-tech plans, but about commitment and innovative thinking that focuses on sustainable big-win solutions,” said Ibay. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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