Philippines vows to reduce emissions by 75%, mostly conditioned on aid

The Philippines finally submitted to the United Nations (UN) its target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 75% by the year 2030.

The target, called the country's Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), was submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on Thursday, April 15, as seen in the organization's website.

The Philippines promises to cut down its GHG emissions by 75% from 2020 to 2030 compared to the business-as-usual scenario of that same time period.

However, only 2.71% of this is an unconditional target, meaning the government commits to make this reduction using its own resources, with or without external aid.

The remaining 72.29% reduction would only be met if the Philippines is provided assistance from the international community.

Here is the NDC:

Before this final NDC, the Climate Change Commission had proposed an even smaller target for unconditional GHG emission reduction – 2%. They presented this to environmental and climate justice groups back in February.

But in December, the commission had floated an even less ambitious target – cutting emissions by 30% by 2040. Of this, 20% reduction would be conditional on foreign aid while 2% would be unconditional reduction.

Environmental groups had slammed the proposed NDC as "shameful," leading the commission to return to the drawing board and come up with a more acceptable target.

The submitted NDC is now closer to the initial pledge made by the Philippines in 2015 during the landmark Paris UN climate conference – 70% emissions reduction by 2030 compared to its business-as-usual, entirely conditional on aid.

What do environmental groups say?

Still, environmental groups are not satisfied. When the final NDC version was presented to them on February 13, a coalition of groups called the 2.71% unconditional reduction target "negligible."

"With a measly unconditional target despite having a high mitigation potential, and with barely any articulation of how it plans to secure climate financing, the Philippines seems to have no qualms in turning a blind eye to climate realities and going about business-as-usual ways," said the Power for People Coalition, composed of 26 groups including Alyansa Tigil Mina, Greenpeace Philippines, and Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.

Meanwhile, another joint statement of green groups welcomed the higher overall reduction target but asked for more transparency on how the government came up with the conditional vs unconditional figures.

They also said that the large chunk of reduction target hinged on aid "signifies the intent to use the NDC as a tool for negotiating for the means of implementation necessary to implement the measures and policies under the PAMS (policies and measures) list, including access to available modes of finance such as the Green Climate Fund," said the groups.

The Power For People Coalition, whose members include anti-coal groups, called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to more aggressively cut emissions from the power sector.

Rex Barrer of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities was more optimistic, saying that despite the "frustration" over the low unconditional mitigation target, his group is hopeful that the DOE will "continuously update its pledge as reflected in the current effort to improve on the Philippine Energy Plan."

The Philippines is one of the last countries party to the 2015 Paris climate change agreement to submit their first NDCs. As of writing, 192 out of 196 parties have submitted. Meanwhile, eight countries have already submitted their second NDCs.

The UN previously asked countries to file their climate pledges by the end of 2020. The Philippines, through the Climate Change Commission, had earlier targeted to submit on December 31, 2020. When it failed to do this, it aimed to file in February but failed again. – 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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