The time has come to break free from fossil fuel
There has never been a more appropriate time for us to step up and make an impact against climate change. As mankind enters a critical point in its history, people around the world are letting their voices be heard for a sustainable future.
From May 3 to 15, over 30,000 people across 6 continents participated in the “Break Free from Fossil Fuels” campaign, which calls for the end of fossil fuel-related projects in their respective countries.
The Philippines has actively taken part in this initiative. On May 4, around 10,000 environment advocates staged a march in Batangas City to oppose the approval of the proposed 600-MW JG Summit coal plant in the area, as well as calling for a national transition to green energy.
“Now is a great time to organize the Break Free wave of actions as it was meant as a challenge for world leaders after the Paris agreement signing last April and before the next round of climate negotiations," according to Denise Fontanilla of the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development, which helped organize the event.
In its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, the Philippines has committed to reducing its emissions by 70% by 2030, a difficult target to achieve if it proceeds with the approved proposal of installing 29 more coal-fired power plants within the next two decades. The election of Rodrigo Duterte, a staunch coal supporter, to the presidency creates a tougher environment for climate advocates to push for the end of fossil fuels in the country.
While the Philippines is a minor contributor to the total carbon dioxide emissions, our leaders have no excuse to not support the rapid shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, especially with the rest of the world taking this leap. Developing nations such as Bangladesh and Kenya have seen their governments actively support the growth of solar energy to provide clean energy to communities without access to their respective power grids.
'Walk the talk'
Despite the unanimous agreement that our use of fossil fuels have primarily caused global climate change, some policy makers, especially those in the Philippines, continue to regard them as a necessary evil. As a result of a lack of foresight, political will, and comprehension of science-based evidences, they have effectively created economies dependent on dirty energy, which the rest of the world is moving away from.
As the Philippines has pioneered some of the most well-written environmental laws in the world and is active in climate negotiations, this makes it more disappointing to see its leaders contradict their mandated duty to ensure the welfare of its citizens and protect its territories and resources.
“While we have been so active in negotiations, we have to match it with actually protecting and conserving our environment. We have all the progressive laws and policies, but the problem is implementation," said Socorro Rodrigo, a youth representative for the Philippine delegation at COP 21 last December.
Poverty, food security, and regional conflicts are some of the major issues that the Philippines needs to solve. Yet incidents from Tacloban to Kidapawan has shown that all of these problems will be worsened by the impacts of climate change, and the poorest and most vulnerable will suffer the worst of these consequences.
The big leap
The Break Free campaign is an example of the impact of an empowered civil society in influencing decision-making processes.
The concept of civil society rests on the principle of having equal rights, including the right to a better life. The government that we created has the legal and moral responsibility to protect our rights and ensure that we have the opportunities to exercise them. If it fails to fulfill its obligations, we as a society have the power to instigate the change that would make our lives and those of future generations better.
We need to convince the private sector to commit their investments towards renewable energy. We have seen technological breakthroughs that revolutionized the way we live, from light bulbs to mobile phones.
This was made possible by the inflow of investments to their development and the decline in their costs, which allowed developing nations to leap over old existing technologies and subscribe to them. Renewable energy technologies are currently exhibiting these same trends globally, and the Philippines needs to capitalize on this development sooner than later.
Most importantly, we need to educate ourselves and others about fossil fuels and renewable energy. We can organize presentations to different localities to increase their awareness. We can help them raise their concerns to their local governments regarding how coal plants are affecting their communities.
Even simple habits such as saving electricity and riding public transportation can make a huge difference in terms of carbon emissions. No matter what your profession, social status, or age is, each of us has a role to play in this green revolution.
As the world awaits the ratification of the Paris agreement, it is up to us to influence our governments to break free from fossil fuels towards a sustainable future before it is too late. To not take this leap is a moral mistake that we simply cannot make. - Rappler.com
John Leo Algo is a graduate student and climate researcher who also volunteers for WWF Philippines, the Haribon Foundation, and the Manila Observatory. He recently completed the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training hosted by Al Gore from March 14 to 16 in Manila.