Climate-vulnerable Philippines unveils its ‘ambitious’ climate action plan ahead of Paris talks

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Philippine EnviroNews, Manila, Philippines

Time is up. More than 140 countries beat the October 1 deadline in their joint goal to fight impacts of climate change through individual actions. This includes the Philippines, which submitted its post-2020 climate action plan to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), promising to cut 70% percent of its greenhouse gas by 2030 relative to its business as usual scenario from 2000-2030.

The country’s emissions reduction pledge will come from the energy, transport, waste, forestry and industry sectors.

Climate Change Commission Secretary Mary Ann Lucille Sering explained that the Philippines’ emission cut, however, is conditional, meaning it will be pursued only if sufficient financial resources, technology development and transfer, and capacity building will be made available to the Philippines after the Paris talks.

All 196 member countries of the UNFCCC were expected to submit their individual climate action plan called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) by October 1. So far, the submissions cover more than 80% of world emissions.

“The submission of INDCs by most countries is an indication of the willingness to arrive to an agreement to reduce emissions. Hence, climate finance plays a crucial part to the success of the climate talks in Paris in December,” Sering told the Philippine EnviroNews.

 

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Sering added that the decision to reveal a more ambitious but conditional climate action plan was a result of the marathon consultations with various sectors from government agencies, private sector, local experts and non-government organizations.

The INDC document stated that the full implementation of the Philippine INDC is contingent on the provision of all elements under the means of the implementation section. The Philippines still recognizes the leadership role of developed countries in addressing climate change.

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The country’s INDC priority measures include: institutional and system strengthening for downscaling climate change models, climate scenario-building, climate monitoring and observation; and rolling-out of science-based climate/disaster risk and vulnerability assessment process as the basis for mainstreaming climate and disaster risks reduction in development plans, programs and projects.

The climate action plan also called for the development of climate and disaster-resilient ecosystem(s); Enhancement of climate and disaster-resilience of key sectors – agriculture, water and health; Systematic transition to a climate and disaster-resilient social and economic growth; and Research and development on climate change, extremes and impacts for improved risk assessment and management.

The Philippines chairs the Climate Vulnerable Forum, an informal and non-negotiations bloc that campaigns for the ambitious 2 degrees Celsius global warming limit.

“A just, binding and transparent climate agreement at the Paris climate talks is important because of our goal to keep global temperature rise under 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius that we can no longer deter,” Sering told the Philippine EnviroNews.

The INDCs, comprising emission cut promises, adaptation measures and renewable energy targets, will form the basis of the climate negotiations during the UNFCCC 21st Conference of Parties in December.

Countries have agreed that there will be no backtracking in these national climate plans. It means that the level of ambition to reduce emissions will increase over time.

A mountainous task for the Philippines

The commitment of 70% reduction is a significant development for the Philippines, said Philippine Manager of the Climate Reality Project Rodne Galicha.

“Having less than 1% of the total carbon emission, this is indeed not only a gargantuan challenge for the government but for all sectors to cooperate and take action. This calls for a strategic approach and long-term commitments of parties to come up with strong climate finance agreements specifically on climate finance in the context of loss and damage, adaptation and mitigation,” Galicha told the Philippine Environews.

Galicha added that the inclusion of forestry challenges the policymakers to take a look on reforming laws on mining and land use while taking action on the loopholes of the implementation of the National Greening Program.

“As this ambitious commitment may imply, we must start the gradual and sustained phase out of coal-fired power plants, suspension of incentives and subsidies, thus, granting large incentives to renewable energy investments,” he said.

Renee Juliene Karunungan, Program Officer for Advocacy of DAKILA, said that as a vulnerable country, the Philippines’ must lead in addressing not only adaptation, but ensuring the path to a carbon-free future.

Although she said that the target is a welcome development, Karunugan said,” “From the initial draft of 10% carbon reduction last week, our commitments have gone up to 70%, where did these numbers come from and who were consulted regarding this data? While the set targets are high, we also want to see transparency in the formulation of our INDCs.”

Gerry Arances, National Coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, sees the submission of the Philippines’ climate action plan as a positive sign in the right direction of its intent to mitigate the country’s carbon emissions and contribute in a significant way in addressing climate change.

"The government has stated its intentions very clearly with its initial INDC submission. It seems ready to move out of coal altogether but is looking to international support to make this happen,” Arances told the Philippine EnviroNews. “ We know, however, that it is scientifically commercially and technically possible to leave coal behind and embrace a renewable energy fueled future where poverty is also addressed.”

Arances added: “We demand the start of the unconditional transition to a clean energy economy and we are taking up the challenge to engage a nationwide debate to determine how we can peak our emissions before 2030 at the same time as we over turn elite interests running the energy sector.”

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PMCJ acknowledges though that the PH government can do more, Arances said.

First, he said, the demand for climate finance for adaptation, mitigation, and loss and damage from developed countries must be explicitly and strongly stated, since it has been a demand of the Philippines and vulnerable sectors and communities in the country for a long time.

Second, PMCJ believes that conditional mitigation contributions are not enough and that there should be unconditional mitigation contributions.

“While we still demand that developed countries should take the lead in emissions reductions, the Philippines, as one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to climate change impacts, all the more must still do its part in mitigation actions and veer away from business as usual track, apart from the mitigation it will do with the aid of financing from developed countries,” he said. “ The Philippines has the capability to do this, with one way being to not to pursue coal-fired power plant projects currently in the pipeline from being operational.”

Lastly, Arances said, given that the INDC is supposedly nationally determined, communities and peoples from all over the country, including influential institutions such as the church have already expressed their opposition against coal and dirty and harmful energy projects and yet business-as-usual projections still include these. The sentiments of the people should have been easily reflected in our INDC since we also already have the Renewable Energy Law.”