(Concluded from yesterday)
Jessica Dator-Bercilla, Climate Change Advisor for Asia and the Middle East for Christian Aid, on the other hand, said that coal-fired power plants directly affect ecosystems on which many vulnerable populations depend on. She added that coal’s demand for water also competes with demand in water-scarce populations, particularly on small islands, while there is a devastating impact of air quality to the community’s health surrounding the coal plants.
“The government’s plan on coal expansion is not consistent with the country’s climate plans or sustainable development goal commitments. We need better policy-practice and coherence,” Bercilla said. “The government must remove policy barriers to fast-track investments in renewable energy especially in small island, off-grid areas in the Philippines.”
Gerry Arances, Director of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development, said the impacts of coal both through mining and coal plant burning brings multiple trouble to Filipino people. He said this evolves from the devastating impact of climate crisis caused mainly by burning of fossil fuels like coal plants, to air pollution that cause premature deaths among host communities due to upper respiratory diseases and hearth attacks, and loss of livelihoods amongst fisherfolk and farmers that are impacted by the toxic outputs of coal projects that either kill coral reefs or pollute plants through coal ashes.
“Most of the host communities of these coal projects are like ghost towns with high level of incidents of upper respiratory diseases. It leaves a glaring legacy of these coal projects that is now no longer killing slowly their host communities, but bringing to extinction the whole of humanity and other species due to the climate crisis which can only get worse,” Arances said.
For Arances, it is mind-boggling to see a government of the most climate vulnerable country in the world to be fueling further its demise by all its coal plant projects in the pipeline. He said that renewable energy in the Philippines is now very competitive to coal and fossil fuels in terms of prices and yet, government still supports corporations that are sticking to coal projects.
“We now have all the tools such as renewable energy policy, demand investment booming which now fuels reduction of its prices specially solar and wind, active consumers organization demanding for a shift. All the government needs to do is walk its climate talk. It should start doing what is climate necessary with haste and back its bravado stance,” Arances said.
But Climate Change Commission Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman said the government has been vigorously pursuing programs than could make our energy system more efficient and equitable, more secure and sustainable, adding that the comprehensive review of our energy policy is underway to inform policy reform and a just transition to a green energy sector.
“Apart from adaptation measures, scaling up renewable energy technology is the best alternative for the country to ensure that we meet our commitments in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” Secretary De Guzman said, adding that the Commission is in the process of updating the country’s National Climate Action Plan and the Nationally Determined Contributions to align to the 1.5 climate goal.
“Indeed, our NDC is all about adaptation, decarbonization, emission avoidance, and energy efficiency to reduce coal power generation. Let renewable energy grow exponentially,” De Guzman said.
Asian Development Bank President Takehiko Nakao told the participants of the Asia Clean Energy Forum on June 18 that the bank is undergoing a thorough review of its energy policy and to soon stop funding coal projects in Asia.
“We are now reviewing our energy policy. There are many changes so we should adjust our policies to address new reality. Lending to coal projects will be one of the very important issues. I don’t know whether we will totally dismiss the possibility of coal projects because in some countries, there’s no access to other options,” Nakao explained, adding that the last coal project supported by ADB was in 2013.
Nakao said ADB had started investing in clean renewable energy as part of its strategy 2030, which outlines the bank’s programs in the coming years.
“We don’t support coal anymore. We are now moving toward renewables in Asia. Asian leaders are paying attention to growth, development and climate change. We need to integrate more advance technology and better governance,” Nakao said.
Maybe in the long run, a holistic approach to the Philippines’ power system and shunning from coal could result in a truly carbon-efficient economy. However, the country’s ambitious renewable energy goals entail a lot of political challenge.
Imelda V. Abano is president of the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists.