In the COP27 summit in Egypt held last month, the United Nations Environment Program reported that the world is way off the mark on international commitments to reduce emissions by 30 to 45 percent by 2030 and planetary temperature is headed for a 2.8 degree rise instead of the 1.5 degree committed in Paris.
For the Philippines, a country that does not even count when it comes to green house gas emissions, this means we have to brace ourselves for more destructive and unpredictable weather patterns that will further aggravate the already challenging trek to economic recovery from the pandemic crisis.
As one of the most vulnerable countries threatened by the impact of climate change, we have no choice but to build up our resilience and disaster response.
This is a responsibility that will need the collective participation of the whole society, a multi-stakeholder collaboration for sustainability with the government and most especially the private sector taking the lead.
I had the honor of being the program host of the Pilipinas Conference 2022 session on “Bolstering Private Sector Initiatives: Promoting Investment-led, Sustainable, Resilient Economic Growth” where the Department of Education and Natural Resources Secretary Ma. Antonia “Toni” Yulo-Loyzaga recognized the critical role of the private sector and called for the adoption of climate and disaster resilience into core business value cycles through investment strategies, enterprise risk-management, and integrate what she called environment, social, governance, resilience programs.
Secretary Loyzaga expressed the need to confront the climate emergency through comprehensive risk management that emphasizes evidence-informed prevention to reinforce disaster risk recovery planning over emergency response and presented three action points.
First is to establish a national risk registry that captures a multi-stakeholder horizon to ensure a shared understanding of risks to climate related and other hazards.
Second, a national natural resource geospatial base must be created.
And third will be to intersect these data as the basis for identifying scenario-based challenges to the goals of inclusive, resilient, and sustainable development and prioritizing strategies, laws, policies, and actions to respond to these situations.
Dr. Carlos Primo “CP” David, a Trustee and Program Convenor of the Stratbase ADR Institute and the Lead Convenor of the Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (PBEST) spoke on the value of ESG (environment, social, governance) to the common good and recognized that many companies have already have integrated these principles as a core deliverable.
He points out three private sector practices that government can learn from regarding ESG investments.
First is efficiency because of the nature of private enterprise to be viable to maximize profits citing the case of government’s national reforestation program which costs Php 44,000 per hectare with a 60 percent survivability rate compared to a leading geothermal power company’s reforestation program with lower cost of P30,000 and survivability rate of over 80 percent.
Second is scale where private sector ESG investments of only 1-5 percent of total budget sees its real value contribution expanding as the company grows.
Third is leverage. Private companies are influencing its partners and linked businesses to impose the same ideals on its suppliers thereby magnifying ESG investments several times over.
The best practices shared by the private sector panelists on environmental stewardship and how we should work together in the context of transitioning towards sustained economic recovery were both encouraging and enlightening especially their insights on the right policy environment needed to expand ESG investments.
Mr. Guillermo “Bill” Luz, Chairperson of Liveable Cities Philippines suggested that in the digitization budget for 2023 that instead of procuring hardware, procurement of software services should be allowed, and to work with the private sector in maintaining and updating digital services.
Mr. Rene “Butch” Meily, President of Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation warned of the looming water crisis and said that there needs to be more incentives for new buildings to build water catchments.
Mr. Raymond Ravelo, First Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer of Meralco also suggested more fiscal incentives to develop more clean energy sources and investing in renewable energy technologies.
Mr. Gerard Brimo, Vice Chairman of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines echoed the call to go beyond compliance and for consistent and stable policies to attract the large responsible mining companies to invest in the country’s mineral assets to meet the surging global demand for minerals essential to the growing digital economy.
Though climate change is a global threat that will need solutions on a planetary scale, being in the receiving end of the super typhoons generated by increasing temperatures will require urgent action from all sectors of our country.
The private sector being the driver of economic trajectory of which emissions is an unavoidable by-product is in the best position to lead and mitigate the cause and build resilience to the consequences of climate change.