by Jonathan Mayuga, 8 May 2016
Business Mirror > Features > Green
With President Aquino ending his six-year administration by the end of June, environmental and climate-justice advocates are hopeful that the next administration will give a closer look at the country’s energy policy of shifting from fossil fuel-based to more environment-friendly renewable-energy (RE) sources.
Faced with the challenge of sustaining economic growth, the next administration is also faced with an even tougher challenge of fulfilling an ambitious target to reduce the country’s carbon emission by 70 percent by 2030, a promise made under the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution that was submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in the Paris conference in December 2015.
On April 22, highlighting the country’s celebration of Earth Day, Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje signed the Paris Agreement in New York in behalf of President Aquino, affirming the country’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint to help limit global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, or at least to 1.5°C, at best, in the next 14 years.
While plausible, environmental and climate-justice advocates seriously doubt that such carbon emission-reduction target is achievable, considering the current procoal-energy policy. They are pinning their hopes on the next administration for the country to break free from coal and shift to RE.
Arguably, they said coal may be cheap and quick to put up, but the cost to people’s health and environment makes it the most expensive source of energy, far worse than the cost of putting up RE plants, such as hydropower, geothermal and, perhaps, the most cheapest and supply abundant, solar plants.
On May 4 a nationwide campaign against coal kicked off in Batangas City. About 10,000 marchers echoed calls against coal and the shift to clean RE. They called out the country’s next leaders to take the lead for a more environment-friendly development paths, starting with sourcing clean energy and scrapping fossil fuels.
The event, organized by Piglas Pilipinas, a coalition against coal, was part of the global Break Free from Fossil Fuels 2016 campaign to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground.
The local campaign aims to enjoin people in affected communities to make a stand against coal-fired power plants, highlighting its adverse impacts on people’s health and environment vis-à-vis the threats of climate change, which are considered by scientists as the most serious threat to human existence.
Organizers vowed to launch similar activities in the next few days to rally the people in areas with existing, expanding and approved coal-fired power-plant projects as “a show of force” against coal and other sources of dirty energy.
There are 19 existing coal-fired power plants in the country, and 27 more are in the pipeline. After a law promoting renewables was signed on December 16, 2008, the share of RE in the country’s energy mix had decreased by 5 percent. In the next six years, this is expected to further shrink by 5 percent, with its share being eaten up by coal—unless the next administration takes a bold step to reverse the trend, the group’s organizers said.
Piglas Pilipinas 2016, which is composed of religious leaders, environmental and climate-justice activists, told the BusinessMirror on Thursday the successful Batangas City event highlighted the growing opposition against coal-fired power plants, particularly against the proposed 600-megawatt coal plant of JG Summit Holdings in Barangay Pinamucan Ibaba, Batangas City.
Organized by the Archdiocese of Lipa, led by Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, the event called “Piglas Batangas, Piglas Pilipinas” kicked off a series of anticoal peaceful protest actions in the Philippines and other parts of the world.