Former US VP Al Gore to Pinoys: Continue 'moral crusade' vs coal

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines - Former United States vice president and environmental activist Al Gore on Monday urged sectors demanding government action on climate change to continue what he described as a “moral struggle” amid the Philippines’s continued support for coal-fired power plants.

Gore compared the climate movement to those who fought for the abolition of slavery, civil rights and the right of women to vote, saying such advocacies faced stiff resistance before they succeeded.

“Every great moral struggle in the history of humanity has met with no after no after no until finally when the question is ultimately resolved in a simple binary choice between what is right is what is wrong. The outcome became pre-ordained because of who we are as human beings,” Gore said during a two-hour lecture he delivered during the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training in Pasay.

“That is where the climate movement is today. There have been no’s after no’s after nos. People have tried to confused the issue people have tried to cloud the issue,” he added.

“But now because of the impacts of climate-related extreme weather and because of our understanding of what is happening, it has become a simple choice between what is right and what is wrong.”

Gore, founder of the non-profit group Climate Reality Project, said people should pressure their leaders to act on climate change despite efforts by skeptics to muddle the issue.

“A people’s movement from grassroots up (is needed) to confront the decision-makers for decision and leaders in making a choice for yes instead of no or right instead of wrong,” the former US vice president said.

“There are some who still doubt that we have the will to act but always remember, the will to act is in itself a renewable resource,” he added.

Gore noted that the Philippines is planning to build more coal plants despite the global shift to clean energy.

“We hope we will have an impact on this,” he said.

President Aquino is drawing flak from environment groups for allowing the construction of new coal-fired power plants, which has neem blamed for global warming.

The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice claimed the Aquino administration has been “deaf, mute and blind” to the impact of coal to communities. The government has justified the construction of coal-fired power plants, citing the high costs of renewable energy and limited technology that impede the harnessing of renewables.

Gore noted that while the Philippines experienced the most number of weather-related disasters in almost two decades, it remains a laggard in terms of using clean energy. He noted that 328 weather-related major events struck the country from 1994 to 2013.

However, the Philippines remains largely dependent on coal, the burning of which has been linked to climate change and extreme weather conditions.

Gore noted that coal constituted 29 percent of the Philippines’ energy mix in 2014. Oil made up 23 percent of the mix while hydroelectric and natural gas cornered 18 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

Geothermal comprised 10 percent of the mix while waste heat constituted four percent. Solar, wind and biomass, meanwhile, only comprised 2 percent of the Philippine energy mix.

Gore encouraged the Philippines to explore opportunities in solar energy, saying it is cheap and environment-friendly.

“It (solar energy) does not create pollution global warming, does not require any fuel. It’s all good – except the coal companies do not like it,” he added.

Gore said the cost of carbon is hefty as it can result in floods and mudslides, wildfires, drought, ecosystem loss, famine, water scarcity and sea level rise. He said climate change is also the “number one threat to global economy.”

“The need to act is indisputable,” Gore said.

“We can get rid of dirty fossil fuel. We need to put a price on carbon in the markers and put a price on denial in politics,” he added. 

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