Philippines' scaled-down climate commitment called 'underwhelming, shameful'

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Philippines' scaled-down climate commitment called 'underwhelming, shameful'
An aerial view shows destroyed and flooded houses after super Typhoon Goni hit the town of Malinao, Albay province, south of Manila on November 1, 2020.
AFP / Charism Sayat

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is proposing to lower its commitment in cutting carbon emissions by 2040, a move criticized by climate and environmental groups as “underwhelming” and “inadequate.”

A draft text of the country’s first Nationally Determined Contributions, provided by Aksyon Klima over the weekend, states that the Philippines aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emission by 30% by 2040, with at least 2% of these reductions to be done unconditionally.

An NDC is how governments plan to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Parties to the Paris Agreement are requested to submit the NDCs by 2020 and every five years thereafter.

“The Philippines commits to a projected GHG emission reduction and avoidance of 30% by 2040 from its business-as-usual scenario for the agriculture, waste, industry, transport, forestry and energy sectors,” read the draft text prepared by the Climate Change Commission.

The pledge, expected to be submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by yearend, includes a projected net GHG emission reduction of 185.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent through measures implemented unconditionally with domestic resources.

Lower than 2015 commitment

The target, presented to government agencies and civil society groups last December 23, was lower than the Intended NDC in 2015 of cutting carbon emission by 70% by 2030. The initial emission reduction target was conditional on assistance from the international community.

The draft NDC also sets an aspirational target of at least 15,000 megawatts of additional renewable energy capacity by 2030. At least 10,000 megawatts of additional renewable energy capacity would be added by 2030.

CCC Vice Chairperson Emmanuel De Guzman said the NDC “advances our national interest."

"It supports the country’s national development objectives and priorities of sustainable industrial development, poverty eradication, energy security, social and climate justice, and transformation of our social economic sector into a climate resilient and low carbon economy," De Guzman said during the December 23 consultation.

‘Embarrassing’ climate commitments

The Philippines is identified as among the most vulnerable countries to the catastrophic impacts on climate change.

For it to lower its climate pledge from a previous 70% conditional commitment in its Intended NDC five years ago “will embarrass the country before the international community,” seven organizations said in a joint statement over the weekend.

These include Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, Youth Strike for Climate Philippines, Green Thumb Coalition, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy and Global Catholic Climate Movement Pilipinas.

"We express our extreme concern, disappointment and collective scorn with the latest draft NDC text as it does not indicate sufficiently high ambition for the Philippines’ climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies and undermines the ‘whole-of-government-and-society’ approach that the Philippine government itself has been implementing in pursuit of sustainable development," the groups said.

Gerry Arances, executive director of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development, said the emission reduction target was a “let down” from the 70% goal and “simply forgoes the 1.5°C Paris goal which the Philippines and nations similarly vulnerable to climate impacts painstakingly negotiated for.”

"The future of Filipinos will be inevitably impacted by climate mitigation and adaptation efforts and demands in the NDC,” he added.

Paris Accord

Under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, global warming must be limited well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels while pursuing efforts for a tougher ceiling of 1.5°C.

The organizations also said the peaking year for the country’s GHG emissions must be set way before 2030. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, UN’s climate science advisory panel, said carbon dioxide pouring into the atmosphere must be halved by 2030 and reach “net zero” by mid-century if the goal of 1.5°C is to be met.

"The draft NDC text falls short by setting 2030 as the peaking year and only as an aspirational target, with no indication that an ambitious strategy toward attaining this goal will be pursued," they said.

De Guzman said that enhancement on the NDC would be pursued in the coming years to reflect increasing ambitions and include specific policies and measures for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“In the next iteration of the first NDC, the 'enhanced' version, or any other version, we expect that more details on climate-related investments, promoting sustainable finance, and divestment from environmentally-destructive ventures will be included and shown to the Filipino public,” the organizations said. 

In March 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the historic Paris Accord after previously threatening that he would not honor the pact believing it would hurt the country’s effort to industrialize.

The Senate unanimously voted to ratify the agreement two weeks later.

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