Philippines submits 1st greenhouse gas reduction target to UN

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Philippines submits 1st greenhouse gas reduction target to UN
A resident walks past uprooted banana trees washed up on a river bank after Typhoon Molave hit the town of Pola, Oriental Mindoro province, on Oct. 26, 2020.
AFP / Erik De Castro

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines finally submitted to the United Nations its commitment to cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 75% between 2020 and 2030.

The government submitted its first Nationally Determined Contribution to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on Thursday. An NDC outlines the government’s plan to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The country committed to reduce its GHG emissions by 75%—which would come from the sectors of agriculture, wastes, industry, transport and energy—from 2020 to 2030.

Of the target, only 72.29% is conditional, while the remaining 2.71% is unconditional, which means it will be undertaken without international funding and assistance.

The government said it will do adaptation measures across but not limited to the sectors of agriculture, forestry, coastal and marine ecosystems and biodiversity, health, and human security.

“The Philippines shall pursue forest protection, forest restoration and reforestation, and access to results-based finance in forest conservation. The country shall also endeavor to undertake equitable adaptation strategies with mitigation co-benefits and ensure their contribution to the national pandemic recovery,” the NDC also read.

The Philippines, one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, failed to submit its NDC last December 31. Parties to the historic Paris Agreement were requested to submit their pledges by 2020 and every five years thereafter.

From pledge to transformative action

For environmental group Greenpeace Philippines, the country's pledge is not ambitious enough.

"With unambitious plans for carbon-intensive sectors, the commitment does not reflect the urgency needed to address the climate emergency," Greenpeace campaigner Khevin Yu said. 

Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, for its part, called for clarification about the calculation of the share of unconditional and conditional commitments in the NDC.

Rex Barrer, climate governance lead of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, said that despite the “frustration” over the low unconditional number, the policy group “[takes] hope in the Department of Energy’s commitment to continuously update it pledge as reflected in the current effort to improve on the Philippine Energy Plan.”

Nazrin Castro, branch manager of The Climate Reality Project Philippines, lauded the government for submitting its first NDC committed but she noted that this is just the “first step” in ensuring the country’s just transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy.

“This roadmap should hammer out the sectoral policies and measures that will deliver our NDC target and will spell out detailed plans and timetables for the transition of sectors into a low-carbon economy in line with our aspiration to peak our emissions by 2030,” Castro said.

Barrer also said it is now time to turn the pledge to transformative action.

“The NDC should embody the country’s highest possible climate ambition, as written in a resolution by House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, and should serve as our strategy toward a climate-resilient, low carbon, and sustainable future. We are still a long way from that goal,” he said.

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.

Out of the 196 parties to the accord, 192 submitted their first NDCs. Meanwhile, eight parties submitted their second NDCs. 

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