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Powering progress together

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Urbanization can bring benefits if managed properly, but could lead to declining quality of life, greater environment degradation, accelerated greenhouse gas emissions, social stresses and political turbulence if managed poorly.

These are some of the main points discussed by experts and leaders from government, business and civil society — gathered by global energy giant Shell — in “Powering Progress Together–Asia 2015” forum held at the Manila Hotel on Feb. 26, as part of its global advocacy toward shaping a more sustainable future of energy.

The forum is a series of global events meant to spark dialogue around the world on future demand for energy, water and food, or what Shell dubs the “stress nexus.”

It was launched in The Netherlands in 2012 and has since been held in Abu Dhabi, Brazil, Germany, Philippines, Turkey and the United States.

This year’s Asian forum, with the theme “Resilience in an Urbanizing World,” discussed challenges and opportunities in the region’s cities including Manila, presented case studies on resilience for cities, and explored resilience and its implications on business.

Jeremy Bentham, Shell vice president for business environment, and head of Shell Scenarios, said that by 2050 most of the world would be urbanized.

“This will be accompanied by increased demand for natural resources —particularly water, energy and food — creating stresses as vital municipal services and systems come under increasing pressure,” stated Bentham in Shell’s “New Lenses on Future Cities” supplement released during the forum.

The report is the latest in Shell’s series of “scenarios,” a range of analytical tools to  better understand the urbanizing world and to support city planning and development.

Hugh Mitchell, Shell chief human resources and corporate officer, said the global population is expected to increase to nine billion by 2050 from seven billion at present.

“This puts pressure on energy, water and food. If cities are not developed efficiently, this could reduce the quality of life of their inhabitants. But if they are well designed and managed, cities can be catalyst for economic development,” he added.

One crucial factor is the rising energy demand and how this would affect development in cities.

Shell believes there are three factors that are fundamental in meeting rising energy demand and in reducing green house gases: the shift from coal to gas, the development of carbon capture technology, and the introduction of carbon pricing systems that would pave the way for the shift to natural gas.

“Cities could become more resilient by managing waste, implementing smart urban planning and closer integration among the stakeholders,” said Mitchell.

Saya Snow Kitasei, head of Resilience of global firm Xynteo, noted the impact of global warming.

“We’re already seeing the impact of global warming. We’re seeing the world’s oceans absorbing heat, thus sea levels are rising,” she said. “It is important for people to be educated on this trend and on the changing global landscape. The demand for energy is more prevalent now than ever before.”

In the same panel, British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Anwar Ahmad, said everyone has to take part in making resilient strategies in the face of a changing climate.

“Everyone has to take part, every country has to step up,” he said, adding that Southeast Asia has become highly vulnerable to the impact of typhoons and natural disasters. One way of addressing the issue of climate change is for countries to look at their respective energy mix.

“Let’s look at the energy mix. The gas opportunity is sitting there. People turn to coal because it is easy, but gas is easier,” he said.

Toni Yulo-Loyzaga, executive director of the Manila Observatory, said people have to get out of their comfort zones and take concrete steps in dealing with specific problems brought about by climate change. Flooding, for instance, is a complex phenomenon.

“We need to manage or households well. The simple act of disposing of our wastes properly would go a long way,” she said.

Dr. Glynn Ellis, strategic energy advisor for Shell, said there is a need to address overcrowding, pollution and congestion.

“Many cities lose billions of dollars a year due to transport delays and traffic gridlock,” Ellis said. He noted that some urban areas in Asia generate about 2.7 million cubic meters of solid waste per day.

Architect Felino “Jun” Palafox said good urban planning, good governance and a well-crafted design in cities are evident in successful cities around the world.

At the end of the forum, experts agreed that the character and quality of future urbanization would have a huge influence on global resource and sustainability, which will directly affect the quality of life for billions of people around the world.

Shell Philippines country chair Ed Chua said Shell would continue to promote collaborative action and innovative solutions to address the world’s present and future challenges.

“We hope to forge more concrete partnerships as we move toward the future,” he said.

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