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Opinion

Canada turns 155: Environment top of mind

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Peter Macarthur - The Philippine Star

Tomorrow, July 1, the Canadian confederation celebrates 155 years, one of the oldest constitutional democracies. This year also marks 50 years since the establishment of a full service embassy in the Philippines and 45 years of our connection across the Pacific through the ASEAN Dialogue Partnership. As the world’s second largest country featuring three ocean coastlines, thousands of lakes, mountains and extensive boreal forests, protecting our vast natural environment is an increasing preoccupation. Just as it is here in the Philippines because we all share the same air and water and feel nature’s wrath through extreme weather.

President Marcos, who will be sworn-in today, has made clear that increasing the deployment of renewable energy technologies across the Philippines beyond 20 percent of the energy mix is a top priority of his new administration. This builds on the existing commitment to a moratorium on future coal-based power plants and the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory to track emissions. We applaud these initial strides towards a Nationally Determined Contribution of 75 percent reductions as we look continuously for ways to be supportive of such efforts in the Philippines. Our two countries share a commitment to a balanced approach to climate adaptation and mitigation. It is encouraging to see corporations such as Ayala, Aboitiz and First Gen stepping up to pursue job-creating green power opportunities.

Through its development assistance, Canada is supporting a new initiative in the Philippines to help mobilize financing for nature-based climate solutions and biodiversity conservation, and to position the country’s financial institutions to better integrate climate and disaster risks in loan appraisals. Protected and renewed forests, mangroves and coastal areas can help store carbon to slow global warming and reduce the frequency and intensity of climate change disasters in the Philippines. Healthy oceans are integral to the biosphere as sources of oxygen, so this demands enhanced global maritime governance and scientific cooperation. Access to climate finance and to new technology is crucial for us all to succeed.

Countering climate change is one of the great issues of our time. The Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh COP work program is pivotal to global cooperation through burden sharing. As G7 Development Ministers declared this May: “The unprecedented scale and interdependence of climate change, water insecurity, land degradation, biodiversity loss and global pollution poses an existential threat and puts the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement at risk. We recognize that overcoming these interdependent challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss needs to be addressed by all states and collectively.”

Because of our northerly location, Canada experiences climate change at twice the world’s average – three times as much in the Arctic where glaciers and the sea ice are melting. Canada is therefore doing its part in shifting to a low carbon economy aiming to achieve 32-40 percent reductions in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. A price has been put on carbon pollution, rising to $15 per ton after 2022 with proceeds being returned to households. To reach net zero emissions by 2050 the government is investing in new technologies such as carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, biocrude, renewable natural gas and cellulosic ethanol. Methane emissions are expected to be reduced through collection and treatment. We are turning to nature to win this fight by planting 2 billion trees to trap and store carbon while enhancing wetlands, peatlands and grasslands to boost carbon sequestration.

Canada knows that increased cooperation with emerging economies is pivotal. This is particularly true for the energy sector as the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions. A fast growing economy such as the Philippines needs reliable energy, particularly as the Malampaya offshore gas field runs out. Energy security, like food security, is national security.

The multi-billion dollar LNG Canada project being developed by an international consortium on Canada’s Pacific coast holds the potential to be able to supply Asia with LNG as a stepping stone from coal to cleaner power sources. Canada is already the largest supplier of oil and gas to the United States.

Over the past few decades Canada has developed and operates heavy water nuclear reactors to generate electricity in combination with hydro power and natural gas as the country powers past coal. Nuclear offers Canada an excellent back up to more intermittent solar and wind energy.

There is therefore scope for Canadian cooperation with the Philippines on small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) in tandem with the experience of our independent nuclear regulatory regime for health and safety and our capacity to supply the uranium nuclear fuel. Canada’s successful experience in the underground disposal of waste could also support this switch away from dirty coal. SMRs are right-sized to archipelago communities, ranging from 20 MW to 300 MW. Canada is expected to be among the first countries to link a functioning SMR to the public electricity grid.

Both our countries recognize the role of Indigenous Peoples as well as local communities in addressing the interdependent challenges of biodiversity loss, global health and climate change. There is clearly a role for local communities in countering climate change so respect for the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples is another way to save the environment. Their traditional knowledge and wisdom deserve to be factored into strategies.

Canada and the Philippines are in the top ten countries afflicted by adverse climate change impact. Your coral reefs and our glaciers are at risk of disappearing. As Canadians reflect on 155 years as a country, our positive relationships with the Philippines persuade us that to counter climate change, together we can achieve so much more and faster.

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Peter MacArthur is Canada’s Ambassador to the Philippines.

CANADA

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