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Opinion

Accelerating green energy and a circular economy

NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Luc Véron - The Philippine Star

The world is warming faster than at any point in recorded history. With it, typhoons and droughts are becoming stronger and more frequent. Glaciers and ice caps are receding, rainfall patterns, oceans and winds are changing and sea levels are increasing. World leaders – including European Council President Charles Michel and Philippine President Marcos – pointed at this dismal state of affairs at last week’s UN General Assembly. From the halls of the UN in New York, an almost unanimous and alarming call to urgent and radical action emerged.

The European Union has adopted ambitious measures across multiple policy areas to implement its international commitments on climate change. EU countries have set binding emission targets for key sectors of the economy to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions to achieve a climate-neutral EU by 2050.

President Michel said before the UNGA: “Energy and climate change are two sides of the same coin. Overcoming the energy crisis means mitigating the climate threat. Protecting our biodiversity and oceans is about safeguarding our future. Climate neutrality is the compass of the European Union. At COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh we will push unreservedly to implement the Paris pledges and go beyond. We want a just and fair transition. No one country can protect our planet on its own.”

At my first meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. after his election, we concurred that addressing climate change and working on green economic recovery from the pandemic should be at the forefront of the EU-Philippines bilateral agenda. A few weeks ago, in agreement with the President’s assessment, the Philippines’ Department of Budget and Management announced a budget allocation of a record P453.11 billion for climate change adaptation and mitigation in 2023, 56.4 percent higher than under the current General Appropriations Act.

The European Union is pleased with these developments and remains committed to supporting all the efforts of the Philippine Government in the area of climate change action.

As the EU marks its Climate Diplomacy Weeks until the end of next month, I want to underline the importance of energy savings, energy efficiency and the acceleration of renewables. Saving energy is the easiest way to address the current global energy crisis, aggravated by the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine. Scaling-up renewable energy and energy efficiency will boost the green transition and contribute reducing greenhouse emissions while improving energy security.

As part of these efforts, the flagship initiative of the EU and the Philippines’ Department of Energy, Access to Sustainable Energy Programme (ASEP), aims to generate more electricity from renewable energy, increase the efficiency of energy use and improve access by poor and remote communities to affordable disaster resilient energy systems. The EU has allocated P3.752 billion to this program in the Philippines.

One project under this program is the construction of the first hybrid power plant in Mindanao, launched yesterday with the Mindanao Development Authority, the Honorable Secretary Maria Belen Acosta and the Director-General of the United Nations Development Industrial Development Organization H.E. Gerd Müller.

The Sitangkai and Sibutu renewable energy hybrid power plant will be functional by the end of 2022. It will increase the availability of electricity for 5,000 households in Tawi-Tawi while boosting the livelihood of communities relying on seaweed production, which the hybrid power plant will also power. I am proud of this project as it will provide tangible results, especially in off-grid small remote and vulnerable communities such as Tawi-Tawi.

ASEP has brought electricity through solar panels to 16 off-grid public schools and around 50,000 remote households (most of them in Mindanao). Leveraging private sector funds and giving due consideration to gender aspects, this program provides renewable energy for livelihood activities in remote villages, significantly improving the quality of life of disadvantaged communities regarding economic benefits, gender equality and women empowerment.

One important lesson we have learned in this process is that it is essential to work in close partnership with all the key stakeholders: national, regional and local authorities, electric cooperatives and private sector, NGOs/civil society organizations and international organizations and vulnerable communities.

Moving forward for the period 2024 to 2027, the EU is bent on supporting the Philippines’ efforts toward a green resilient economy through projects for altogether P3.408-billion grants, ultimately resulting in a measurable reduction of plastic waste and marine litter and in the creation of green jobs, an issue high on the agenda of the Philippine Government.

The EU is committed to continue to working with the Philippines on this transition to a green economy, and on fighting climate change. As acknowledged by the President, the transition to green is important for the Philippines; it is also crucial for all of us.

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Luc Veron is the Ambassador of the European Union.

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