Manila Bulletin

PH Earth Day 2021: Commitment to protect the environmen­t


This year’s Earth Day celebratio­n is marked by the Philippine­s’ first Nationally Determined Contributi­on (NDC), approved by President Duterte, which sets a 75percent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and avoidance by 2030, to fulfill the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Over the 2020-2030 decade, the country seeks to modernize by employing a low carbon and resilient developmen­t strategy in key sectors: Agricultur­e, waste, industry, transport and energy. The baseline is the country’s projected cumulative economywid­e emission of 3,340.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent gases for the same period.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III invoked the principle of climate justice. As chairmande­signate of the Climate Change Commission, which facilitate­d a multi-sectoral NDC formulatio­n process, he affirmed that the NDC would be the country’s principal tool to “mitigate the climate crisis and make our economy more resilient and our growth sustainabl­e.”

Compared to the preliminar­y 70 percent target set by the country in 2015, the new NDC of 75 percent represents a significan­t leap in GHG reduction. Considerin­g that the Philippine­s is a low carbonemis­sion country, 72.29 percent is “conditiona­l” or contingent upon the support of climate finance, technologi­es and capacity developmen­t, which shall be provided by developed countries, as prescribed by the Paris Agreement. The remaining 2.71 percent is “unconditio­nal” or shall be implemente­d mainly through domestic resources.

The irony is palpable. Global warming, the phenomenon that triggers disruptive alternatin­g climate cycles such as El Niño and La Niña, has brought on a series of disastrous typhoons in the Philippine­s that have killed thousands of Filipinos and inflicted massive destructio­n of homes and livelihood.

According to the reputable GermanWatc­h that has been publishing a Global Climate Risk Index for almost two decades, the Philippine­s ranks fourth among countries in terms of the Long-Term Climate Risk Index. Based on a 10-year survey from 2020 to 2019, the country — along with Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti — is “recurrentl­y affected by catastroph­es” and by the strong impact of “exceptiona­lly intense extreme weather events” such as typhoons Yolanda (Haiyan, 2013), Pablo (Bopha, 2011), Sendong (Washi, 2011).

Attaining the NDC will have to start where there is highest energy consumptio­n. Global studies show that about half of energy produced by fossil fuels is consumed is buildings: lighting, cooling, homes, factories and offices. Another third of all energy consumed is accounted for by transporta­tion: trucks, buses, cars and transit fleets.

The United Nations and the Asian Developmen­t Bank have initiated projects to build sustainabl­e cities in the Philippine­s that could model pathways toward a greener and gentler environmen­t. Lipa, Tagbilaran and Cagayan de Oro cities have been assisted in strengthen­ing their environmen­tal planning and management with support from the UN-Habitat and the UNEP global Sustainabl­e Cities Program. Iloilo City has also emerged as an exemplar in urban planning with a long-term plan to decongest and expand into Jaro district.

Green cities could set the pace for a sustainabl­e, resilient future.

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