An environmentally-resilient Philippines – Philstar.com

I’ve been asked to share my thoughts on what an environmentally-resilient Philippines could look like. To understand what this involves, let me take a step back and place it in the context of what the world needs to get to and why. It’s often said that the COVID-19 pandemic was just a dress rehearsal for how we will face an even more perilous world from the impacts of climate change.
The overriding goal is to “solve climate change” –  which means mitigating it as well as adapting to its impacts that are already here, with more yet to come. Because if we don’t get it right, the exponential deterioration of global climate systems and the environment will make it impossible to solve other problems like poverty, inequality, disease, food production, freshwater scarcity, mass migration, social displacement, mass extinction of species and biodiversity loss, among others. All of this we will feel during our lifetimes.
Paris Conference of Parties (COP) 21 applauded the agreements that signaled we could limit global warming to 2.0 degrees Celsius if all commitments were met. Since then, the IPCC issued in October 2018 a Special Report on the impacts of Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, followed last year and this year by its Sixth Assessment Reports from Working Groups I, II and III, all with dire warnings and consequences for a 2-degree Celsius warmer world. Taken together, they underscored the scientific consensus that our targets must not exceed 1.5 degrees by end century. The 1.5 degrees therefore must be our base case.
Consequently, “Solving Climate Change” means:
Phase 1: We reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and fluorinated gases) from the current 50 gigatons (Gt) of GHGs per year. (Emissions peak by 2025). We cannot stop here.
Phase 2: Aim further to eliminate all emissions of GHGs (get to Net Zero emissions by 2050.) By 2050, to begin the arduous task of reducing the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere.
Phase 3: Get to what’s called net negative emissions. This is best described in the words of NASA climate scientist James Hansen: “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted…CO2 will need to be reduced…to at most 350 ppm.”
For reference, pre-industrialization levels were at 280 parts per million (ppm) and we sailed past 350 ppm in 1986. We continued to blow through 400 ppm in 2013, the same year Super Typhoon Yolanda, the most powerful typhoon on earth to ever make landfall, announced to the world, through the suffering of millions of Filipinos, that climate change is here and that we better get our acts together now.
We now need to realize Phases 1, 2 and 3 above within the rapidly diminishing timeframe of the next 28 years. Failing to do this over the timeframe will trigger irreversible tipping points, the effects of which we are already seeing in news reports from all over the world every day. The clock ticks as we speak.
Progress through Phases 1 to 3 in the battle to “solve climate change” has many facets beyond just energy; it spans agricultural practices, food production, waste management practices, industrial processes, deforestation, f-gases used in refrigeration and many others. For now, let me just focus on what the foundations to the global energy transition will look like as it’s important that we appreciate what the transition to net zero demands.
Cornerstone 1: Reduce carbon intensity of electricity. Clean up the electricity grid’s generation sources with the intent of progressively lowering carbon intensity per kwh. We must keep in mind that as we do this, we need to keep the lights on and keep power prices affordable.
Cornerstone 2: Scale up energy efficiency efforts. Scale up energy efficiency as the “first fuel” and encourage and incentivize its use everywhere.
(To be continued)
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Remarks delivered by Federico Lopez, chairman of First Philippine Holdings, at the DENR Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Oct. 5, 2022 at the Manila Diamond Hotel.
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