Ateneo to help gov't keep tabs on carbon emissions

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The government is partnering with the Ateneo de Manila University to keep track of the country's greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to the warming of the planet.

In a February 3 press release, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the top Philippine university was awarded a P7.59-million contract to come up with a pilot inventory of how much greenhouse gases (GHG) are emitted by the country's industries, commercial sector, and transport sector.

It is also tasked to measure how much carbon is stored by the country's forests – one way by which its gaseous form, carbon dioxide, a top GHG, is prevented from release into the atmosphere.

The service contract, signed on January 23 by Environment Assistant Secretary Corazon Davis and ADMU president Fr Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ, requires ADMU to deliver projection reports on the country's GHG emissions until 2030.

The inventory is intended to "help the country figure out what our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) is to the global effort to limit GHG emissions," Villarin told Rappler.

INDC is the amount of GHG emissions a country promises to cut in order to curb climate change. The amount is determined by state governments.

The data will be presented in technical reports and posted on a specially-created website.

The university is also tasked to train and orient all stakeholders involved in the project.

Villarin says the deadline for the projection reports is in August 2016 but that some preliminary estimates may be ready by June of this year.

Local efforts vs climate change

The project comes 3 months after President Benigno Aquino III issued Executive Order No 174 which creates the Philippine GHG Inventory Management and Reporting System. (INFOGRAPHIC: What PH did about climate change in 2014)

He assigned the DENR to be the executive order's chief implementing agency.

The inventory aims to help policy makers find ways to reduce the country's GHG emissions in line with a global effort to reduce global emissions.

Scientists have identified GHG emissions from human activities as the main driver of global warming. Unless nothing is done to lessen these emissions, the world is set to warm by more than 2 degrees Celsius. (INFOGRAPHIC: 6 ways climate change will affect PH cities)

Once it surpasses this limit, climate change may become irreversible. Its most destructive impacts – stronger typhoons, extreme droughts, sea level rise, and ocean acidification – will likely endanger the world's food supply, disrupt peace and order, and drive massive displacement of human communities.

President Benigno Aquino III has voiced an aggressive stance against climate change. In a UN Climate Summit in New York last year, he said the country would do all it can to curb climate change and prepare for its impact.

Checking on reforestation

The partnership with ADMU also aims to assess the effectivity of the Aquino administration's reforestation program.

The National Greening Program (NGP), charged with planting 1.6 billion trees by 2016, aims to help in mitigating climate change by increasing the size of Philippine forests.

Forests are able to absorb carbon dioxide and other GHG, preventing them from getting released into the air where they contribute to the planet's warming.

“We recognize the expertise of ADMU and its willingness to assist us in this project, which seeks to assess just how effective a strategy the NGP is in climate change mitigation and adaptation, particularly through carbon sequestration or reducing GHGs that actually make it to the atmosphere,” said Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.

The DENR said it will assign a team to oversee ADMU’s activities and evaluate its performance. 

The department will also disseminate results "as needed" for the public and other stakeholders.

The NGP is the government's biggest environmental program, receiving a lion's share of the DENR's budget every year. As of end of 2014, it has accomplished 67% of the work with almost 600 million seedlings planted.

But the program has been hounded by allegations of corruption, over-reporting of accomplishments, and criticism for its reforestation strategy.

Seeking to address these allegations, the department said it plans to hire a third party to audit the NGP. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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