PH to submit 'initial' climate pledge to UN by end-September

MANILA, Philippines – This September, the Philippines will submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) for the highly-anticipated Paris Agreement on Climate Change to be forged in December.

Climate Change Commissioner and Secretary Lucille Sering made the statement at September 14 House hearing where she gave a glimpse of what the country’s INDC will look like.

An INDC is basically a country’s action plan to combat climate change. The United Nations (UN) gives countries the freedom to decide how they will contribute to the global effort, given their national circumstances.

An INDC should include a country’s efforts to reduce its carbon emissions (mitigation), efforts to prepare its citizens for climate impacts (adaptation), or both. (READ: 6 ways climate change will affect PH cities)

Based on Sering’s presentation, the Philippines will commit to reduce its carbon emission intensity in the energy and transport sector by 20.21% from Business As Usual levels.

Sering said the Philippine submission this month will only be an “initial” submission since it will comprise of emission reductions in the energy and transport sectors only.

Though she said adaptation commitments will also be made, she did not present this during the hearing.

The Climate Change Commission (CCC) is determined to submit a “two-pager” INDC to the UN by the end of September in order to make it to the October 1 deadline for INDCs that will be included in a synthesis report. 

This report, to be released by the UN on November 1, will reflect the impact of all mitigation efforts pledged by countries that submitted their INDCs. The Paris climate agreement will be crafted based on all INDCs.

Number-crunching

The CCC used 2010 statistics as the baseline for its computations and projections of carbon emissions and reductions. 

Based on Sering’s presentation, the CCC conducted a total of 15 workshops or consultations with government agencies and businessmen in the waste, forestry, energy, transport, industrial sectors; civil society; and the academe.

They began with a January 14 orientation with all relevant government agencies where it was decided they would start with technical meetings to understand the number-crunching involved in determining the INDC mitigation commitments.

Government agencies involved include the Department of Transportation and Communications, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Energy, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Agriculture.

The CCC enlisted the help of local and international experts on the right tools to use and sat down with the government agencies to teach them how to use the tools to arrive at figures.

These processes included the creation of a greenhouse gas inventory to find out how much emissions the Philippine economy was releasing. A multi-criteria analysis, meanwhile, was used to determine the government’s capacity to implement programs to reduce carbon emissions.

The private sector engaged in businesses in the affected sectors were also given a presentation on the INDC.

“We estimate that 95% of owners of the energy sector were present,” said Sering. 

Attendees include Ramon del Rosario Jr of conglomerate Phinma with companies in cement processing and oil, Jon Ramon Aboitiz of the Aboitiz Group of Companies, Lopez Group of Companies, Shell, and more.

Despite the consultations, some government officials and civil society groups have criticized the CCC for lack of transparency in crafting the INDC.

Cutting down emissions 

The workshops produced a list of mitigation options for every affected sector.

For the energy sector, this includes more renewable energy plants; for transportation, the adoption of Euro 6 fuel standards and bus rapid transit systems; for agriculture, the use of organic fertilizer; and for the waste sector, upscaling methane recovery from sanitary landfills.

If the mitigation options for forestry, waste management, land use, and agriculture were implemented, the Philippines can pledge a 43.56% reduction in emission intensity from Business As Usual levels, said Sering. 

The absence of agriculture from the INDC in its current form is telling. Based on 2010 data, agriculture is the country’s second biggest carbon emitter after the energy sector (excluding transport).

Sering said the consultations got controversial when it came to the waste management sector because of the issue of waste incineration.

“This is where the discussion became controversial. Is there a need for us to review the Clean Air Act? Should we look at new technologies? Are we actually restricting ourselves because of these laws?” said Sering.

Some lawmakers and local government officials have been calling for the amendment of the Clean Air Act to allow the establishment of formal incineration and waste-to-energy facilities. This, they say, is the best way to deal with increasing amounts of garbage generated by cities.

But environmentalists, and one of law's authors, oppose the move saying incineration will aggravate air pollution and health risks.

For other sectors, the need to mitigate is consistent with government plans.

For instance, the DOTC believes the goal of reducing emissions from cars goes hand-in-hand with its goal of solving traffic in Metro Manila.

Sering asked Congress to help ensured that the Philippines will live up to its INDC. 

“The country will really have to adhere to that submission. So Congress will eventually have to pass laws to make sure we meet what we submitted to them,” she said.

Passing the Energy Efficiency law and changing the Philippine Energy Development Plan would also be necessary to address the bulk of emissions that come from power generation. – 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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