The Bangui Windmills by Gregg Yan“We have one of the highest power rates in Asia, mostly because of inefficiencies in the power sector and our reliance on imported fossil fuels. With coal and oil prices rising from increased demand, we will pay even more in the coming years – unless we invest in indigenous Renewable Energy now,” explains WWF-Philippines Climate and Energy Programme Head Atty. Angela Ibay.

Identified sectors for emissions-reduction were transportation, agriculture and waste. A shift from landfill-based garbage disposal to full recycling systems will optimize waste elimination. Agricultural emissions from rice, corn and livestock cultivation must be reduced by increasing operational efficiency and shifting to organic agricultural practices. An efficient reforestation program that fosters inclusive growth for upland farmers and indigenous people should be implemented. Far-sighted policy direction must be applied to the transport sector – eliminating inefficient transport options and promoting hybrid or electric vehicles – vastly improving the air quality of Philippine cities.

Shifting to indigenous Renewable Energy (RE) options, veering away from fossil fuels and optimizing energy usage are the surest paths to a low-carbon future, reveals a new study commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The study recommends increasing investments in both RE and Energy Efficiency (EE), while decoupling the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels like coal and oil. The Philippines is a fossil fuel-poor country and is vulnerable to the volatility of international fossil fuel prices.

“All countries are vulnerable but developing countries have a greater sensitivity, with more people living in poverty and fewer resources to respond to climate disasters,” warns Chamling Rai, WWF International Senior Adviser for National Climate Change Adaptation Plans. “We need to put in place measures that will slow down warming and put us on a fair and just transition to a sustainable world. Ambitious emissions cuts now can reduce the risk of climate change in the second half of this century.”

WWF works to prevent global warming of over 2-degrees Celsius beyond pre-Industrial Revolution conditions. Earth has already heated up by about 1-degree in the last two centuries, with an expected jump of 0.8-degrees from atmospheric heat stored by the oceans. Beyond 4-degrees, up to 30% of all known plant and animal species will die – and intense storms, droughts and other climate effects will become nearly unmanageable for less-developed nations. Today, the three largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) are energy generation, transportation and agriculture.

As developing countries progress, their GHG contributions are expected to rise – and the Philippines is no exception. Though it currently contributes less than 0.35% of global GHG emissions, its share will spike due to economic and population growth coupled with rapid urbanization.

Building Momentum for Low Carbon Development is a WWF-led project which presents plans to synergize national development objectives with climate change mitigation strategies. The project presents a path for the Philippines to transition from a fossil-fuel dependent economy to one that uses 100% Renewable Energy (RE) by 2050.

“Climate change mitigation reducing country emissions is critical because Asian economies are in full swing,” says WWF-Philippines Project Manager Philline Donggay. Asia is presently the world’s fastest growing economic region and the largest continental economy by GDP. Globally, six in ten people live in Asia.

The study established a Philippine carbon emissions budget and matched it with current emissions trends. It was found that the budget shall be surpassed by 2020, the take-off point for WWF’s recommendation for a 100% RE-based economy. “This might be difficult but it is certainly possible,” says Juergen Lorenz, of the commissioned research team. “Technologies and practices already exist and an innovative strategy can be programmed into a timeline that determines the best path to full transition.”

WWF is now working with public and private institutions to promote the value of embarking on this low-carbon pathway and helping decision-makers contribute to concerted bottom-up and top-down efforts in terms of both policy and technological applications.

“Since fuel prices affect everything, two very different futures await Pinoys by 2050. Under a Business-As-Usual scenario, the average Filipino will be burdened by ever-growing prices of goods, services, fuel and electricity. Living conditions will plummet and basic commodity prices will soar,” warns Ibay. More powerful storms and floods will wreak havoc on agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries, straining the nation’s ability to feed itself. An over-reliance on imports will create a cycle of dependence.

“Properly realized, the low-carbon pathway recommended in the study gifts Pinoys with affordable, limitless power – decoupling our reliance on imported fuel. This drives prices down while enhancing our future purchase power,” concludes Ibay. “Electric vehicles will finally ply the smog-free conduits of EDSA and C5. Most importantly, biodiversity shall be protected – providing all Pinoys with an ample supply of food, water, air and energy.”

In the 1970s, Filipinos had the foresight to invest in indigenous geothermal power, helping equalize energy generation costs. “Some of the biggest Renewable Energy investors are now the most globally-competitive economies, like China, the US, Germany and South Korea. We should follow their lead and use one of our country’s few competitive advantageous – our vast Renewable Energy resources,” adds Ibay.