Way to go!

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos July 02,2017 - 09:35 PM

Atty. Gloria Ramos

The fight for survival rages on. A growing number of citizens are taking the cudgels to push indifferent governments into action for them to walk the talk, finally.

Citizens and environmental groups, specifically the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice; the Cebu-based Philippine Earth Justice Center; the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED); Sanlakas; and the Environmental Legal Assistance Center filed the test case for government, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Energy (DOE), to perform their mandates under various laws to stop pollution and the giving of approval for new coal power plants in the country, through a petition for writ of continuing mandamus with temporary environmental protection.

Way to go, courageous citizens and their lawyers!

Being identified as one of the most exposed and vulnerable countries to the devastating impacts of climate change, the Philippines should be in the forefront to fight it, minimize the dependency on fossil fuels, and strengthen the capacity of citizens and natural ecosystems to bounce back from the impacts.

Yet our pledge to protect our people from the ravages of climate change appears only in laws and treaties, the latest being the ratified Paris Agreement, but not in the implementation of the State policies.

Under our Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), our country committed to reduce our carbon emissions (CO2) by 70 percent by 2030, which will come from the energy, transport, waste, forestry and industry sectors.

What are we doing to ensure that we will meet the target of at least 70 percent renewable energy by 2030?

According to Gerry Arances, the national coordinator of CEED, our fossil fuel dependency has in fact soared. During a press conference last Friday, he shared that when the government’s renewable energy (RE) program started in 2009, RE had a 34 percent share in the energy mix, went down to 29 percent last year, with coal energy doubled at 47.7 percent in 2016, and expected to reach 70 to 80 percent by 2030.

The Department of Energy website enthusiastically shares the following information on coal to the public:

“The Philippines is largely a coal consuming country with coal having the highest contribution to the power generation mix at 44.5% in 2015. But, local demand for coal is not limited to power generation. In 2015, the cement industry utilized 15.22% of the country’s coal supply, 5% went to other industries such as alcohol, sinter, rubber boots, paper and chemical manufacturing, fertilizer production and smelting processes.

“The coal industry has never been so robust than these past years. From a historical yearly average of 1.5 million MT, local coal production began increasing at a steady rate since 2002. Within a span of 13 years, coal production has more than quintupled to an astounding 8.17 million MT in 2015, with a production high of 8.4 million MT in 2014. This increase in production is attributed to the conversion of exploration contracts into production agreements, as well as the development of production contracts into full blown operations. Consumption likewise, increase steadily as new coal-fired power plants are installed and industries switch to coal because of the highly volatile price of oil.”

Why is government still an indispensable party to the proliferation of coal power plants in the country amid the known negative effects of coal plants to the health of both people and our natural life support systems and its mandates under our laws?

Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas fostering climate change. Coal is the number one source of carbon dioxide emission which fuels global warming, making coal the single greatest threat to our climate.

One of the world’s famous climate activists, Dr. James Hansen, describes coal as “not only the largest fossil fuel reservoir of carbon dioxide, it is the dirtiest fuel. Coal is polluting the world’s oceans and streams with mercury, arsenic and other dangerous chemicals. The dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is the pretence that they are working on ‘clean coal’ or that they will build power plants that are ‘capture-ready’ in case technology is ever developed to capture all pollutants.”

The law amending Climate Change Act, RA 10174, declares as a policy of the State “to systematically integrate the concept of climate change in various phases of policy formulation, development plans, poverty reduction strategies and other development tools and techniques by all agencies and instrumentalities of the government.”

The integration of climate change in the policy adoption and implementation is definitely not happening, except for a few agencies, judging from the disconnect that emerges from the discordant pronouncements of the government agencies, whether national and local.

It is time for citizens to step up in the fight for climate justice. After all, the ground-breaking issue involves the gravest threat known to humanity — climate change — and our survival.

Taking from the words of Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, political activist, writer, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

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TAGS: Center for Energy, DOE, Ecology and Development (CEED), Gloria Ramos, Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, Mindfully Greenie, Sanlakas

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