Philippines pledges 75% cut on carbon emissions

The country was last among Southeast Asian countries that submitted their official commitments to the Paris Climate Change agreement.

The Philippines has submitted its official pledge to the global climate change treaty, planning to reduce three-fourths of carbon emissions within the decade.

The majority of the target or 72.29% is conditional or dependent on international aid, while 2.71% is unconditional or shall be met through its own resources, according to the five-page Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) filed with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The “ambitious” target was actually raised from the initial 30% pledge over the next two decades. It was pegged against the projected cumulative economy-wide emission of 3,340.3 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e).

“The NDC will be our tool to upgrade our economy by adopting modern and low carbon technologies and approaches that would help mitigate the climate crisis and make our economy more resilient and our growth sustainable,” said Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who also leads the country’s Climate Change Commission.

The emissions cut is intended for agriculture, waste, industry, transport, and energy sectors.

In an e-mailed statement, Greenpeace said the 75% reduction target is “underwhelming,” stating that the country’s commitment “does not reflect the urgency needed to address the climate emergency.

Despite the “low” unconditional commitment, the international policy group Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) said it expects the Philippine Energy Department to continuously update its pledge, citing its move to ban new applications for coal projects in the country last year.

“The challenge now is to see the NDC process as a means by which the modernization of the electricity sector is realized, driven by genuine competition and premised on greater reliance on flexible generation,” ICSC climate governance head Rex Barrer said in an e-mailed statement.

Another local environmental campaigner underscored the “lack of transparency” on how the country will perform its climate vows and what the sectoral contributions will be.

“It is also unclear on how the interlinkages between sectors and other cross-cutting issues, such as poverty eradication, gender, health, education, and Covid-19 recovery would affect the country’s ability to fulfill its own pledges,” added John Leo Algo of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines in his opinion piece.

The Philippines, which is heavily dependent on coal, recorded an average emission of 1.98 MtCO2e per capita in 2020, lower than the global average of four metric tons per capita.

The Paris Agreement took effect in 2016, aiming to keep the rise of global temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

A year later, the Philippines ratified the accord, which in turn allowed it access to the Green Climate Fund which assists developing countries in countering global warming.

The Philippines is the last ASEAN country to formally commit to the Paris Agreement, following Cambodia and Brunei, which both submitted their NDCs last December. The UNFCCC says 192 out of 196 countries have already submitted their pledges.

In late March, the country’s central bank governor warned of risks associated with leaving coal power, one of the dirtiest power sources.

“While we are accustomed to physical risks such as typhoons and earthquakes, we should focus our attention as well to the transition risks that arise from migrating out of fossil fuels,” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno said.

“This may seem like a very long-term risk, but in reality, it also takes a long period to properly move towards low greenhouse gas emissions, especially for a country that is traditionally dependent on fossil fuels,” the official added.

Photo by James Stevenson/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)