DENR Sec. to the world: Coal is ‘archaic’

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez on Thursday decried the use of fossil fuels at the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP) during the second week of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Marrakech, Morocco.

In her speech, Lopez emphasized the rich biodiversity of the Philippines saying, “This is not just the wealth of the Philippines, it is the wealth of all of us together.”

“Should the planet escalate to more than 1.5 degrees, we lose all of that. The planet simply cannot afford an indecisive ambiguity about what needs to be done. The situation is clear – anything more than 1.5 degrees will destroy possibilities for quality of life,” she added.

Last year, the Philippines led the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a group of more than 40 vulnerable countries, which lobbied for the inclusion of a 1.5 degrees celsius target for global warming.

PHL to shift to renewables?

Lopez also mentioned the need to stay away from fossil fuels, saying, “We do not need to give up economic growth – from clean energy, to sustainable transportation, to all facets of life.”

“We need to have the courage to change the way we do things. We cannot and must not build an economy based on suffering,” she added.

In the process of ratification of the Paris Agreement, all cabinet members, sans one, have submitted their certificates of concurrence (COC). The Department of Energy, headed by Secretary Alfonso Cusi, has refused to give their COC and has sent a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs saying that, “upon extensive evaluation and vetting of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the DOE is constrained to maintain its reservation to submit its concurrence for the ratification by the President of the said agreement.”

Last July, Cusi reiterated the DOE’s stand to “use whatever energy resources are available and affordable for power generation.”

For her part, Lopez says in an interview that she is not in favour of coal fired power plants, citing 4 of studies about it.

“I’m not in favour of coal plants very strongly. The results are consistent. The health of the people around deteriorates, the fishery and agricultural resources are adversely affected, and the coal plant doesn’t pay for these negative externalities. That’s why it’s cheap energy — it’s the people that subsidise the costs for the coal,” she said.

However, Lopez also says she understands where Cusi is coming from and will continue to work with him to work on a plan that will allow the Philippines to shift to renewable energy. Some countries, for example, have promised to help the country transition.

“I have talked to Sec Cusi and he has agreed with me to explore ways where we could go renewable. He’s not stopping the thrust for renewable, he just wants to play very careful. He wants to make sure the country has the energy it needs to run the economy,” she said.

“The whole world going towards renewable and again coal. It’s archaic for country to be moving towards coal and I’m glad to announce that countries like Germany and France will be helping us in our thrust for renewable energy,” Lopez added.

PHL also to focus on adaptation

In her speech at the high level plenary, Lopez reminded other countries about typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) where more than 10,000 died. “So much to give. So much to lose,” she said.

Lopez sees the value of adaptation and mitigation going hand in hand, saying it’s not a choice between the two. Part of her plans include planting a million hectares of mangrove and bamboos which she says will also be good for the economy.

“In essence adaptation, mitigation, inclusive economic growth does not have to be separate activities or choices. These objectives can all be achieved given the right approach because the Philippines is in the ‘firing line’ of climate change,” Lopez said.

Lopez ended saying “the Philippines is making a commitment to this exciting future.”

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