SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA
Low Carbon Economy for a Livable Future
24 February 2015 | Senate Session Hall
Is low carbon economy our future?
Everyday, those of us living and working in Metro Manila have to spend an hour or two, or even more, just to go to work. On rainy days, it takes longer. The horrendous traffic on the road is the “normal scenario,” such that congestion in Metro Manila alone is costing us an equivalent of four percent of our GDP.
Cars are among the major sources of air pollution and responsible for more than 50% of the heat trapping gases causing the climate crisis.
According to the World Health Organization, air pollution has caused seven million premature deaths worldwide in 2012.
I believe these facts are enough to make us rethink our development plans and start looking at a low carbon economy as our future.
This was the topic of a roundtable discussion organized by the Philippine Senate, the British Embassy and the Chevening Alumni Foundation of the Philippines last week here at the Senate.
The highlight of the forum was a presentation by Mr. Matt Nottingham of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office about key findings of the study, “Better Growth, Better Climate: New Climate Economy Report”.
The report stresses the idea that there should be no tension between economic development and a low carbon economy. In fact, this paradigm shift could be the very answer to our goal of achieving high-quality, resilient and inclusive economic growth.
We can start with building our cities in a smart way. Better connected, more compact cities based on mass public transport are economically more dynamic, safer and healthier, and have lower emissions.
In fact, the concept of road-sharing among pedestrians, cyclists and motorists should be adopted. The Bayanihan sa Daan movement we are supporting promotes a paradigm shift from the motor vehicle-based transportation system to a multi-modal system, wherein people are not dependent on their own motorized vehicles every time they go out, instead, they can choose different modes of transportation depending on their needs—walking or biking for short distances, and safe, reliable, inexpensive and convenient public transportation system for long distance trips.
We must also ensure the sustainable use and management of our land and other natural resources. The report reveals that restoring 12% of the world’s degraded lands can already feed another 200 million people, raise farmers’ incomes by US$40 billion a year, and also cut emissions from deforestation.
Here in the Senate, we are currently working on the National Land Use Bill, which will help us understand the land use framework around four policy pillars, namely, protection, production, settlements and infrastructure. It attempts to clarify the complexities of regulating land use planning and to institutionalize mechanisms that will ensure its strict implementation from the national to the local levels.
Meanwhile, we must also strengthen efforts to encourage more renewable energy investments in the country because this industry does not only promote clean and indigenous energy, but can also provide thousands of jobs for our people. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimated that 800,000 new green jobs were generated in 2013 with countries like the Philippines still with vast untapped potential in the field of renewable energy industry.
The idea of a low carbon economy may seem ideal at first. But if we look at the facts, it should not be hard to understand the need to adopt the concept.
The New Climate Economy Report recommends a 10-point global action plan towards shifting to a low carbon economy:
1. Integrate climate risk into strategic decisions
2. Secure a strong international climate agreement
3. End perverse subsidies
4. Price carbon to send a clear market signal
5. Scale-up low-carbon innovation
6. Reduce the cost of capital for low-carbon investment
7. Move toward connected and compact cities
8. End deforestation
9. Restore degraded lands
10. Phase out unabated coal fast
We are already feeling the impacts of the climate crisis in various aspects of our life, most evident with the harsher and more frequent natural hazards we experience. Sadly, it would even be worse for future generations, unless we do something now. The current climate crisis we are facing demands us to act not just with a sense of urgency, rather with a sense of great emergency.
If we want a safer, resilient, sustainable and livable earth for our children and grandchildren, then yes, low carbon economy is our future and for that to happen, we start our action today.