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Paving the Way for Change in Dedication to Future Generations

January 24, 2014

Senator Loren Legarda’s Keynote Speech

ThomasLloyd Cleantech Congress 2014

“Paving the Way for Change in Dedication to Future Generations”

24 January 2014 – Frankfurt, Germany

 

First of all, I congratulate the organizers of this year’s ThomasLloyd Cleantech Congress. Thank you for the warm hospitality and the excellent arrangements at the Messe.

 

A great man once said, “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation.”[1]

 

Those were the words of the late Nelson Mandela in 2005 before a Trafalgar Square assembly, calling attention to the great opportunity for change in 2005. 

 

Nine years hence, we are still seeking solutions, not just to the daunting problems of poverty, but to the looming threats of global proportions brought about by climate change.

 

I speak of climate change because you can do much to introduce the change in the way we “fuel” our development.

 

As a Filipino, and an Asian, my resolve on the subject is deep and personal. Our region bears much of the brunt of climate change, accounting for more than 80 percent of the global loss of life due to disasters.

 

More than two months ago, more than 6,000 perished in my country because of super typhoon Haiyan, whose intensity is unmatched in recent history. To this day, nearly 2,000 remain missing. Damages and losses are estimated at €9.29 billion (USD 12.9 billion).[2]

 

Indeed, climate change has changed the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather and climate events. 

 

So what has brought about the state we are in today?

 

Key findings of the 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2012 Special Report on Extreme Events revealed that climate change is “unequivocal” and that there is 95 percent likelihood that human activity is the cause of global warming.[3]

 

Human activity released 545 gigatons of carbon dioxide—the main greenhouse gas from 1750 to 2011. It is projected that if 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide is emitted, which at current rates will likely occur between 2040 and 2050, there is a one-in-three possibility that the 2 degrees Celsius limit above the pre-industrial level will be exceeded.

 

Of the carbon dioxide emitted, 2/3 was due to the burning of fossil fuels with 1/3 caused by deforestation and land-use change. In the last decade however, 90 percent of rise in carbon dioxide levels was due to burning of fossil fuels.

 

While the increase in global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion and other industrial sources slowed down in 2012, it increased nonetheless by 1.4 percent over 2011 levels.

 

Unless drastic cuts are introduced, global temperatures are projected to increase by 0.3 to 4.8 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

 

For Asia, the Asian Development Bank’s Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2012 noted that the increase in carbon dioxide emissions could rise to 10.2 metric tons per capita by 2050 if interventions to reverse the trend are not introduced.

 

A cursory look now just proves that the 4-degree Celsius world, which may have seemed impossible twenty years ago, is not far off today. 

 

The IPCC 4th Assessment Report suggested that a 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius increase in global mean temperatures from pre-industrial levels threatens extinction of 30 percent of all species.[4]  

 

Climate change, according to reports, threatens food security as crop yields are estimated to decline by 19 percent in Asia towards the end of the century. Rice yield in the Philippines is projected to decline by 75 percent.[5]   A 4-degree scenario doubles these impacts. 

 

A warmer temperature is also a threat to public health as this could cause the surge of diseases such as dengue, malaria, cholera and typhoid. Communities that have been displaced by disasters will most likely be exposed to health threats.

 

A study of the World Health Organization revealed that the most apparent effect of climate change in the Philippines was the sudden increase in dengue, malaria and typhoid fever cases in 1998 when the country experienced the El Niño phenomenon. Almost 40,000 dengue cases nationwide, 1,200 cholera cases and nearly 1,000 typhoid fever cases were recorded that year.

 

All told, a 2 to 4-degrees warmer earth and its effects are indeed a cause for alarm, thus, it is but imperative to increase one’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.

 

Notwithstanding the challenges recently faced by the Philippines, the UN’s 2013 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction acknowledged that it has shown improvements in its disaster risk reduction and management efforts, particularly through increased budget allocations. The allocation for DRR investments in the national budget has increased from 1.4 percent in 2009 to 2.1 percent in 2011. 

 

In the Philippine Government’s 2014 budget, the formerly called Calamity Fund is now known as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund and can now be used for disaster prevention activities.

 

Furthermore, the Philippines’ growth has been surprising economists as it registered 7.7, 7.6 and 7 percent growth in the first three quarters of 2013; and despite the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines’ National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) sees the country’s growth to be in the 6.5-7.5 percent range for 2014.

 

The World Bank likewise forecasts a 6.5 percent growth rate in 2014, especially with the timely reconstruction of communities affected by Haiyan and the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Central Philippines. We remain optimistic especially with the immense support we receive from our international partners, including the European Union and its Members States and other countries from around the world.

 

By and large, the Philippines, despite everything, has been undeterred, has risen, and is still continuing to do so, from the ashes of Haiyan.

 

So, what more can we do to build resilience and mitigate climate change?

 

The level of carbon emissions is essentially defined by the development and economic growth strategies pursued by countries. 

 

This brings me to my call for low emissions development strategy.  This is where you can make a valid contribution to the growth of economies, and to the sustainability of our planet.

 

Clean technologies play an invaluable role in sustainable development.  Developed countries, which account for a significant part of carbon emissions, need not just be developers of clean technologies, but users as well.  You cannot sell what you reluctantly use.

 

Germany’s experience in renewable energy development is astounding. Worth noting is the fact that the share of renewables in Germany’s energy supply has increased from 6.4 percent in 2000 to over 25 percent in 2012.[6] We can learn from its wide range of experiences in clean energy development and use.

 

According to the Asian Development Bank, clean energy investment has been growing in the Asia-Pacific region, attracting €74 billion (USD101 billion) of investments in clean energy for the year 2012 alone.[7]

 

The Philippines, a minor emitter of greenhouse gases, adopted a voluntary GHG emission reduction target of five percent by 2012 from its 1990 levels. From 96 in 1990, this has grown to only 159 metric ton carbon dioxide equivalent in 2010 or only 0.31 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010.[8]  Notwithstanding, the country is doing its share in addressing climate change realities.

 

The Philippines is a leader in the use of renewable energy.  In fact, the second in geothermal energy use. To scale up renewable energy development and address the country’s growing power needs, landmark laws such as the Philippine Biofuels Act of 2006 and the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 were enacted.

 

Early estimates indicate that we have more than 200,000 potential renewable energy resources that remain untapped.

 

The country’s National Renewable Energy Program has set out aggressive targets on renewable energy development from 2011-2030, aiming to nearly triple our existing capacity of 5,369 megawatts to 15,304 megawatts by the year 2030.[9]

 

On a per technology basis, the targets are: 75 percent increase in geothermal capacity; 160 percent increase in hydropower capacity; additional 277 megawatts for biomass; 2,345 megawatts additional wind power capacities; and an additional 350 megawatts for solar.  Our plan also seeks to develop the first ocean energy facility in the country in the medium term.[10]

 

We have the legal framework that provides the necessary policy mechanisms such as the Feed-in Tariff, Net Metering, Renewable Portfolio Standards, Green Energy Option, Renewable Energy Market, and other fiscal incentives such as income tax holiday. 

 

There have been challenges, however, in our efforts to fast-track the development of our renewable energy resources more aggressively. Impacts on electricity pricing have been a major consideration among our regulators, particularly as we already have one of the highest electricity rates in the world. 

 

Recent events, however, have shown that conventional energy, which traditional views seem to favor, does not and cannot guarantee low electricity prices.

 

A study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies reports that one out of five people or 130 million in ASEAN lack access to electricity.  The same study said that 16 million Filipinos remain to have no access to electricity. 

 

This is a market that can very well benefit from renewable energy development in the region.

 

As providers of clean technology, however, I ask you to not only bring clean technologies to our countries, but also to help us develop our capacities to develop and maintain them.

 

As disaster risk reduction is everybody’s business, a more visible action from the business community is required.  It is not enough for businesses to offer clean technology solutions.  You need to make these technologies available, especially to developing countries, with the long-term survival of these countries in mind. A massively decimated market will not allow businesses to thrive.  It is therefore in the private sector’s best interest to strengthen its support to climate action and DRR initiatives.

 

Renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are valuable components of low carbon emissions development strategy.  They need to be embraced by everyone.

 

Our search for responses to climate change realities requires the climate proofing of our energy sector.

 

In doing so, I ask you to bring to the markets of developing countries energy efficient technologies. It would be wrong to think that what is no longer good for the developed countries will be good for ours.  

 

Support our adaptation measures in order that we may help build assets and strengthen the resilience of communities. Help finance mitigation activities and buttress adaptation measures. 

 

I invite you to come to my country with disaster reduction and resilience in mind. 

 

As an environmentalist and climate adaptation advocate, my hope is for world leaders to lead their respective nations in cutting down on pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, reducing fossil fuel consumption, promoting the use of renewable energy, and assisting developing nations that are most vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation and climate change.

 

The disasters of recent past remind us all that we bear great responsibility to lead our people out of the constant threats of unsustainable development, worsening disasters and climate change.

 

Let it be said that in our time and during our watch, guided by our gift of intelligence and wisdom, armed with privilege and position, and driven by the desire to make this world a better place, we did our share. And maybe, just maybe, we can claim to be that great generation which has paved the way for change to happen, not just for ourselves, but also in dedication to the generations to come.

 

Thank you.

 

 


[1] Nelson Mandela’s speech before the Trafalgar Square CrowdFebruary 3, 2005, calling attention to 2005 as a great opportunity for change.

 

[2] Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda. NEDA, 2013.

[3] IPCC 5th Assessment Report

[4] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 4th Assessment Report

[5] ADB 2009 study

[6] 2013 WWF report: Meeting Renewable Energy Targets: Global lessons from the road to implementation. http://awsassets.panda.org/downloads/meeting_renewable_energy_targets__low_res_.pdf

[7] Interview with Mr. Anthony Jude, Chair of the Asian Development Bank’s Energy Committee. Asia’s clean energy future is in the hands of policy makers, says ADB Chair. 31 October 2013.

http://www.forumforthefuture.org/greenfutures/articles/asia%E2%80%99s-clean-energy-future-hands-policy-makers-says-adb-chair#sthash.aeftr4W4.dpuf

[8] SEPO “GHG Emissions. At A Glance.” March 2013

[9] Renewable Energy Plans and Programs, NREP 2011-2030

[10] Ibid.