Speech: Parliamentary Leadership on Carbon Reduction Policies – Implementing the Paris Agreement and SDGs on Clean Air

April 18, 2018


Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
Parliamentary Leadership on Carbon Reduction Policies –
Implementing the Paris Agreement and SDGs on Clean Air
April 18, 2018 | Washington, D.C.

It is my distinct honor to be representing the Philippines in the 2018 AirQualityAsia Second Annual High-Level Strategy Session, as I share our efforts in improving air quality while addressing climate change, as well as to learn from my fellow legislators and experts in this regard.

This morning’s panel aptly focuses on the theme “Sustainable Cities are Healthy Cities,” and my presentation highlights Philippine efforts and innovations towards better quality of air and life, as prescribed by our own laws, as well as our international commitments from the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The World Health Organization estimates that 6.5 million deaths are caused by air pollution annually, making it the world’s largest environmental health risk.[1]

The air pollutant most closely linked to death and disease is particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter or PM2.5, which is emitted from motor vehicles, power plants, industrial processes, and the combustion of biomass, coal, and kerosene.

One other pollutant is the ground-level ozone, which causes significant respiratory illness and is formed due to methane from waste dumps and diesel vehicle emissions.[2]

In the Philippines, about one in four deaths are attributed to air pollution.[3]  The safe level for PM2.5 is 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air in a year, but the recorded annual average of these pollutants in Manila—the most urbanized and densely populated city in the Philippines—is at 17 micrograms per cubic meter or 70% more than the recommended safe level.[4]

The number one source of this pollution comes from vehicles, which, in 2013, the Philippines registered to have 7,690,038 units nationwide.[5]

Air quality and climate change is relational because factors that cause air pollution, such as the combustion of fossil fuels, are also sources of high CO2 emissions.[6] We are therefore supporting both climate and health goals at once when we implement policies and measures that improve air quality.

In 1999, we enacted Republic Act No. 8749, otherwise known as the Philippine Clean Air Act, which provides the policy framework for our country’s air quality management program.  This law seeks to uphold the right of every Filipino to clean and quality air by reducing air pollution from stationary and mobile sources.

It adheres to the provision in the Philippine Constitution that grants the Filipino the right to “a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”

The Philippine Clean Air Act encourages cooperation and self-regulation from and among citizens and industries. It emphasizes compliance and accountability to the government’s environmental rules and regulations.

This law had enabled our environmental agency to conduct two monitoring programs of air pollution from stationary and mobile sources: the “Bantay Tsimneya,” which monitors industrial emissions; and the “Bantay Tambutso,” for vehicular emissions.

Recognizing the contribution of vehicles to air pollution, our environmental agency updated the emission limits from Euro 2 to Euro 4 emission standards and Euro 3 for motorcycles and tricycles. The agency had also adopted United Nations regulations for processing certificates of conformity (COC).

The law also provided for the preparation of an annual National Air Quality Status Report through monitoring stations. It also allowed for the designation of “airsheds,” which refer to geographical areas with similar weather or meteorological conditions and sources of air pollution affecting the interchange and diffusion of air pollution in the surrounding atmosphere within the entire country. To date, there are 98 air quality monitoring stations and 22 airsheds nationwide.

The Philippine Clean Air Act provides a solid foundation for other legislative measures on environmental protection and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

It heavily complements the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 in pursuing more affordable and cleaner sources of energy, as well as the first-ever Green Jobs Act in the whole world in transitioning our industrial sectors towards green growth.

We pursue this development path of a low-carbon economy because this is the only course for us to be climate-resilient.

In 2012, our carbon emissions registered at a negligible amount compared to other countries—only at 157.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) or 0.33 percent of global GHG emissions.[7]  But we choose this path because we have learned from the mistakes of the past.

Years of industrialization have brought us to an unhealthy state of the environment. Yet tolerating this very behavior would not at all change the grim fate for the Philippines.

Our vulnerability and resilience as a nation has given us a voice to represent and lead other highly vulnerable countries in climate negotiations. When everyone else found it adequate to set the global warming limit at two degrees Celsius, we pushed it even further. We encouraged greater and more ambitious climate action by setting the limit to 1.5 degrees.

We are also finalizing and set to submit this year our Nationally Determined Contributions as part of our commitment to the Paris Agreement. And I commit to do everything in my power to ensure that the Philippines’ NDC will be 1.5˚C-compatible.

Even though our NDC is conditioned on the availability of financial resources to pursue technology development and transfer and capacity building, we have already espoused in our national development plans the strategies to achieve our mitigation commitments.

The 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan (PDP), in particular, has embedded various mitigation strategies in the energy, transport, and industry sectors which include: (i) the promotion of green technology innovations; (ii) institution of appropriate incentives that will intensify the use of more energy efficient technologies in both the public and private sectors; (iii) further development and use of renewable energy (RE) in line with the provisions of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008; (iv) promotion of climate-smart infrastructures and designs as prescribed by the Green Building Code of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) which incorporates resiliency in engineering designs; (v) promotion of low-carbon, energy-efficient and environment-friendly urban transport systems; and (vi) promotion of sustainable consumption and production through the use of practices and technologies that would help attain economic goals and environmental standards that will facilitate the move towards low-carbon economy.

We knew that understanding how to calculate and keep track of our emissions would be key to our mitigation goals. In 2014, our government issued Executive Order No. 174, which institutionalized the Philippine Greenhouse Gas Inventory Management and Reporting System (PGHGIMRS).

Our Climate Change Commission (CCC), as the lead implementing agency, provides direction and guidance in the accounting and reporting of GHG emissions from identified key sectors. The CCC is also responsible for developing a system for the archiving, reporting, monitoring, and evaluation of GHG inventories in all sectors, as well as facilitating continuous capacity building initiatives in the conduct of GHG inventories to ensure application of updated methodologies.

The CCC is supported by other government agencies in conducting GHG inventories in concerned sectors and may invite local government units, academe, private and public institutions to participate, complement, and assist in its implementation.

Meanwhile, our National Greening Program is still ongoing, posting an accomplishment of 1.7 million hectares from 2011 to 2016 and targeting 1.2 million hectares more from 2017 to 2022. Executive Order No. 193, s. 2015 expanded the coverage of the National Greening Program and aims to cover the remaining 7.1 million hectares of unproductive, denuded and degraded forestlands nationwide until 2028.

The NGP continues to be a vital component of our mitigation action. Forests act as carbon sinks and therefore help improve the quality of our air, while providing livelihood opportunities to our communities.

Mitigating measures would largely include reduction of black carbon from diesel-fed vehicles, municipal solid waste sector, household cooking and domestic heating, oil and natural gas production, and agriculture.

Even though we are still in the consultation phase of ratifying the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which seeks to phasedown HFCs in the refrigeration and air-conditioning sector, we recognize that this would certainly strengthen our call to limit global warming by 1.5.

As parliamentarians, we bear the responsibility of steering our country forward through fostering a policy environment where laws can unlock national potential and serve as the foundation for inclusive and sustainable development where our people could thrive and prosper.

For three years in a row, I have worked to ensure that the national budget of the Philippines would truly cater to the needs of our people in light of climate change.

My role as Chair of the Finance Committee of the Philippine Senate has allowed me, alongside my colleagues in the Senate, to enact budget provisions for climate adaptation and mitigation, such as the establishment of multi-hazard early warning systems, rainwater harvesting, seed banks, mangroves, rooftop gardens, roadside ditches, sea wall, and practice drills for response and preparedness.

The power of the purse rests on Congress, and I emphasize this because we cannot achieve our goals without the necessary budgetary support for our projects and programs.

And in light of the new realities and challenges due to a warming planet, we are expected to do more for the safety and future of our people, our country, and our planet.

Thank you very much.***

Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations, Finance and Climate Change, is the Alternate Head of the Philippine Delegation to the 2018 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group in Washington, DC, USA.

(You may watch the video of the speech through the official Facebook page of Senator Loren Legarda in this link: https://web.facebook.com/senatorlorenlegarda/videos/10155584272391194/)

[1] World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/sustainable-development/BreatheLife-Technical-Flyer.pdf?ua=1

[2] Ibid.

[3] Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Air Pollution: A Public Health Concern in the Philippines. http://www.denr.gov.ph/news-and-features/latest-news/3295-air-pollution-a-public-health-concern-in-the-philippines.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] Philippine Statistics Authority. https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/2013%20PY_Transportation.pdf

[6] World Health Organization.

[7] Greenhouse Gas Emissions Factsheet: Philippines. https://www.climatelinks.org/resources/greenhouse-gas-emissions-factsheet-philippines