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Statement of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda IRENA Legislators Forum Session 1 Panel Discussion: Renewable Energy as an enabler to rebuild better after COVID-19 13 January 2021

January 14, 2021

Thank you for this opportunity to be with colleagues in this Legislators Forum of theInternational Renewable Energy Agency, in partnership with the Global Renewables Congress.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the sobering reality that the world is not as advanced, prosperous and as resilient as we thought it to be. We have realized that our societies and economic systems are fragile, and that we are only as strong as our most vulnerable.

The only way forward is to heed science and make decisive actions toward staging a recovery that will pave the way for acleaner, safer, and more resilient world for all.

The latest science conveys that for the world community to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming threshold of the Paris Agreement, carbon emissions should fall by 45% by 2030 from 2010 levels and should reach net-zero by 2050.

The global energy transition amid the pandemic is therefore an imperative. Failure to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement will be a matter of life and death with enormous and lingering socio-economic consequences, many more times than the pandemic—projected to reach up to 600 trillion US dollars in losses by the end of the century.

The Philippines—a highly climate-vulnerable archipelagic country with only 0.3% contribution to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissionsrecognizes the significant opportunities for a sustainable and inclusive recovery that a low carbon development path offers.

I believe that the Philippines already has the laws and policies in place—while some, underway. In 2008, I co-authored the Renewable Energy Act to offer a wide range of incentives to spur growth within the RE sector. In 2019, we passed the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Law, which I also co-authored. We imposedhigher taxes on coal, which, for decades, had enjoyed minimal taxes at 10 pesos or 20 US centavos per metric ton. We were able to increase the taxes to 50, 100, and 150 pesos for the next three years.

Our National Policy Review on Energy identified key strategies and policy reforms on integrated energy system planning, renewable energy development, energy efficiency, and conventional electricity generation in line with the country’s pursuit of energy security, affordability, and sustainability. It recommends the establishment of decentralized RE plants to provide access to five (5) percent of households in the Philippines that do not have electricity connection.

The moratorium of the Philippines’ Department of Energy on endorsements for coal power plants and their support to allow 100% foreign ownership on geothermal projects is a gamechanger—a concrete step to advance rapidly the deployment of renewable energy and reduce the country’s dependence on coal for energy generation.

The immediate challenge for us now is on how we can truly breathe life into ourpolicies and enable RE technologies to emerge from the crisis with renewed momentum.

We must contextualize the challenges of COVID-19 within the realm of climate change adaptation informing long-term sustainable development planning, coupled with development opportunities under climate change mitigation. In this way, countries will be more equipped not just to respond to and recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and the emergence of pandemics—but also to future natural threats to humanity associated with the changing climate.

Parliamentarians, being responsible for enhancing the policy environment to address development issues, should formulate policies to make the energy transition an integral part of the wider economic recovery.

This is why in House Bill No. 6815, which seeks to establish an economic stimulus strategy for the Philippines’ growth and development in the aftermath of COVID-19, I pushed for a provision to ensure that the construction of climate-resilient and climate-smart infrastructure such as, but not limited to, flexible smart power grids that can accommodate renewable energy sources, sustainable transportation systems, and green infrastructure is integrated in the government’s National Expenditure Program.

Entrusted with the power of the purse, parliamentarians must ensure that the annual national budget prioritizes and allocates funds for programs that accelerate a low-carbon development pathway.

Our government has always emphasized a “whole-of-nation” approach to addressing the pandemic and the climate crisis, as we have demonstrated in our policy-making processes. But national actions will be for naught if we do not foster and sustain convergences among our countries and parliaments.

From IRENA’s vast experience and global exposure to the RE project development issues throughout the world, it is in a unique position to support legislators to craft responsive and fit-for-purpose policies that will facilitate and fast track the development, funding, and implementation of renewable energy projects.

Through this dialogue, let us continue to work toward a global energy transition that is clean, just, inclusive, and sustainable.

Thank you.