Greenpeace backs Duterte's commitment to climate action; criticizes coal projects

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 22 2021 03:12 PM

Climate activists join residents of communities affected by pollution from coal-fired power plants as they picket in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon City on March 5, 2020, calling on the government to increase efforts in ensuring cleaner air. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Climate activists join residents of communities affected by pollution from coal-fired power plants as they picket in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon City on March 5, 2020, calling on the government to increase efforts in ensuring cleaner air. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Environmental group Greenpeace Philippines on Wednesday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to follow through his commitment to climate action by holding fossil fuel firms accountable for supposedly "fueling the climate crisis," noting that it is not too late. 

Duterte, in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly earlier in the day, committed to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2030. 

This included issuing a moratorium on constructing new coal power plants, and exploring alternatives banking on nuclear energy. 

The Department of Energy in October last year announced a moratorium on accepting new applications for greenfield coal power plants, but coal plants under construction and with approved permits can proceed. 

Greenpeace said the chief executive should also cancel approved coal projects that remain unbuilt. Doing otherwise would render Duterte's climate plan "insignificant," it pointed out.

“While it is good that the current administration has called for a coal moratorium, several coal projects remain in the pipeline, and the unconditional commitments in the [Nationally Determined Contributions] to reduce emissions remain insignificant," Greenpeace said in its statement.

"Duterte must commit to an urgent and managed transition to renewable energy by cancelling coal projects... including the phaseout plan for operating coal plants, and halting all plans for fossil gas expansion."

The environmental group added that part of Duterte's call to action should include holding fossil fuel companies accountable, as they "hold a big share of the responsibility."

In his speech, Duterte criticized the "biggest polluters past and present" for "choosing to do business as usual" just as developing nations suffer most from climate change. 

"Addressing the climate crisis must primarily include calling on carbon majors out for their responsibility in... the climate crisis, and the Philippines, with this Inquiry, can be among the first to make this call," according to Greenpeace.

A study by Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air last year revealed that hundreds of people are dying in the Philippines every year because of air pollution coming from 28 coal-fired power plants in the country. 

The study also noted that the coal-fired power plants caused 630 air pollution-related deaths every year, and nearly 68 percent of the estimated premature deaths were in Luzon. 

In its August 2021 climate change report, the United Nations (UN) said emissions due to human activities have "unequivocally" pushed the global temperature up 1.1 degrees Celsius from its pre-industrial average. 

The UN last week said the pace of climate change has not been slowed by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the world remains behind in its battle to cut carbon emissions. 

The virus-related economic downturn caused only a temporary downturn in CO2 emissions last year and it was not enough to reverse rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also said. 

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