Climate groups urge PH to promote green energy in Southeast Asia

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 20) — Climate justice groups are urging President Rodrigo Duterte to heed their stand against coal-fired power plants and raise the issue of renewable energy at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as the Philippines heads ASEAN 2017.

In a press conference on Tuesday, the groups said the Philippines should promote the "decarbonization" of Southeast Asia during ASEAN talks, as the region is one of the world's biggest sites for coal energy.

Gerry Arrances of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice said ASEAN countries are among those who stand to lose the most from global warming and climate change.

"It can go exponentially, 'yung impacts, at pwede mas malalapad yung maranasan ng Pilipinas, maranasan ng Southeast Asia," he said.

[Translation: The impacts can go exponentially, and the Philippines and Southeast Asia's experiences (with climate change) may increase.]

Manila is hosting the 35th ASEAN Ministers of Energy Meeting in September. Climate advocates say renewable energy initiatives will be discussed at the talks but fear the issue of global warming will not be seriously dealt with.

Arrances warned against ignoring the looming threat, saying an increase in the global temperature can spell a big difference for climate-vulnerable countries such as the Philippines.

"Science is saying there is no more room for even one coal plant na itatayo," he said.

Taking the initiative

Arrances said cheaper renewable energy sources are available. Even big, industrialized countries like India and China are veering away from using fossil fuels.

Despite this, many developing countries like the Philippines and Indonesia have yet to fully invest in renewable energy.

Some companies, however, are exerting effort to combat climate change.

A major banking institution's head offices are solely powered by geothermal energy.

At least two of Unionbank's branches are certified with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the most widely-used rating system for green buildings around the world.

UnionBank Chairman and CEO Dr. Justo Ortiz told CNN Philippines the shift is an investment for the country's future.

"What's important is the mindset—how we think as Unionbankers, and how thinking of sustainability will produce a replicating effect with our customers, our other stakeholders and the value proposition… that we are a worthy member of a community that the community sees value in investing in and sustaining in return," he said.

In a separate interview, Antonio Moraza, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of power generator and distributor Aboitiz Power Corp., told CNN Philippines the country has taken some initiatives but may need more time before embracing green energy.

He said more companies have shifted to renewable energy, but coal remains a main energy source.

He added, until the technology needed to tap renewable sources is fully developed, it will be hard for the Philippines to fully shift towards greener energy.

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change will be enforced in the Philippines beginning Earth Day, April 22.

The agreement aims to cap average global temperatures to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by reducing carbon emissions.

Read more: Senate ratifies climate change bill

Arrances said given the recent availability of affordable green energy sources, such a shift would benefit the Philippines in the long run.

"Imaginin mo in the next five years or the next 10 years. Ang Pilipinas at Southeast Asia mala-lock in sa isang mahal, nakamamatay at climate buster na klase ng enerhiya in the next 50 years," he said.

[Translation: Imagine in the next five years or the next 10 years. The Philippines and Southeast Asia will be locked in an expensive, deadly and climate busting type of energy in the next 50 years.]