The Recent Discussions on the Preliminary Philippine Position for the Paris Climate Deal

Elpidio V. Peria
26 July 2015

The Climate Change Commission of the Philippines held a consultation among civil society organizations last Friday, 24  July 2015 at the Social Hall of the Malacanang Palace in Manila led by Commission Vice-Chair Mary Ann Lucille F. Sering where she laid out the process undergone by Philippine line government agencies to come up with what is called the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), a summary of a country’s actions to lessen its greenhouse gas emissions among other climate-related initiatives, which is among the topics the countries attending the United Nations climate conference to be held in Paris, France this December will take up and agree upon.

In her introductory remarks opening the consultation, Sec. Sering said “this is not yet the INDC”, adding there are still a lot of criteria to be considered in coming up with this contribution to the global goal of meeting the 2 degrees centigrade threshold which is becoming more and more difficult to attain that is why the Philippines as Chair of the Climate Vulnerability Forum is now even batting for a global goal of 1.5 degrees centigrade.

Based on the finance needs assessment the Commission has undertaken along with other line agencies, they found out that the money coming in to the Philippines is more or less the same, and in the Climate Change Act, Republic Act 9729 which created the Climate Change Commission, one can only find one or two sentences dealing with climate change mitigation, which is what the efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions are called, but the law itself is mainly about adaptation, thus her point is that, we are already doing all that we can as regards climate change adaptation, but we need to do something about climate change mitigation.

With this backdrop, she said that we never invested in gathering greenhouse gas data, but now, when the Commission worked on this initial INDC, for the first time in the history of the Philippines, government agencies such as the DOE and the DOTC are now talking on what they can do together on mitigation.

The point before that we were making in the climate negotiations, she said, was that the burden (on curbing greenhouse gas emissions) is on developed countries – in Warsaw, where the INDC was first negotiated, what we understood then was that the INDC was in mitigation, so the way we looked at the issue then was, how do we craft our adaptation efforts.

After Warsaw, we didn’t do anything (on mitigation) as our view was that we’re not the ones responsible (for the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere)

It was only after the Lima climate conference last December where we said we will organize ourselves so we can come up with our INDC, but coming to the work of doing it, the main problem we faced was : where do we get the numbers, and how are we going to consolidate them?

As we moved on to do our work on INDC this year, she said that the pressure by developed countries on us, and other developing countries to do the INDC, is tremendous, even the well-known Claudia Salerno, the Venezuelan chief negotiator in the UNFCCC said that this kind of pressure already amounts to “climate bullying”; according to Sec. Sering, however, we refuse to be pressured, until President Hollande of France visited us in February and he met Pnoy and from then on President Aquino declared that we have to do our INDC, so this INDC that we are consulting with you now is something that the President himself asked.

Now, the reason why the Climate Change Commission only consulted with CSOs at this late stage is that the government agencies are hard at work, Sec. Sering said she never saw the agencies work this hard and work the numbers so we can come up with something.

We were surprised that as we crunched the numbers, we have actually produced some numbers, though what is difficult is the work of doing the projections and the baseline; for example, NEDA was asking the DOE for numbers on how much energy we will need to power our development efforts, the DOE responded, give us first your economic projections and we will determine how much energy requirements we will need to make it happen.

The Climate Change Commission will next meet with the private sector in the next two weeks; the political process for this INDC has already started; we even got the help of UP School of Economics to help us with figuring out all the economic implications of what we are doing.

Thus, as she said earlier, our submission will be an INITIAL, submission. After the political processs is finished, then we hope to submit it, if not by the end of August, definitely before October 1, the UNFCCC deadline for submission of INDCs.

The tools used in developing the INDC are the following:

– LEAP (long-range Energy Alternatives Planning system)
– Agricultural Land Use software
– Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC)
– Cost-Benefit Analysis
– 2006 IPCC software
– Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA)

The assumptions used were : base year –2010; baseline scenarios 2010-2050; GDP actual data from 2010-2014 and for 2015-2050, annual average of 5.1%; the population growth assumptions used data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Developed countries are always asking what are our means of implementation, and we will eventually be taking that up, but we still haven’t decided whether we will be conservative or “mayabang” (ambitious to the point of been seen as doing something that is difficult to do, but we are betting that we can)

Presenting the slide showing the results of the MACC calculations, it showed that the National Greening Program, the DENR’s flagship reforestation program, meaning our forests, is something that we cannot rely on as a sink, but these are based on preliminary data, that is why this is being recalculated.

Another problem that we were faced with is : if we submit this year, will the next administration even recognize it? This is something that we also have to take into account, she said.

As questions from the floor were allowed even at this stage of her preliminary remarks, Mr. Red Constantino, of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, a member of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, stood up and asked : how much of these projections integrate the global energy trends, like what’s happening in solar and wind energy, as more and more mainstream business projects come online, the financing aspects of these projects will become competitive in 80% of the world in the coming years, have those figures and trends been factored in the projections made, are we not locking in future administrations to a set up where we could have gotten more. The projections assume that the grid will remain the same, that should be contested, the grid can only deal with some intermittency.

Sec. Sering replied, under business as usual scenarios, the costs of these projects are still high, we can’t even hit the 2 degrees global average with this submission

Gerry Arances of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice spoke next and asked, the Philippine call for that 1.5 degress global average made in the recent June intersessional meeting of the UNFCCC, where is it anchored on the carbon budget of the Philippines, or was there something like that even considered at all. This is connected on the demand for adaptation; perhaps it may be good to also include in the scenarios other aspects like health, and Greenpeace, PMCJ and Harvard Medical School will come up with a study on the impact of coal on public health.

Sec. Sering said, we did not consider carbon budgeting in our scenarios.

Ping Peria of the Biodiversity, Innovation, Trade and Society (BITS) Policy Center, also a member of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, asked if whether in the projections, we were able to find out the peak year after which we will have to reduce our carbon emissions?

Sec. Sering replied that determining the peak year is difficult and what they did was the business-as-usual (BAU) scenario.

Gerry Arances followed up with a point that the assumptions made on the cut in emissions for various sectors should be examined since they appear to be constant, when they should not be; he also asked what kind of government support is needed to factor in the cost per sector, since what will happen is that, the item that is cost-effective will carry the burden of doing the most of the reduction efforts but there are opportunity costs into doing that, at a certain point in time, certain sectors will become more attractive and the government should be aware when will this happen so incentives can be programmed to account for the needed changes.

Sec. Sering replied, there’s so much to do really.

At a certain point in the discussion, a graph was shown of a decreasing per unit cost of GHG emission per unit of GDP.

An economist participant stood up, he said something is tying up the two together to produce the counter-intuitive result, his suspicion is that it’s due to the way the calculations are done.

Sec. Sering noted the decline started in 2012.

The DOE rep spoke, she said, the GHG levels are still increasing in all the scenarios, what we’ve done is to reduce emissions absolutely, it’s because of the GDP, we assume.

Sec Sering said the DOE is not pro-anything, they’re all looking at costs.

Jessica Dator-Bercilla of Christian Aid asked, suppose we take the pathway for coal, where is our evidence from climate science showing that even if this is done, it doesn’t change the weather conditions, who’s doing the ground-truthing of the observations?

Sec. Sering replied, this translates to the point that we can actually use coal.

Shubert Ciencia of Oxfam asked, do we have the numbers on what each sector still has to do in its level of greenhouse gas emissions that still meets the 1.5degrees centigrade threshold? The scenarios will help us decide on what’s the best way forward; we may need to also look at 2015-2020 and also our post-2020 scenarios.

Sec. Sering said we are prepared for the 2015-2020 period.

Gerry Arances of PMCJ noted that it’s lamentable that when the Renewable Energy Act was passed, we are already 34% RE but now we have something like 59 coal-fired power plants on the pipeline.

The DOE rep said what they are counting are the committed capacity only of the plants, which is something like 4,000 MW only, that will become online this year; but there is an existing policy of no new coal in the DOE.

Red Constantino of ICSC again spoke, we should factor in the uninterrupted growth of the economy, even our notion of cheap must be challenged; no one in government postulated that in give years the US coal industry will suffer a terminal decline.

Sec. Sering said that we might be too focused on coal, and the debate on it will be a domestic fight, but there’s an opportunity for us to do new things, like on natural gas, but we cannot do it already since we have a problem on the South China Sea where we could have started our efforts to get that resource.

Gerry Arances again asked what is now the process for this INDC?
Sec. Sering said we have a deadline August 10, so any inputs from the CSOs on any other aspect of the computations, any data that can be provided, will be welcome.

Jessica Dator-Bercilla of Christian Aid spoke, this has been a difficult path for the CCC, but this was a good start, the INDC is a statement of these commitments, what else will we need, how can we help on climate governance, what kinds of instruments would NEDA or the DENR need in order to come up with a robust set of numbers.

Sec Sering said please share the numbers or computations with us.

After some exchanges on the sharing of data and further information, the DOE rep further provided information on the country’s energy mix, as follows: 39.9% RE; 31.28% oil; 6.39% natural gas and 22.41% coal; but in terms of the power mix, it is as follows, RE 25.64%; oil 7.39%; natural gas 29.19% and coal, 42.78%.

On the matter of integrating adaptation in the INDC, the following discussion ensued:

The economist participant said as a preliminary point that some adaptation options may also be GHG emitting and that should be considered when looking at our adaptation options.

Jessica Dator-Bercilla of Christian Aid said it should be adaptation with mitigation co-benefits.

Rissa Bernabe of Oxfam asked, what’s the strategic value of adaptation, she thinks it’s important from the perspective of determining the level of adaptation finance that will be needed.

Shubert Ciencia of Oxfam also added, sustainable agriculture is also one approach to adaptation.

Jessica Dator-Bercilla of Christian Aid added, it can’t be separated from our discussion on loss and damage, this is where climate finance can be included.

Red Constantino of ICSC further added, we should not be uncomfortable with submitting an INDC with only a mitigation perspective, our offer needs to affect the 1.5degrees threshold; he suggested caution in pushing too much adaptation, since if we press it too much, the question is where do you put your agriculture in the discussion on adaptation?

Ping Peria of BITS Policy Center/Aksyon Klima further suggested another justification for putting in adaptation in the INDC in response to the call of Sec. Sering on how we should justify adaptation in the INDC : suppose we don’t include adaptation, then that means we can be forced to fully comply with what we put there as our mitigation contributions, there’s no way out of it; but if we put in also adaptation, knowing that in the negotiations, the proper relationship of the two in the INDC is still undefined, we can use adaptation as our leverage to temper our mitigation contributions, and we can always say, we will do as much adaptation and mitigation provided there are similar efforts on the part of the developed countries, including their support; furthermore, we can on saying we are a vulnerable country, putting in adaptation in our INDC further validates that assertion.

Sec. Sering replied, don’t misunderstand me, I didn’t say we will not put in adaptation in our INDC, I was just asking for some further numbers relating to the resiliency that we will get if we do adaptation, and it is those numbers that we want to put in our INDC.

Jo-Ann Guilao of Tebtebba suggested to include in the INDC any communities that will be considered as vulnerable.

Paeng Lopez of GAIA asked whether the costs of the change of the value of technology is already included in the computation, as modern technology advances, solid waste management technologies become more expensive.

After these exchanges, the consultation was concluded, around a little past 1pm.


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One Response to The Recent Discussions on the Preliminary Philippine Position for the Paris Climate Deal

  1. Thanks for this information

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