The issue of our changing climate can be a matter of a few degrees — specifically, about 1.5 degrees Celsius.
A report from the United State’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) stated that at only 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer across the world, about 14 percent of the global population will experience severe heatwaves once every 5 years, with the hottest days going 3 degrees warmer than previous records. Even worse, megacities like Metro Manila will most likely become stressed by the elevated temperatures. This will have a serious impact on the population, particularly those who are more vulnerable to extreme weather.
Climate change, however, is not something that goes away with the seasons, or can be avoided with lip service. In his presentation during the 2nd Senator Edgardo J. Angara Public Lecture on Public Policy at San Beda University, Senior Fellow on Climate Change at the Manila Observatory and Professor of Law Antonio Gabriel La Viña stressed that our country would be significantly hit by climate change, and that we should emphasize climate change adaptation and mitigation measures for our own country. In so doing, we would also be able to encourage other countries to act. Though the larger, more well-developed countries must still take the lead, La Viña said that other countries should also do their part to reduce pollution emissions and work on their own climate change agenda.
Thankfully, here in the Philippines, we have already started with some pieces of legislation that will move the country forward when it comes to addressing climate change.
In 2017, Congress raised taxes on coal — from P10 per metric ton at the time, to P150 by this year. This tax increase was meant to help reduce the emissions that coal as an energy source causes. Yes, the issue triggered a heated debate, but in the end, the increase pushed through.
In 2016, Republic Act 10771, otherwise known as the Philippine Green Jobs Act, which we sponsored, was signed. This act affects most establishments engaged in production, manufacture, and sales of goods and services, including service oriented enterprises. The Climate Change Commission (CCC) and the Department of Finance (DOF) will have their roles in fulfilling the guidelines for the Act, with the CCC certifying which businesses have jobs that are “green,” and with the DOF administering incentives for these jobs.
This law also mandates that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) coordinate with other agencies to come up with a National Green Jobs Human Resource Development Plan, which will enhance and utilize the labor force with sustainability in mind. The main goal will be to move towards a green economy, complete with the education, training, and creation of opportunities required for a green economy.
Finally, just as we have Build, Build, Build, we also have Green, Green, Green, a program launched in 2018 by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), under then Secretary Ben Diokno. The DBM Program aimed to develop public open space projects that will make cities become more sustainable and livable through the expansion and rehabilitation of institutional open spaces, public squares, plazas, parks, streetscapes, waterfronts, and even mangrove parks. The program was envisioned as a complement to Build, Build, Build, to improve the quality of life in cities, and at the same time balancing the Build programs with corresponding “green” ones.
Climate change may move in terms of degrees on a thermometer, but the actions we need to address it comprise the work of generations. My father saw how important such issues would become and in 2008 authored the Renewable Energy Act, which, if properly implemented, would have encouraged the then-fledgling renewable energy projects to develop as a way to face the issues of climate change and fuel scarcity.
The time is now for action on climate change. After all, it is in our culture to try and make sure that our children will have a brighter future. We shouldn’t wait for them to find the solutions to the issues of our rapidly heating planet, especially when it was those who came before them that caused the problem in the first place. We should address as much as possible with the stakeholders and industry leaders now — all for the sake of intergenerational justice.
Greta Thunberg, the famous teenage climate change activist and Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019, sums up what we should be doing: “Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We must start today. We have no more excuses.”
Sen. Sonny Angara has been in public service for 15 years — nine years as Representative of the Lone District of Aurora, and six as Senator. He has authored and sponsored more than 200 laws. He recently won another term in the Senate. (Email: email@example.com| Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @sonnyangara)/WDJ