Sanchez: Fossilizing fossil fuels

NEGROS Occidental can rightly brag -- been there, doing that with its movement toward reliance on renewable, especially solar energy. As far as Negrenses are concerned, fossil fuels are to remain where they are -- fossilized. We are in sync with the world.

The recent Paris deal is the blaring signal the world needs that the era of fossil fuels is coming to a rapid close. Countries around the world pledged to do the near-impossible -- limit warming “well below” 2 degrees, and below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels if feasible.

That basically requires the world to move rapidly toward 100 percent clean energy, producing zero net greenhouse gas emissions between about 2050 and 2080.

The Paris Agreement is about time. Nearly 200 countries working together to avoid superdroughts, rising tides, dangerous floods, deadly heat waves, and other ills associated with run-amok global warming.

The catchy slogan in Paris is to target maintaining the global temperature to “1.5 to stay alive.” But as my Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs warned, “Every nation emits carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that dangerously warm the planet. Yet decarbonization is costly, at least in the short term. The resulting decarbonization is too little, too late for planetary safety.”

Unfortunately, I cannot say the Philippines is totally in sync with the world. True, the country has adopted policies addressing climate change issues through the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, the Climate Change Act of 2009, the People’s Survival Fund of 2012, and the Renewable Energy Act of 2008.

In practice, though, the outgoing Aquino Administration has largely chosen the fossil energy path. It has approved 23 new coal-fired power plants. Facilities include two new 300-MW plants opening in Davao City in 2016 and 2017, a 400-MW expansion of existing facilities in Quezon opening in 2017, a 600-MW plant in Subic opening in 2016, and a plant expansion in Bataan, also in 2016.

Here is how President Aquino justified his bias for carbon fuels. In his nearly two-hour 2013 SONA in Davao City, he said in lambasting his critics, “Did they happen to mention that renewable energy is also more expensive -- from the cost of building the plants to the eventual price of energy?”

The coming year 2016, the Philippines will hold its national elections. Filipinos will choose their next president and other national and local officials. Will the winners finally embrace a decarbonization policy, using as their basis our national laws?

Will any of our presidential candidates follow the path chosen by our Negrense provincial and municipal and city leaders of embracing renewable, largely solar power? Developed countries will soon jettison their coal-fired power plants. Will our next leaders choose to buy their trash power plants at bargain prices?

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