Media asked to help expand climate literacy among Filipinos

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has called on the media to help accelerate climate action in the country by spearheading the education and advocacy campaigns necessary to motivate Filipinos to be at the frontlines of the global fight against climate change.

With media playing an indispensable role in keeping people informed about relevant concerns and contextual issues that frame the daily grind of news, climate change should be among their top priorities, given the urgency in addressing this worsening environmental crisis, Dominguez said.

“I know that environmental news can sometimes be boring. It can be too scientific, complicated, and full of gloom and doom. But you have an important mission to bring new perspectives to the climate change discourse and inspire communities to take action in mitigating this crisis. I am confident that you all have creative ways to center climate change and environmental issues as top priorities in business and politics,” Dominguez told members of the Tuesday Club during their media forum held this morning.

Joining the media forum were several members of the National Panel of Technical Experts (NPTE) of the Climate Change Commission (CCC). This new composition of the NPTE represents all corners of the country and have been selected to help engage and educate communities in adopting localized climate adaptation and mitigation programs.

Dominguez said the members of the Tuesday Club, which include editors, columnists and public relations (PR) practitioners, can start by writing newsworthy and incisive articles that would encourage Filipinos to “spring into action” to help reverse the ill effects of the climate crisis.

“The greatest defense to this fight against climate change is climate literacy. I urge you to accelerate climate action through advocacy and education,” he said.

Underscoring the urgency of mitigating the effects of climate change in the country, Dominguez pointed out that the Philippines ranks 9th out of 181 nations in the world as the most affected country from extreme weather events in the 2020 World Risk Index, on top of being visited by an average of 20 tropical cyclones yearly as it sits squarely at the Typhoon Belt.

The Philippine archipelago is also sinking at a rate four times faster than the global rate, which is alarming, especially because most of the population is situated in coastal communities and low-lying areas, Dominguez said.

He cited as an example the town of Masantol, Pampanga, which has been experiencing an uninterrupted cycle of flooding.

Dominguez also said that over the last decade, the Philippines incurred losses and damages estimated at about P506 billion from climate-related hazards, which is a “staggering amount” equivalent to an annual average of about P50 billion.

In 2021, damage to infrastructure and agriculture from Typhoon ‘Odette’ alone ballooned to about P25 billion.

“Clearly, climate change is a real threat and a daily reality for the Philippines. For us, turning back the effects of climate change is a matter of survival,” Dominguez said.

As the President’s official representative to the Climate Change Commission (CCC), Dominguez said he is “very determined” to shift the country’s focus from “merely theorizing and talking about climate change, to implementing practical and doable projects on the ground to mitigate its destructive effects.”

Dominguez said that even though the Philippines contributes only 0.3 percent to the global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), it had boldly committed to reduce these by 75 percent in 2030, which will be done through actionable projects—to demonstrate to the world how an emerging economy yet climate-vulnerable country can lead in the fight to save the planet.

“In the last COP26 (26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties) meeting in Glasgow, the Philippine delegation sternly reminded the wealthier economies about their commitment to provide US$100 billion in climate financing. The response we received was disappointing. The Western countries that agreed to raise the funds seem to require three more years to work out the details and parameters of the concept,” Dominguez said.

Ironically, these industrialized economies were the countries that polluted and continue to pollute the planet, emitting the world’s greatest volume of GHG emissions, he noted.

Dominguez said the Philippines is determined to move ahead with fulfilling its climate ambitions, “on its own, if necessary,” although he pointed out that as an emerging economy, the country cannot fully achieve its carbon-reduction commitments without financial support from wealthier countries.

To proceed with its climate ambition and pave the way for the green bonds’ issuance, the government inaugurated its Sustainable Finance Framework last year, said Dominguez.

Dominguez said the government is also working with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and some private sector partners in developing the innovative Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM) project to help the Philippines accelerate the retirement of coal plants in the country by at least 10 to 15 years on average and boost the growth of renewable energy (RE) using an equitable, scalable and market-based approach.

He said the participation of the Philippines’ multilateral and bilateral partners in implementing clean energy projects has encouraged the private sector to likewise invest in these initiatives.

Dominguez cited the Citicore Energy Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), which earlier this morning made its first-ever energy-related REIT offering in the country to fund its ongoing and future investments in solar and hydro plants in key areas in Luzon.

He said he expects other clean energy companies to follow Citicore Energy REIT’s initiative in helping the country accelerate its transition to RE sources.

The government also launched last year the Philippines’ Sustainable Finance Roadmap, which will set the guiding principles that will create the environment for greener policies; the mainstreaming of sustainable finance; and a pipeline for investments that will help the country reduce its carbon footprint even as it raises its economic output, he said.

Dominguez said the government is also pushing the passage of a bill banning single-use plastics, and has put together the CCC’s new NPTE to engage Filipino fisherfolk and farmers and prepare them to execute localized action plans.

At the COP26, Dominguez headed the Philippine delegation and led the call for climate justice from industrialized economies.

He spotlighted the true concept of climate finance, which, he said, involves a “blended mix” of grants for capacity building; investments in green projects; and subsidies that should address the financial costs and risks of communities transitioning to a climate-resilient economy.

Dominguez recalled that he also proposed that multilateral banks help catalyze financial flows to developing countries in order to meet their climate change objectives by providing the seal of good housekeeping to their clean energy projects.

“The Philippines is determined to move ahead on its own if necessary. We have decided not to rely entirely on COP and on the financing commitments of the Western countries that have not materialized. We will take action now. We owe that to the Filipino people,” Dominguez said.