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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Phase-down of fossil fuels not enough to stop global warming

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“A large cloud of dust still hovers over the road to greener energy.”

The closing discussions of the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP28, at Expo City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in December fueled much debate on the wording of the roadmap for “transitioning away from fossil fuels.”

The deal stopped short of a long-demanded call for a “phaseout” of oil and coal fossil fuels, prompting outcry from climate-vulnerable nations and civil society.

The agreement omitted the word phaseout and opted for a mere phase-down of fossil fuels. One delegate pointed to the “hypocrisy of wealthy nations …that continue to expand fossil fuel operations massively while paying mere lip service to the green transition.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was naturally disappointed over the outcome of the agreement that merely called on nations to reduce “consumption and production of fossil fuels, in a just, orderly and equitable manner.”

Guterres said limiting global heating to 1.5°C, one of the keystone targets set in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, “will be impossible without the phaseout of all fossil fuels.” Much more, the UN chief says, is needed to deliver climate justice to those on the frontlines of the crisis.

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“Many vulnerable countries are drowning in debt and at risk of drowning in rising seas. It is time for a surge in finance, including for adaptation, loss and damage and reform of the international financial architecture.”

He said the world cannot afford “delays, indecision, or half measures” and insisted that “multilateralism remains humanity’s best hope.” “It is essential to come together around real, practical and meaningful climate solutions that match the scale of the climate crisis.”

The Philippines appears to be playing it safe–at least that’s what one energy company is espousing. Aboitiz Power Corp., one of the country’s biggest generation companies, is supporting a “phase-down” instead of a “phaseout” approach on coal-fired power projects as part of the government’s energy transition program.

AboitizPower Thermal Business Group president and chief operating officer Celso Caballero III stressed the need for a pragmatic strategy that considers the context of developing nations like the Philippines.

“This more pragmatic strategy from the original ‘phaseout’ solution is increasingly cognizant of the needs of developing countries,” he said.

Caballero added Aboitiz Power is advocating for an energy transition that takes into account the financial and industrial aspects of developing nations.

“We wrestle to find the right balance in the energy trilemma—energy security, equity and sustainability,” he said, while stressing the need to always go back to the three-point scale in mapping the role of coal in the energy transition.

The national government, at least, is taking a different tack. It plans to retire or repurpose the 210-megawatt Mindanao coal-fired power plant in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental, the only remaining state-owned coal plant, by 2026 at a cost of $476 million. The Department of Energy (DOE) is mulling over an option to include it in the Asian Development Bank’s energy transition mechanism (ETM).

DOE’s other option is the “potential bundling with assets needed for the replacement of power with clean energy for promoting energy transition.”

Global innovations in solar and wind technologies are expected to drive RE deployment in the Philippines further, as the government aims for a 35-percent RE share by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050.

Transitioning to renewable energy is the key to securing humanity’s survival, as “without renewables, there can be no future,” says Guterres.

A large cloud of dust still hovers over the road to greener energy. Fossil fuel subsidies remain one of the biggest financial barriers hampering the world’s transition to a cleaner energy.

The UN chief has consistently called for an end to all international public and private funding of fossil fuels, one of the major contributors to global warming, calling any new investments in them “delusional.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has noted that $5.9 trillion was spent on subsidizing the fossil fuel industry in 2020 alone. This figure includes subsidies, tax breaks, and health and environmental damages that were not priced into the initial cost of fossil fuels. That’s roughly $11 billion a day.

Delaying the transition to green energy is not an option to buy time for nations experiencing extreme weather.

“It is essential to come together around real, practical and meaningful climate solutions that match the scale of the climate crisis,” says Guterres.

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