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Mitigating Climate Change – Green SONA 2016

Julien Marie Piñero

Green State of the Nature Assessment (Green SONA) 2016 gathered environmentalists, government officials, academe, business and religious sectors and the general public last Aug. 9 to discuss the state of the Philippine environment and recommendation to address related issues.

With this year’s theme “Philippine Contribution to Climate Change: Carbon Sources and Sinks,” Green SONA aims to (1) discuss the state of sinks and sources of climate change and gather recommendations to address related issues; (2) listen to reaction of newly appointed official and facilitate a productive dialogue among the various stakeholders; (3) continue developing a critical mass of citizens across the country working to decrease carbon sources and increase carbon sinks and influence decision makers towards policies that promote socio-economic development balanced by environmental protection.

The president of Green Convergence and conference convener, Dr. Angelina P. Galang said, “SONA is a critique of what’s happening in the country from a particular perspective.”

During the convention, different aspects that greatly affect global warming and climate change were discussed. “When we say ‘climate change’, we’re referring to the phenomenon of highly destructive typhoon and droughts… climate change are happening because of the rise in global temperature,” Dr.Galang added, “global warming is climate change, but climate change is the result of global warming.”

Apart from discussing the main issues, the speakers of the event also recommended ways to address the problems. Research findings of Philippine carbon sources and sinks, status of the implementation of the Solid Waste Management Law, organic farming, and energy sources utilization and scenarios were tackled.

Green Convergence invited the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Regina “Gina” Lopez, Department of Energy secretary Alfonso Cusi, and Department of Agriculture secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol. However, only the latter came.

Although the participants were dismayed by the absence of Gina Lopez and Alfonso Cusi, the crowd lit up by the educational and entertaining lecture about the plans in the agricultural sector of Manny Piñol.

Philippine Carbon Sources and Sinks

                Based on the data submitted to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), carbon emissions in the Philippines come primarily from the following industries: energy, agriculture, industrial processes and waste.

Victoria Lopez, Executive Director of Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya stated, “These inventories were made following IPCC. Our question is, have these inventories counted or included the realities in the country? Every sector has situations in the Philippines that we need to examine.”

“Carbon emissions from sources are a measure of environmental, resource and community destruction, particularly by extractive industries that harm or disturb sinks. Mitigation strategies must associate carbon emission with impact, to have more complete basis in deciding on mitigation strategies,” Lopez said.

The energy sector remains to be the country’s biggest source of carbon emissions. The country relies on coal-fired power plants. Nineteen plants are now running and 20 more have been approved for operation by the Department of Energy.

Jay Joel Soriano of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) warned that the sector’s carbon emissions will increase by 141% if the country will continue to depend on coal.

                Secretary “Manny” Piñol promised to the country’s food buffer stock to 6 months. He also expressed interest in promoting organic farming because it will greatly reduce the agriculture sector’s carbon emissions. However, Piñol also said that if the market has no demand for organic produce he cannot dictate farmers to adopt it. “It’s not gonna happen right away,” he said.

Combustion vs Incineration

According to GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives), incineration is a waste treatment technology that involves burning commercial, residential and hazardous waste. Incineration converts discarded materials, including paper, plastics, metals and food scraps into bottom ash, fly ash, combustion gases, air pollutants, wastewater, wastewater treatment sludge and heat.

                On the other hand, the Merriam-Webster states that combustion means “the act of burning” or “a chemical reaction that occurs when oxygen combines with other substances to produce heat and usually light.”

                Rafael “Paeng” Lopez, campaigner for healthy energy of Healthcare Without Harm said in his lecture that according to the status of the implementation of the Solid Waste Management Law that according to the law incineration is prohibited.

Lopez said, “according to the executive director ng National Solid Waste Commission, yung incineration will not be allowed…but, surprise! Yung waste energy guidelines na kasalukuyang sinusulat ngayon involves combustion ONLY, so if this not incineration (combustion), I don’t know what it is.” He added, “kung ang combustion po ay hindi pagsusunog, then I don’t know, so magka-iba yung science na alam namin.”

In 2010, DENR allowed cement manufactures to burn mixed waste  as co-fuel.

Lopez said,“The commission seems to think that this is recycling, pero ang ginagawa nila dito ay ginagatong nila yung basura, susunugin and then gagawin nilang ash and then gagawin nilang semento… lahat ng lason na hindi lumabas sa hangin as smoke nagko-concentrate yan sa ash, then we use it as semento. So it ends up in our homes, it ends up in our school, churches, in places where we are. They allow it (combustion).”

DENR handed award to the cement manufactures for doing combustion. “I don’t know again kung ano ba ang kahulugan nila ng combustion vs incineration,” Lopez stated.

At the end of his speech, Lopez became emotional. He said, “If we really want change, we can do better than these numbers.”

The Green SONA 2016 is an annual event that started in 2007. It is convened by the Green Convergence for safe food, healthy environment and sustainable economy. Green Convergence is a coalition of networks, organizations and individuals working for a development paradigm that addresses the need for social and economic upliftment, while preserving life-supporting water, air and land for generations to come.

The event took place in Silliman University Guy Hall. This is the first time that the Green SONA is held outside Metro Manila.

Green Convergence partnered with Rappler, Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PTFCF), OXFAM, Silliman University and Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE).

The Green SONA 2016 was covered live by Rappler in Facebook. It trended third in tweets and generated 100 million impressions with the hashtag #ClimateActionPH. Three hundred fifty participants from different sectors attended the event.

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