COAL has been in the news lately, both here and abroad.
In Paris, France, last week, 80 of the world’s top economists called for an end to the development of coal, oil, and gas energy in order to avoid the ravages of global warming. They issued a statement in advance of the One Planet Summit which opened in Paris yesterday, with 100 countries represented and more than 50 heads of state attending.
The economists lauded the world’s political leaders, among them French President Emmanuel Macron who organized the One Planet Summit, for the increased development and use of renewable energy such as wind and solar. But they must also act on the other, dirtier side of the equation, the economists said. They must act to put an end to continuing investments in new coal and other fossil fuel production and infrastructure. They must stop the government subsidies in many nations – amounting to $333 billion in 2015 – for fossil energy production and infrastructure.
The Philippines, which is among the 195 countries which signed the 2016 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, has been steadily developing renewable sources of energy, notably geothermal, wind, solar, and biomass. We are today the world’s second biggest producer of geothermal energy, next only to the United States. Wind farms are now producing energy in Northern Luzon and other parts of the country. Many open spaces, including mall roofs in Metro Manila, are now being converted into solar farms.
But coal remains our principal source of energy in the Philippines as it is the cheapest to produce and acquire, although solar farm advocates say solar energy is on the way to rivaling coal in cost of production. There is now a move to increase the tax on coal under the government’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) program.
The proposed 2,900 percent increase in coal taxes was approved by the Senate, but the House of Representatives is opposing this as it will just be passed on to consumers.
The immediate need in the world of energy is to strike a balance between coal and renewable energy. The fact is most of our present energy needs in the Philippines today is supplied by coal plants. They will continue to be needed for years by our industries and our homes. This is why the House is opposing the increased excise tax on coal approved by the Senate.
But in the long-range view, the world – including the Philippines – must turn to renewable sources of energy, because of climate change. The world’s coal and other fossil fuel plants have been releasing polluting gasses into the atmosphere that have steadily raised world temperatures. This, in turn, has melted the earth’s polar ice, raised ocean levels that threaten to submerge low-lying islands, and given rise to powerful typhoons and hurricanes.
The focus in the ongoing Paris conference will be on the need to find concrete ways to achieve the goal of the previous 2016 conference. We must continue our own search in our country for our own contribution to that all-important goal.