Philippines emissions target hinges on loss and damage

Manila plan to cut carbon 70% by 2030 banks on rich countries footing natural disaster bill

School children in the Philippines contemplate the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Pic: Pio Arce/Genesis Photos)

School children in the Philippines contemplate the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Pic: Pio Arce/Genesis Photos)

By Alex Pashley

The Philippines will cut greenhouse gas emissions 70% from forecast levels in 2030, it pledged on Thursday.

That target depends on international support, Manila wrote in its “intended nationally determined contribution” (INDC) towards a UN deal.

In particular, wealthy countries must pay for loss and damage resulting from climate-related events like cyclones and sea-level rise, it hinted.

“The Philippine INDC assumes that Loss-and-Damages from climate change and extreme events will not require diversion of substantial resources for rehabilitation and reconstruction,” the submission said.

“…thereby adversely affecting the country’s capacity to meet national development targets as well as mitigation commitments under this INDC.”

In other words, using public money to rebuild after increasingly severe storms would detract from its ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

It is a coded demand for climate compensation, a bone of contention between vulnerable countries and historic polluters.

Rich nations are wary of accepting liability for the impact of their historic emissions, but have made some moves to address such concerns.

Report: What role should climate compensation have in a Paris deal? 

Paris tracker: Who has pledged what for 2015 UN climate pact?

INDCs form the basis of a new climate agreement. At the time of writing, 141 countries covering more than 80% of world emissions had submitted their plans.

Among them the Philippines, whose 100 million population live across 7,000 islands, is notably exposed.

It was ranked the most affected country by global warming in the 2015 Global Climate Risk Index, which measures weather-related loss from 1994-2013.

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan killed 6,000 people and inflicted economics losses of $13 billion, according to Germanwatch, the NGO which compiled the report. Some 4 million were left homeless.

The country chairs the Climate Vulnerable Forum, an informal alliance that campaigns for a tightening of the agreed 2C global warming limit.

Yet it is planning a huge expansion of its coal power plant network, with 52 in the process of construction and with estimated lifetimes of 35 years, according to Global Coal Plant Tracker.

Report: Climate vulnerable Philippines plans huge bet on coal

Climate commissioner Heherson Alvarez wrote for Climate Home in August how he worried the country was locking in carbon-intensive development.

“One tell-tale sign is that Philippine emissions per capita, according to the [Department of Energy] is projected to rise by over 31% over a 20-year period, from 1.6 tons in 2010 to 2.1 tons in 2030,” he wrote.

The government still faces the challenge of more demand for energy than supply, while an estimated 30% of the population lacks grid access.

In 2014, President Benigno Aquino used emergency powers from Congress to channel more capacity to the Luzon – the country’s largest island – which was suffering from regular blackouts.

Mindanao and Visayas, the two other major islands, are blessed with high levels of hydro and geothermal energy, but still rely on coal for 17% and 42% of their supplies respectively.

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