Government-private sector synergy needed to take edge off climate change threats
By Rajan Komarasu
At the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, we witnessed the adoption of the most historic global agreement to effectively act on climate change. The United States and China have committed to cut their emissions by 28% and 65% in the next 15 years, respectively. On the other hand, the Philippines, one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change yet comprises only 0.32% of total global emissions, promised to reduce its carbon emissions by 70% before 2030. How does this promise fit into sustaining the country’s growth drivers?
This commitment is a direct response to the reality of Filipinos bearing the brunt of climate change over the years—from enduring deadlier typhoons, to diminished food supply due to erratic weather patterns that disrupt farmers’ harvest schedules. Last March was the hottest recorded month in 137 years, putting 2016 on course to setting the record for hottest year for three consecutive years, and leaving Filipinos no choice but to live with hotter temperatures year-round.
At this rate, there is a greater need to adopt green solutions, such as switching to natural ways of ventilation and cooling. However, we need to consider that some of the Philippine economy’s main growth drivers rely on the comfort of an air-conditioned environment and have the highest energy demands.
Joint Efforts by the Government and the Private Sector
For the country to realize its climate commitment while sustaining the economy’s growth, we need a concerted effort by the government and the private sector to work towards energy efficiency.
Fundamentally, energy-efficient technologies can manage energy demand and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The IT-BPO sector contributes the highest to the country’s GDP and brings in about USD13 billion. The manufacturing sector is also set to be a key growth driver in the economy, as the increase in foreign direct investment by multinational groups and services boost the country’s competitiveness in ASEAN. One big leap towards climate change adaptation would be for these big players to adopt energy-efficient technologies.
This year, 10 million tourists are expected who can be accommodated with the construction of 15,000 more hotel rooms. The booming tourism industry could be more sustainable if both new and established hotels would switch to energy-efficient chillers.
Fortunately, some of these establishments have already made the switch through the initiative of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) called the Philippine Chiller Energy Efficiency Project (PCEEP). The project, in partnership with Concepcion-Carrier Air-Conditioning Company (CCAC), aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging public and private establishments to replace air-conditioners that are older than ten years with new units.
This World Bank-assisted PCEEP gives subsidies to establishments worth 15% of the total cost in replacing their old chillers. The latest establishment to be outfitted with new chillers is the headquarters of one of the country’s leading banks.
Moreover, establishments enrolled in the PCEEP can turn their energy savings into revenues by selling them in the carbon finance trading under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol.
Concepcion Industrial Corp. (CIC) also launched the Green Footprints Movement campaign to encourage more establishments and individuals to be green advocates. If about two million households were to increase their air-conditioning units’ temperature setting by one degree Celsius, for example, this would translate to 82,000 tons of reduced carbon dioxide emissions per year. CIC has also been converting the refrigerants of its product lines to non-ozone depleting ones since 2015.
Collectively Realizing the Philippines’ Commitments
There is a clear business case to go green for the country to attain its 2030 goal. Purchasing energy-efficient and non-CFC chillers may seem like a huge expense, but the benefits will extend to business’ sustainability by climate-proofing our industries. Moreover, the amount saved on operating costs will be worth more than the investment in environment-friendly technologies with faster return on investment. Early adopters of energy-efficient technologies will also play a crucial role in leading the market shift to green technologies.
Manufacturers of building technologies must take the lead and partner with main influencers in the construction industry to encourage environment-friendly and energy-efficient technologies, but such an initiative would be more effective with the government incentivizing the use of green cooling technologies.
Buildings have the lion’s share in the world’s total energy consumption at 40%, and in the Philippines, 45% of a building’s energy is used up by the air-conditioning system. If more buildings would go for energy-saving cooling systems, the country will reap the benefits by sustaining the construction sector to drive the economy’s growth, and increasing businesses’ profits by saving on operating costs.
With the concerted efforts of the government, the economy’s growth drivers, and every individual to reduce their carbon footprint, the country can open itself to more economic gains, while inspiring global collective action in mitigating the impact of climate change.
*Rajan Komarasu is Group Director of Concepcion Building and Industrial Solutions (BIS), the commercial arm of publicly-listed Concepcion Industrial Corp. (CIC). Concepcion BIS houses air-conditioning brands Carrier, Toshiba, and Midea, and elevator and escalator brand Otis.
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