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Germany, Phl tackle Energy and Climate Action for sustainable future

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On April 18, 2023, the German Embassy Manila, in cooperation with the Clean, Affordable and Secure Energy (CASE) for Southeast Asia project, hosted the first edition of Climate Talks Philippines Manila at Yspace at the Yuchengco Museum, Makati City with the theme: “Responsible climate action and enabling decarbonization in the Philippine energy sector: Pathways for a sustainable future.”

German State Secretary and Special Envoy for International Climate Action Jennifer Lee Morgan delivers her keynote speech

Following the Climate Talks in Tacloban City, the event served as a platform for members of government, the business community, and the private sector, to come together and discuss the necessary steps, roles, and possible contributions in relation to responsible climate action. Climate Talks are an instrument of Germany’s diplomacy to bring together, experts, stakeholders and civil society to exchange and find solutions to the current climate crisis.

The event’s opening ceremony began with a speech by German Ambassador to the Philippines Anke Reiffenstuel, and welcoming remarks by Department of Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella. German State Secretary and Special Envoy for International Climate Action Jennifer Lee Morgan delivered the event’s keynote speech, highlighting her visit to Tacloban and the city’s experiences of Typhoon Haiyan back in 2013. She underscored that Germany has a lead role in climate action and called for solidarity with vulnerable communities through new funding arrangements for Loss and Damage as decided at COP27.

The subsequent discussion was held among a distinguished panel with Morgan and Fuentebella who were joined on stage by Atty. Angela Gia Ibay, Climate Change and Energy Programme Head of the WWF Philippines, Dr. Faye Abigail Cruz, Laboratory Head of the Manila Observatory, and Mr. Caldwell Gregory Hoey, Renewable Energy Director of the MATEC Maschinen & Technik Inc. The panel was moderated by Ruth Yu-Owen, President of Upgrade Energy Philippines, Inc.

The panel gave initial reactions to the speeches by Morgan and Fuentebella, agreeing that the implementation of the Loss and Damage approach can contribute to support the Philippines’ own energy transition. Morgan explained Germany’s path to a comprehensive renewable energy supply, including the experience of phasing out coal, saying: “The German government pulled together various stakeholders, scientists, business, local authorities, from the states that had the coal, NGOs, and they negotiated actually a coal phase-out date of 2038 that they recommended to the government.”

She said this kind of work across different sectors could be an opportunity for dialogue about financing the accelerated decommission of coal between the Philippines, banks such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and countries like Germany. Germany also shut down its last nuclear plant last April 15, 2023.

When asked for the stance of the Philippine government, Fuentebella pointed out that the Philippines, as an archipelago, is confronted with challenges different to Germany. He also underlined that the Philippines is exploring how to combine its excess of offshore wind with generation of green hydrogen or ammonia.

Responding to how external factors affect the private sector’s role in the renewable energy development, Mr. Hoey said “I believe that’s [economics] usually the biggest driver of how we want to implement renewable energy projects right now and because fuel price is up, it means all our energy costs are as well. Inquiries and corporate requirements for implementing renewable energy have probably risen double in the last three years alone.”

Dr. Cruz highlighted the relations of climate action and energy use, stating, “In the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report, it was highlighted that it’s not just through supply but also in the demand that you can reduce your emissions. And so this is actually a good opportunity to tell people that they do have a role.” This then poses the question of how to mainstream mass behavioral change.

In terms of public policy, the Philippines’ Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act enables development planning of local government units (LGU) to integrate energy and involve different actors in the process. Speaking about her experience working with LGUs, Atty. Ibay said:
“You can track that, you can make a pathway for clean energy to come in as part of your development, and then fully understand how to work with the electric cooperatives, how to work with businesses, promote solar energy in certain areas.”

The event was concluded with closing remarks by the Vice Chairperson and Executive Director of the Philippine Climate Change Commission, Robert E.A. Borje, who commended Germany for hosting the Climate Talks Philippines.

Borje explained that the Philippine’s transition to a low carbon economy relies on 4 Ps: clear policies, programs that matter, partnerships and progress. In order to achieve this progress, measures needed to be coherent and coordinated, encouraging stakeholders’ compliance. To conclude, Borje reinforced that: “We all can contribute and galvanize our work. Climate justice needs to be the bedrock of all our actions.”

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