From pledges to action toward achieving net zero

Philippine Tribune
Philippine Tribune

EXTREME weather events and other climate impacts are becoming deadlier and more destructive. Whether this is the new normal, what awaits the world will be much worse and bleaker that it is now if we allow it to be. If there is one thing the global health pandemic taught us it is that we need to look beyond the horizon, and we need to do just that — or further beyond — in this state of global climate emergency.

The GlobeScan Sustainability Study reported in August 2023 that 93 percent of qualified sustainability experts ranked climate change as the most urgent sustainable development challenge.

 New members of the Net Zero Carbon Alliance signed the pledge of commitment. PHOTO BY THE EDC/FRANCE ARIOLA

New members of the Net Zero Carbon Alliance signed the pledge of commitment. PHOTO BY THE EDC/FRANCE ARIOLA

New members of the Net Zero Carbon Alliance signed the pledge of commitment. PHOTO BY THE EDC/FRANCE ARIOLA

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report of its Working Group 1, titled “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis” — by far, our most up-to-date physical understanding of climate change, according to the world’s top climate scientists working together — didn’t mince words when it said: “[C]limate change is driven by us humans, and that it is happening quickly. This is already being felt in weather and climate extremes in every region of the world.”

Zeroing in on net-zero

A few days ago, a consortium of Philippine businesses called Net Zero Carbon Alliance (NZCA) celebrated its second anniversary. NZCA is a private sector-led movement initiated by First Gen-owned renewable energy leader Energy Development Corp. (EDC) that aims to achieve carbon neutrality as a transition to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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In his opening remarks, Jerome Cainglet, EDC president and chief operating officer, said: “[T]he Net Zero Carbon Alliance is our response to the collection climate action that the IPCC asked of everyone after they had confirmed that humans are unequivocally increasing greenhouse gas emissions to record levels.”

Co-organized in partnership with Eco-Business, Asia Pacific’s largest media and business intelligence organization dedicated to sustainable development and ESG performance, and with the theme “Zeroing in on Net-Zero: From Corporate Pledges to Action,” the conference featured a panel of company and industry resource speakers that delved into the challenges and opportunities for Philippine corporations embarking on a net-zero journey, as well as the available solutions for hard-to-abate and carbon-intensive sectors.

An analysis released in June found that almost half of the 2,000 largest publicly listed companies in the world have committed to a net-zero strategy. However, the report also revealed that many of these companies either do not count emissions produced by their supply chains, or depend on unreliable strategies to offset their carbon production.

British Ambassador to the Philippines and Palau Laure Beaufils, in her opening keynote, said: “[I]ntent is not enough. Impact is what we are after. We’ve already seen the outcome firsthand in carbon markets and environmental, social and governance (ESG) frameworks, where investigation after investigation revealed the gap between intention and reality. Sound data must sit at the heart of all net-zero action.”

Close to 200 delegates from 69 companies participated in plenary sessions with industry experts and representatives from NZCA member companies on best practices in climate action, as well as existing and emerging solutions to accelerate the Philippines’ private sector net-zero journey.

These sessions covered carbon capture technology, green investments and financing, continuing government legislation and incentivization, and greening the supply value chain. The consortium also strengthened its call for vigilance against greenwashing and urged the private sector to increasingly implement measurement, reporting and verification in climate change mitigation efforts.

NZCA is guided by the carbon neutrality framework designed in partnership with Rodel Lasco, executive director of the Oscar M. Lopez Center for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation. The framework mainly espouses carbon reduction and removal for Philippine businesses that begins with the partner’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 at the latest, followed by measuring its climate resilience and carbon footprint, coming up with its road map, implementing it, tracking, disclosing and validating its progress over time.

Zero Carbon Gateway

The NZCA, likewise, developed a Zero Carbon Gateway to help partners track their progress, including computing their Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions.

“As always, climate action is a matter of urgency as we continue to experience the ever-increasing impacts of our warming planet around the world, most especially in the Philippines. NZCA aims to contribute practical measures toward decarbonization that Philippine businesses can take, starting with interventions such as renewable energy,” says Allan Barcena, NZCA executive director and EDC assistant vice president, and head of Corporate Relations and Communications.

Many businesses are now aware of the need to step up their decarbonization programs. At present, NZCA counts a total of 18 partners, including ArthaLand Corp., British Standards Institution, Cemex Holdings Philippines, Converge ICT Solutions, Drink Sustainability Communications, ECC International, EC Mobility Ventures, Ecolab, First Balfour, First Philippine Industrial Park, Holcim Philippines, INAEC Aviation Corp., Knowles Electronics, Linden Suites, Menarco Development Corp., Monde Nissin Corp., People360 Consulting Group, SGV and Co., Silliman University and Unilever Philippines. This year, NZCA also enlisted Eco-Business and Ako Ang Bukas as Enabler Partners.

Main takeaway

It has been said that the higher value of a corporate business is not found in the monetary profit it brings nor in the wealth it creates, but in the nobility of its purpose: to improve the quality of life of the people and to build a sustainable and resilient human society.

What could be more rewarding than knowing that one’s business, however big or small, has made a difference in making a village community or the country as a whole, a safer and happier place to live in.

The road promises to be filled with stumbling blocks. But instead of slowing us down, these challenges should bring about consensus — an agreement that our country should double, even triple, its efforts to reach our targets.

After each disaster, we rebuild and continue to rebuild. Now is the time not just to build better, but build stronger, using the best standards in light of the crises we face today.

Ludwig O. Federigan is the executive director of the Young Environmental Forum and a nonresident fellow of Stratbase ADR Institute. He completed his climate change and development at the University of East Anglia (United Kingdom) and an executive program on sustainability leadership at Yale University (USA). You can email him at [email protected].

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