World Wildlife Fund PH: The New Normal Must Become A Green One
God has pressed a pause button on the harried ways we’ve lived our lives. While before, we had no time to stop and think, now, millions around the world have become hyper aware of the simple joys of life: the chorus of birds, the colours of the sky, and whatnot. But now, communities have begun to recover and are taking measured steps to regain a sense of normalcy. The question remains: what will life look like after lockdown? No one is sure, but the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says: “it can—and must be—a green one.”
WWF Philippines Head of Climate Atty. Angela Ibay maintains that the disruption caused by COVID-19 is a good opportunity for us to reorient ourselves on our needs as a community. In particular, she talks about our energy needs. It’s easy to say that nothing has changed—and that nothing is changing—when you’re coming to look at things from a grassroots perspective. It always takes time for changes made by higher-ups to trickle down enough for us to recognise that things are happening. But promises are being made—by private companies such as AC Energy Philippines, and by the public sector. In her statement, Atty. Ibay says we must focus on energies to make sure these three things happen:
First, we need to be more self-reliant as a country. Much of the coal we use to power our plants is imported; however, much of that importation has stopped while the world came under lockdown. It wouldn’t have been much of a blow had we been focused on the abundance of indigenous and renewable energy sources we already have in the Philippines. According to the Department of Energy, the country’s renewable energy potential is huge at 4,000 megawatts (MW) for geothermal, 170,000 MW for ocean, 500 MW for biomass, 76,600 MW for wind, and 10,000 MW for hydropower. As a tropic country, our potential for solar power is at 5 kilowatt-hours per square meter per day.
Second, we must address our looming power needs. During the lockdown, energy demand had lessened for commercial and industrial sectors. However, once community quarantines are lifted or eased, it is sure to increase yet again. The opportunity is there for us to tap into the clean, renewable, and indigenous energies previously mentioned and use these to plug into the gaps created by future demand.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we must not fall into the trap of thinking within a false dichotomy. We do not have to choose between livelihoods and the environment. Economic recovery can be sustainable. Tapping into climate-responsive sectors such as agriculture have been shown to benefit both the environment and the labour force. So long as companies continue to innovate and think long-term, we do not have to be presented with an either/or situation that forces us to choose between the economy and the planet.
President Duterte, in his 2019 State of the Nation Address (SONA), had acknowledged the need for the country to shift into renewable energy. Now, as the date for his 2020 SONA approaches, we remain hopeful that those responsible within the public and private sector have enough foresight to see how important renewable energy is as a response to the future.