Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pushing for climate-change policies

Jeannie Javelosa
The Philippine Star
August 15, 2010

Sharing a conversation with Red Constantino will take you from the main issues of the times to the vision of a utopian future of sustainability and all the possible steps in between. And this is why I always enjoy talking to him. Not only is he a visionary but a radical for the stand of change. But it’s a smart radical that knows that once one makes a choice, one needs to work out the nuts and bolts of grounding that vision of change — from creating policies, to collaborative partnerships, to community development… in other words, to do all it takes to make that vision practical workable and to see clear key result areas.

Red Constantino is the executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), a non-profit organization working on sustainable energy solutions and fair climate policy. He and his colleagues in the ICSC, all former Greenpeace members, are working on helping create green and sustainable cities that address issues of climate change (waste treatment plants, depot for electric vehicles, biodigester plants to name a few essentials) with seed money from the Stichting Doen. The Doen Foundation’s advocacy is funding environmentally relevant and entrepreneurial and commercially viable sustainability projects that can be replicated. To date, ICSC’s focus has been on the ejeep and waste treatment facilities. ICSC introduced the electric jeep to the country.

Launched in 2007, the first units were made in China but within a year, the local industry association reacted positively. The Motor Vehicle Spare Parts Manufacturers of the Philippines made all the difference not only in assembling the ejeeps here but also spelt out the possibility for the long term success of the project as spare parts were now locally available and after sales service was answered. Makati City and Puerto Princesa in Palawan were the first cities who have adopted the ejeep; and are also both now looking at solutions for waste issues with ICSC.

ICSC’s next step was to help change policies: from creating routes, adding charging stations and looking towards expansion in Quezon City, San Juan, UP Diliman, Davao City and some cities in the Visayas. It’s a work in progress, Red tells me, as they are working slow but sure in trying to meet all the hurdles and challenges of making these solutions work to create more climate friendly cities.

The ICSC’s strategy is to act as catalysts to bring together various sectors in society to work on a “good idea.” What is clear to them is that focus is needed on policy work to promote adaptation activities against effects of climate change. The country will be hard hit as climate changes continue and there is a need to help in areas such as agriculture intervention for better farming methodologies so crops are spared, strategic urban planning to name a few.

Red talks about how there needs to be a clear country plan to bring in climate financing specific to adaptation. ICSC is intent on helping craft policy work with government in all levels to have clear steps to help the most vulnerable and impoverished Filipinos themselves (farmers, fisherfolks and urban poor women) who are already seeing great impact on climate changes in their lives. ICSC’s mission is to help government create a national climate action plan and help administer public finance at the soonest possible time to communities most vulnerable to increasingly severe climate change impacts.

Many donor countries offer funding for mitigation but not for adaptation. Adaptation strategies are often funded through loans and this is not the way for the country to go. He stresses that climate change will impact all aspects of our lives. We cannot just work on solutions reactively as what mitigation suggests, but rather, pro-actively create strategic plans for adaptation.

Red tells me of the failure of Copenhagen to deliver a fair, ambitious and binding deal on urgent mitigation and financing issues, and the possibilities of collapse of further international climate talks, which has left developing countries like the Philippines with little choice but to take local action. Meanwhile, government’s trench fighting and problem solving need to look at the existing skewed domestic actions towards wrong priorities with the sourcing (through loans), use (adaptation issues, a reactive process rather than pro-active planning which mitigation may allow us to do) and disbursement of foreign funding. It is crucial to take note of climate finance administration or all the money will just end up useless, or lost to corruption.

The ICSC, knowing that it is only government who can generate resources in a massive way, is actively working with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for the establishment of the National Survival Fund. This will help secure the long-term viability of Philippine development ambitions. It will democratize access to and create predictable, long-term finance streams for adaptation activities and climate-induced disaster preparedness programs. It will also prioritize areas in the country that require urgent adaptation support.

It is interesting to note that the Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia with a dedicated agency on climate change. The Climate Change Commission, created last year, is chaired by the President and assisted by three commissioners. Perhaps because it is new, plus the change of government leadership, this Commission has not been maximized. Red Constantino concludes “that the powers and responsibilities of this important body should be expanded, not just to implement projects, but to include a climate knowledge hub and lead the setting of long-term, climate-resilient development agenda. It should also monitor the amount, mode and use of climate finance accessed from abroad and locally.”

(Follow me on twitter @jeanniejavelosa)


First photo of redster by Luis Liwanag. Second redster pic with Anabanana by Romil. Photos by without redster, by redster.

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