The Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) is an international non-government group advancing fair climate policy and low carbon, climate-resilient development. Based in the Philippines, it is engaged with the wider international climate and energy policy arena, particularly in Asia. It is recognized for its role in helping advance effective global climate action and the Paris climate agreement.
Formerly known as Green Renewable Independent Power Producer, a sustainable energy solutions initiative first formed in 1998, the organization was renamed to reflect its broader agenda, covering climate policy, low carbon resilience, climate finance, communications, and diplomacy in international, national, and local arenas.
Fighting for 1.5ºC with frontliners
ICSC promotes fair climate policy globally as an advisor to the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and the Vulnerable 20 Group of Finance Ministers (V20), composed of 48 of the world’s most vulnerable countries. The Philippines chaired the CVF and V20 respectively from December 2014 to August 2016.
The organization is also an accredited observer to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and an advisor to the Philippine delegation to the UN climate negotiations.
In addition, the Institute is the convenor of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, a nationwide coalition of over 40 civil society groups working on diverse climate and development issues. It is also the chair of CENTRE, a network of renewable energy (RE) experts, developers, advocates, and enterprises, and co-convenor of Philippine Commission on Women’s (PCW) Technical Working Group on the Environmental Conservation, Protection And Rehabilitation dimension of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Mobilizing and tracking climate finance
ICSC provides climate policy, finance, and energy advocacy and strategy development advice to civil society organizations (CSOs) and networks in Asia and Africa. It is a convenor of GCF Watch, a Southern civil society-led initiative established to help empower civil society groups from the Global South to engage the Fund more effectively.
ICSC is the convenor of the global Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative (AFAI), an international research initiative tracking how climate finance, committed by donor countries and organizations, has been received and utilized by recipient countries such as the Philippines. The Institute was the Philippine lead when the global initiative was established in 2013, and when it closed in 2015, ICSC not only sustained the initiative but also established AFAI+, adding mitigation finance in the list of funds tracked. Through AFAI+, ICSC continues to promote new tracking and monitoring tools to improve climate finance transparency and accountability in the Philippines and in the Global South region.
The organization is a critical voice in the development of climate finance policy in the Philippines. It led the crafting and passage into law of the People’s Survival Fund (PSF) in 2012, the first legislated Philippine climate finance mechanism dedicated to supporting local adaptation initiatives. ICSC currently sits as a civil society representative to the PSF Board and continues to support local governments, communities and organizations in developing local adaptation plans and budgets.
Understanding climate impacts
ICSC works with scientists and local academic institutions to surface the creeping impacts of climate change in the country, more formally known as slow onset events (SOEs), associated with the adverse impacts of climate change. These impacts include sea level rise, increasing temperatures, ocean acidification, salinization, and land and forest degradation.
In 2015, the organization launched the report “Slow Onset Climate Change Impacts: What it is, Why should we care, and What we can do about it” with the Congressional Policy Budget and Research Department (CPBRD) of the of the House of Representatives of the Philippines. The report highlighted that SOEs might not currently be as evident as rapid onset events, such as super typhoons and other extreme weather events, but can be just as deadly. The report also called for more research on SOEs and discussions among not just scientists and academics but also policymakers and even the wider public.
ICSC continued its SOE research work by partnering with researchers from Benguet State University (BSU), Visayas State University (VSU), and University of Southeastern Philippines (USEP) to undertake desk reviews of local SOE studies in Benguet province, within the Cordillera Administrative Region, the Eastern Visayas Region (Region VIII), and Davao Region (Region XI), respectively. As a result, a briefer was released showing how findings from local science-based studies can further show the magnitude of the consequences of SOEs, as well as the need to implement more innovative adaptation measures to reduce these impacts. The report was formally launched at a forum ICSC co-organized with the German Development Institute and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation last November 2017 on the sidelines of the UN climate conference in Bonn, Germany. The organization is currently expanding its SOE research work.
ICSC is at the forefront of promoting real competition in the power sector, sustainable energy, and low carbon resilient development.
ICSC’s energy policy team is composed of some of the leading minds in energy economics and regulatory issues in the country. The organization is engaged directly with the Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, the Department of Finance, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Philippine Senate Power Committee, the Mindanao Development Authority and several local government units in support of policy development promoting the early transition to affordable, sustainable, reliable, and efficient energy systems. It has released groundbreaking reports on small island grids and stranded coal plant assets, and has led the campaign to pass a coal tax in the Philippines last 2017.
Last year, ICSC co-organized dialogues with the finance and energy departments on a proposed economy-wide carbon tax and the cost effectiveness of maximum RE penetration in Mindanao energy plan, respectively.
ICSC works with the Cooperative Insurance System of the Philippines (1CISP) to advance a learning program to better engage the cooperatives sector in renewable energy. CREATE>LEADS, or the Cooperatives in Renewable Energy and Transformative Economies Leadership and Advocacy School, is a pilot training program for leaders of select cooperatives from Metro Manila, which aims to develop robust business cases that can more quickly bring renewable energy to their members.
During its early days, ICSC developed alternative RE programs for on-grid and off-grid communities in the province of Negros Occidental. It eventually launched the country’s first 27-strong electric public vehicle fleet known as e-jeepneys to international acclaim in 2007 as part of the the Amsterdam-based, Doen Foundation-supported Climate-Friendly Cities initiative. The e-jeepney project has received numerous distinctions, among them is the top prize in Discovery Channel’s Ecopolis Program as “the best transport alternative that can save the world’s cities from pollution.” It also won the Grand Prize in the Inclusive Mobility Challenge project of the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ateneo School of Government and the Metro Manila Development Authority.
In 2014, ICSC set up RE-Charge Pilipinas (RCP) in Tacloban City, ground zero of Super Typhoon Haiyan, as a training center for RE applications and sustainable solutions. It aims to show how RE can better power disaster response and rehabilitation and low carbon development. Powered by a 9.75-kilowatt solar power system, the facility is located within Tacloban’s commercial district, near the city’s port.
RCP has since launched two initiatives which aimed to dismantle the myths that all renewable energy systems are technologically sophisticated, expensive and suited only for men.
The Solar Scholars program was initiated in 2014 to help community members, local government officials, and civil society representatives harness solar power for emergency response and community development initiatives. They are trained to do energy assessments in their households and communities, as well as set up, operate and maintain portable solar-powered devices called TekPak for emergency lighting and powering of basic communication and medical equipment.
Several versions of the TekPaks have been developed, informed by feedback from the communities. At present, the TekPaks are formed using locally available parts, and assembled by a community of RE enthusiasts, interns, volunteers, and Solar Scholars under the guidance of the RCP staff.
As of November 2018, ICSC has trained 300 Solar Scholars from the provinces of Samar, Leyte, Eastern Samar, Iloilo, Rizal, Laguna, and Cagayan.
ICSC also convened the RE-Serve Humanitarian Corps, a volunteer group trained to provide solar power to humanitarian and emergency responders. The Corps are composed of responders from various local government units, humanitarian organizations, student organizations, and other community groups.
Two RE-Serve members, who are also Haiyan survivors, led a Solar Scholars training for Cagayan locals, over a month after Typhoon Mangkhut struck the region in 2018. A few months after, an all-women team from the Corps facilitated a solar scholars training and community evacuation drill in Marabut, Samar, commemorating the fifth anniversary of Haiyan’s landfall.
Apart from that, RCP also launched the RE-Hub, a community resource center on renewable energy and sustainable solutions in their facility in Tacloban City. The RE-Hub is a venue for inquiries about appropriate RE systems to address household and community needs of residents. It is also a place for renewable energy technology providers to showcase their products and services.
Earlier in 2018, ICSC partnered with the locals of Suluan Island, Guiuan, Eastern Samar, which the province has proclaimed as its Renewable Island Capital, to launch the Small Island Grid Electrification (SIGE) Sulu-an project with the aim of providing power for their households. The island barangay, which has never been connected to the main grid, is pushing for a hybrid solar and diesel island grid project that will power the development of Suluan Island into a prime ecotourism destination and major agro-fishing hub in Eastern Samar.
In addition, RCP, along with its consultants, interns, and volunteers, continues to innovate and test renewable energy systems such as the electric jeepneys, solar-powered water pumps, solar cooking stoves, wind turbines, and monitoring systems, as well as their potential applications for households, livelihoods and communities.
In 2014, ICSC published what may be the world’s first literary anthology on climate change composed of 26 images and 24 narratives in verse and prose in eight languages. “Agam: Filipino Narratives on Uncertainty and Climate Change” received the National Book Award in December 2015 and in 2016 received the Book Development Association of the Philippines’ Golden Book Award for Literature in English and the Special Award for Design. The book has been launched in 5 cities across the Philippines as well as in Washington DC, New York, Denver, California, and Berlin.