MANILA —The Philippine renewable energy sector needs to revisit their business strategies to ensure that infrastructure development does not cause further harm to the environment and communities, allied civil society groups said in a report.
The Responsible Energy Initiative (REI) Philippines, a multiyear program promoting responsible energy transition led by six organizations in the country, highlighted in its “Renewable Energy to Responsible Energy: A Call to Action” report that key industry players needed to come up with mechanisms that can “anticipate and manage environmental and social impacts that may arise” from renewable energy development.
“We do need to accelerate our actions given the climate crisis, but any proposed solution must take into account the views and interests of marginalized communities, who are most vulnerable to climate change impacts,” said Erika Geronimo, executive director of Oxfam Philippines which is part of REI.
The umbrella group also includes the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities; Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Philippines; Forum for the Future; Center for Empowerment, Innovation and Training on Renewable Energy; and Business and Human Rights Resource Center.
First established in India in 2021, REI is expanding into Southeast Asia this year through the Philippines.
Currently, the Philippine government is working to increase the share of renewables in the country’s energy mix from the current 22 percent to 35 percent by 2030, and 50 percent by 2040.
The government has been implementing policies and programs to help reach this goal, such as the Green Energy Auction Program and allowing full foreign ownership of renewable energy assets.
However, REI pointed out that while developers had been taking significant steps toward an “ecologically safe and socially just” clean energy sector, there were still environmental and social impacts observed across the renewable energy value chain.
These include high greenhouse gas emissions in aluminum manufacturing, risks of lower water inflows that can impact irrigation and potable water supply, and displacement of indigenous people whose lands are used for renewable energy development.
If these are not addressed, REI Philippines warned that energy transition in the country may slow down.
“The longer we wait, the more likely poor practices could become entrenched into the [renewable energy] sector, making it harder for it to achieve its full potential in driving fair and just social transitions to a low-carbon future,” it said in its report.
REI Philippines encouraged developers to establish an impact monitoring system over the entire lifecycle of projects throughout the value chain.
The group also recognized, however, that “a number of developers” were already employing this strategy, primarily through monitoring and reporting standards set by multilateral lenders that finance their projects, including the Asian Development Bank.
Impact on environment, communities
Procurers are likewise urged to practice “sustainable procurement” by understanding and evaluating choices “based on impacts throughout the value chain.”
REI also pushed investors and financiers to ensure that ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) considerations “are meaningfully integrated in all decisions relating to [renewable energy] development.”
Ultimately, REI recognized that there may be “structural and systemic reasons” behind the delays in implementing such solutions, such as challenges in changing “deeply held assumptions” that form management practices.
But it also stressed that the government and private sector needed to work hand in hand to lessen the impact of energy transition efforts on the environment and communities.
“Recognizing environmental and social implications, along with implementing robust ESG approaches, are necessary first steps on the journey toward ensuring an ecologically safe and socially just trajectory for the sector,” REI said.