Makati’s climate leadership
It is tempting for jaded observers to think of Mayor Abby Binay’s move last week to declare a “state of climate emergency” in Makati City as a gimmick to buttress her position at the top of the political hierarchy of one of the country’s wealthiest local government units (LGUs) and premier business hub.
But to do so would be to dismiss unfairly all the good that the policy pronouncement can bring to the city and, ultimately, to the rest of the country if this experiment is executed properly and ends up achieving its goals.
A cursory glance at the city will reveal that, while its central business district is dominated by high rise buildings and gleaming skyscrapers, many residential areas along its fringes are less affluent and particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Yes, Makati City has its share of densely packed and densely populated neighborhoods that are not part of its iconic skyline. In these parts, pollution caused by human activities is high and, when the rains come, the waters rise, trapping residents in their flooded homes and preventing people from moving from once place to another whether in their vehicles, bicycles, or on foot.
In fact, no less than nine of the city’s 33 barangays—almost a third of them—are classified by the city government as “flood prone.”
But flooding is just one visible challenge that Makati City is grappling with. The others are less visible, but no less grave.
Because of its unique position as the Philippines’ top location for commerce and industry, Makati City also has one of the largest carbon footprints and greenhouse gas emissions, either directly or indirectly, among LGUs in the country.
Its central business district is a leading consumer of electricity and all that power, though generated elsewhere, adds to the emissions that eventually aggravate climate change by pushing the planet’s temperature higher, slowly but surely.
The same can be said of all the public and private vehicles that move into Makati City each morning to deliver up to four million workers, prepandemic, to their offices and take them back to their homes in the evening. All those buses, jeepneys, cars, and motorcycles emit carbon monoxide, which adds to the world’s climate problem.
For the city’s chief executive, it can be tempting to simply kick the proverbial can down the road and leave it to future generations to solve. But Mayor Binay did the right thing by grabbing the problem by the horns in an attempt to solve it.
For one, by declaring a state of climate emergency, the city’s chief executive elevates the issue to the top of a list of challenges that the LGU must handle. Such a declaration makes climate change a “clear and present danger” to which all the resources of the city’s instrumentalities must be oriented to address.
Hopefully, this move will result in policies that will require businesses operating in the city to consume electricity more efficiently, including installing more power-saving devices, using more cost effective appliances and office apparatus, and relying more on renewable energy in its many forms for their electricity needs.
And such a policy that will be imposed on office, commercial, or industrial users should eventually be cascaded down to the city’s residents.
We also hope that the Makati LGU will put a priority on reducing the city’s dependence on vehicles that use internal combustion engines and will instead shift reliance on those that use hybrid or electric engines.
There are many ways to go about this, including incentivizing ownership of hybrid or electric vehicles, or incentivizing the use of urban mobility solutions, like traditional and electric bicycles (the latter through a bike sharing program, for example).
The government can also implement disincentives like imposing charges on the use of cars in the city during peak hours, similar to an electronic toll program used in Singapore to discourage vehicle use during the morning and evening rush hours.
And that’s just the tip of the solutions iceberg for starters. There are a host of other innovative solutions available to the city to address problems of flooding, garbage disposal, and urban blight, all easily implementable with the political will that has distinguished this Binay from the previous holders of power from her family.
Indeed, it is tempting to think of all this as a political gimmick. But if Mayor Abby Binay’s track record in her past two terms is any indication, there’s a good chance that her initiative to help protect the climate on a city level will bear fruit and, more importantly, serve as a model for other LGUs around the country in facing down their own climate challenges.
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