Localized energy transitions
Boston, Massachusetts—Some Philippine local governments have been seizing the economic opportunities of the transition toward sustainable energy, while at the same time curbing greenhouse gases that cause climate change. And while we, as a nation, contribute a minuscule 0.025 percent to total global greenhouse gas emissions, these local transitions send a message that we are contributing to climate action. This reality in the Philippines joins a number of many local initiatives around the world, where, for the last decade, energy transitions and climate change policy development have strongly, yet quietly, evolved.
Local government initiatives have indeed become dynamic, often successful, laboratories for energy and climate change policy. States, provinces, cities, and municipalities have been experimenting with carbon taxes, tax rebates, building codes, financing mechanisms, private-public partnerships, and improved bureaucratic processes for permitting renewable energy projects, among many others.
One of these many relatively effective efforts is British Columbia’s experiment with carbon pricing. This Canadian westernmost province initiated a carbon tax in 2008 for fossil fuel combustion in electricity, transport, and home heating. The tax operated as revenue-neutral, meaning every dollar generated by the tax is returned to British Columbians through reductions in their other taxes. The tax resulted in greater fuel use efficiency, which has implications not only in terms of monetary savings but also in emissions reduction. Most important of these impacts is its becoming a shining example to all of Canada, and perhaps to the world. Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that, starting in 2018, Canada would impose a tax on carbon emissions to meet its Paris targets.
Look no further. The province of Negros Occidental is leading many innovative local governments in sparking private-sector investments in support of solar and geothermal electricity generation in the Philippines. Last March, Southeast Asia’s biggest (132.5 megawatts) solar farm was inaugurated in Cadiz City, joining a few more solar farms in the province. This stride in solar generation makes Negros Occidental the solar energy capital of the Philippines, if not of Southeast Asia.
Initiatives at the local spaces demonstrate that support for the transition and effective climate action can lead to emission reductions. One estimate, for example, shows that emissions avoided because of the Cadiz solar farm is equivalent to 10 years of greenhouse gas emissions sequestered by planting 2.4 million trees.
More importantly, economic benefits have been delivered to the local population in the form of new jobs generation, reduced air pollution, increased security of energy supply, and less energy price volatility. If many local governments support the transition, many Filipinos can be provided with new income streams as new employment opportunities from the renewable energy industry open up locally. Energy supply can also be stabilized, thus attracting more investors. Another clear winner are local governments themselves through increase in local revenues. All these yield development outcomes that are more inclusive and locally relevant.
Dr. Laurence Delina ([email protected]), from South Cotabato, is a sustainability scientist at Boston University. His research is focused on climate change, energy security, and international development. He is the author of “Strategies for Rapid Climate Mitigation: war mobilisation as model for action?” (Routledge 2016).
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