The Catholic community in the Philippines is taking a bold move of speaking up and sparking the difficult but important diallogue on climate change, this time in the business sector.
Faith-based action on environmental concerns has been a landmark stance on Pope Francis, unsurprisingly being one of the most revolutionary leaders that the church had in recent times, urging the faithful in a 2015 encyclical called ‘Laudato Si’ – Latin for ‘Praise be to You’ – to take ‘swift and unified global action.’ against pressing matters of global warming. Irresponsible consumerism and development and environmental degradation.
In the Philippines, a group called the ‘Living Laudato Si’ movement has been mobilized in response to this call. During the annual stockholders’ meeting earlier this year, religious and clergy representing Catholic depositors and stakeholders of local banks stepped up to the mic and squarely questioned the financial institutions’ lending policies to contentious industries such as coal-fed energy and mining.
The group acknowledged important moves such as BDO Unibank’s funding of 34 sustainable energy finance (SEF) projects worth P36.9 billion, comprising 285 megawatts of hydropower, 139 MW of biomass energy, 93 MW of solar and 62 MW of wind energy. China Bank, a sister company under the SM Group, reported it had issued P7 billion of loans for energy access and has finance P7.2 billion for renewable energy development. Ayala’s Bank of the Philippine Islands, meanwhile, reported P9.67 billion for SEF projects, with cumulative disbursements amounting to P52.7 billion.
The crux lies however, in continuing ‘dirty investments’ such as funding coal plants. On its website, the movement bares that despite the passage of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, the share of renewables in the country’s intalled generating capacity has actually decreased from 35 percent in 1997 to 32 percent in 2017.
These banks and others are among those poised to continue financing the construction of more than 20 coal-fired power plants and expanding existing ones in the next few decades such as those in Calaca, Batangas; Dinginin and Mariveles in Bataan; Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte; Masinloc, Zambales; and Pagbilao nad Mauban, Quezon.
“We do recognize that for the sake of socioeconomic development, a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy cannot happen in the span of less than a year,” the group said. “A just transition would need to consider the job security of thousand of employees and meeting the energy deman in affected communities and establishments.”
“Nonetheless, the role of fossil fuels, especially coal, on climate change and environmental degradation has been repeatedly proven by reports of reputable international agencies,” it added.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that as early as 2030, climate change would become irreversible should countries maintain a “business-as-usual” attitude, which includes the burning of fossil fuels.
“By 2050, renewables must supply from around half to two-thirds of the world’s energy needs to prevent climate change from worsening further-a clean sign of the need to divest from fossil fuels,” it concluded. The question now is, will enough people listen?
By: Daxim L. Lucas