Countries need long-term and affordable climate finance in addressing climate change.
This is especially true for developing countries, where access to climate finance is “severely undermined” by the economic and financial crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to German Velasquez, director of Green Climate Fund’s Mitigation and Adaptation Division, during the third of the four-part webinar series of the 7th Annual Public Policy Conference (APPC) organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies.
“What we decide today will either entrench our dependence on fossil fuels, leading us to possibly a tipping point on climate change. Or it could be a turning point and help us achieve the Paris Agreement and the [Sustainable Development Goals]. How do we convert this into a turning point? Only if climate action and COVID-19 stimulus measures are mutually supportive,” Velasquez explained.
He also noted that many countries building their stimulus recovery plans “failed to prioritize clean energy investments”. Citing data from Vivid Economics, Velasquez pointed out that only five countries—United States, France, Spain, United Kingdom, Germany—and the European Union have packages that will produce a “net environmental benefit”.
In the same webinar, Velasquez discussed some suggestions on how to make COVID-19 recovery more climate-resilient in the areas of energy, industry, transportation, land use and ecosystems, housing, and employment.
In the energy sector, he suggested promoting green jobs, citing South Korea’s example, which proposed to invest USD 185 million in subsidies for home rooftop solar installation as part of its COVID-19 recovery. Moreover, improving power transmission by investing in new smart grid infrastructures “can allow effective and less wasteful flow of power”.
Villanueva said that while it is “very difficult to shift materials” in the industry sector, businesses need to explore using cleaner materials. “[T]here are examples [of how it is done]. [For instance], California’s Buy Clean Act introduced low [carbon dioxide] standards for materials across the state. This can actually push greener options into the mainstream,” he said.
In the transportation sector, Villanueva emphasized that “shifting to sustainable public transportation is key.” Countries can also promote electric vehicles, build chargers, or [support] green airline bailouts.
In terms of land use and ecosystems, the conservation of “irreplaceable carbon” was highlighted. “Just 15 percent of the world’s forests remain intact. We need to preserve our ecosystem because [it is] also our ‘lungs’ and [can do many things] to protect our recovery from the pandemic,” Villanueva said. He also pointed out that investments in water-related infrastructures would create jobs.
On housing, Villanueva said energy-efficient retrofitting of buildings could generate jobs. This is also beneficial as “11 percent of emissions are from building materials, cement, steel, and glass.”
In terms of employment, Villanueva mentioned that investments in renewable energy could create more jobs than in the fossil fuel industry.
In conclusion, Villanueva urged the Philippines to scale up its access to the Green Climate Fund, noting that at present, “the kind of projects [that] we are getting are very small and not what we would like to be.”
The APPC is the main and culminating activity of the Development Policy Research Month celebration led by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies every September. This year’s theme is “Reset and Rebuild for a Better Philippines in the Post-Pandemic World”, or in Filipino, “Muling Magsimula at Magtayo Tungo sa Mas Matatag na Pilipinas Pagkatapos ng Pandemya”.