Solar Power Plant | Photo by Zbyneck Burival on Unsplash
The record-breaking tornadoes that devastated Mayfield in Kentucky and sliced through five other states show that the impact of climate change is becoming more severe and deadly. And while the connection between climate change and tornadoes has yet to be clearly established, experts warn that these extreme weather occurrences will be our “new normal” – with typhoons, droughts, wildfires, and heatwaves becoming more severe due to global warming.
It’s evident that no place on earth will be able to escape the consequences of climate change. Still, the impact will be more felt in highly vulnerable countries such as the Philippines and its fellow ASEAN members like Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar, which are in the list of top 10 countries in the world that are impacted the most by climate change.
The Philippines – which was recently devastated by Super Typhoon Odette (international name Rai), whose impact is being likened to that of Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) – is sinking at a rate that is four times faster than the global average due to rising sea levels. Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta, which is one of the fastest sinking cities globally, was also hit by recent floods, submerging many parts of the city. About 40 percent is already below sea level, with some areas sinking at an annual rate of 20 centimeters. Bangkok, meanwhile, is sinking by as much as 30 millimeters per year and could be underwater in 10 to 20 years. On the other hand, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City is sinking by as much as 80 millimeters a year.
During a luncheon meeting hosted by the US-ASEAN Business Council with ASEAN ambassadors in Washington and several US energy companies, we discussed the impact of climate change on ASEAN member-nations, and why it is expedient to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate the shift to clean energy.
The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere, resulting in global warming. In our meeting with Special Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry, he warned that the world is headed towards a potential climate catastrophe – but that we can still reverse the dangerous warming of the planet by limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
“It’s evident that no place on earth will be able to escape the consequences of climate change. Still, the impact will be more felt in highly vulnerable countries such as the Philippines and its fellow ASEAN members like Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar, which are in the list of top 10 countries in the world that are impacted the most by climate change.”
According to Secretary Kerry, there are opportunities for alternative energy sources to reverse global warming, such as nuclear energy, the second-largest source of low-carbon electricity. Nuclear is described as a “zero-emission clean energy source” by the US Office of Nuclear Energy.
He also talked about small modular reactors (SMRs), whose size is about twice the length of an average school bus and thus are much smaller than conventional nuclear reactors. SMRs are nuclear fission reactors built in a plant and transported to a site for installation. They are flexible, have greater scalability, require smaller investment capital, and, most of all, can play a significant role in decarbonization because they produce clean nuclear energy.
One of those who have been advocating nuclear energy and pushing for the revival of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is Mark Cojuangco (who is currently running for congressman of Pangasinan’s 2nd District) to meet the increasing energy demand, especially next year as the country intensifies economic recovery efforts. Mark has been warning that the country faces a serious power shortage, and the revival of the BNPP will provide a stable source of electricity that is also less costly.
Director Carlo Arcilla of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute says the revival of the BNPP is “the fastest route to start nuclear (energy),” warning that the country is faced with a crucial energy crisis in the coming months. According to Arcilla, the South Korean government remains interested in rehabilitating BNPP, and we can do this in four to five years.
Meralco chairman Manny Pangilinan told me he is also ramping up investments in renewable energy projects and securing renewable sources by way of supply to accelerate plans for the “orderly and affordable transition to cleaner energy,” to achieve more sustainability and protect the environment.
“More and more people are advocating the inclusion of nuclear energy in the country’s energy mix, believing that the shift to clean energy will mitigate the impact of climate change, ultimately saving people’s lives today and future generations.”
As I pointed out during the USABC meeting hosted by its president and CEO, Ambassador Ted Osius, energy is a vital component to drive development and sustain economic growth, and this is especially true for the ASEAN region where the energy demand is projected to increase by as much as 60 percent by 2040 in line with the growth of the region, fueled by increasing industrial activities, growing population, and rising incomes. ASEAN’s rising energy demand has resulted in increased reliance on fossil fuels, resulting in potentially severe consequences for the environment.
We’re pleased to note that the Philippine government is signing on to the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Mobilization (CEFIM) program organized by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. CEFIM will help the Philippines in jumpstarting the transition goals of the Philippine Energy Plan by providing a clear roadmap and action plan for financing and investing in clean energy.
Our Energy Secretary Al Cusi had admitted that nuclear energy would play a vital role in helping the Philippines achieve energy security, especially amid the pandemic. More and more people are advocating the inclusion of nuclear energy in the country’s energy mix, believing that the shift to clean energy will mitigate the impact of climate change, ultimately saving people’s lives today and future generations.