Multimedia Reporter

Businesses have ground to a halt and whole industries have dried up as we enter into the third month of modified lockdown measures. As we progress ever further into our quarantine journey, the question remains – what will our post-pandemic world look like? With all this talk about shifting to the new normal, we also have to think about the bigger implications in terms of making economic recovery more ecologically-responsive and sustainable.

The argument for sustainability and environmental responsiveness

Atty. Angela Ibay, WWF-Philippines Head of Climate and Energy, lays out three arguments for businesses and cities to become more sustainable:

“First, we need to be more self-reliant as a country, even in terms of our energy needs,” she said. Much of the coal we use to power our plants is imported. With whole countries in lockdown, this importation has stopped. Meanwhile, we have abundant indigenous and renewable energy sources right here in the Philippines, that are ready and available for use whenever we need them.”

According to the Department of Energy, the country’s renewable energy potential is vast with at least 4,000 megawatts (MW) for geothermal, 76,600 MW for wind, 10,000 MW for hydropower, 5 kilowatt-hours per square meter per day for solar, 170,000 MW for ocean, and 500MW for biomass. The recent proposed auctioning of 2,000 MW and identification of competitive renewable energy zones (CREZs) of renewable energy capacity is a good start, Atty. Ibay says.

“However, we need to be able to support ourselves, which is why we must continue to explore and use these renewable sources of power. ”

Atty. Ibay continues by outlining a second need: To address our looming power needs.

“The lockdown has caused a delay in the construction and commissioning of several fossil-fueled power plants that had been slated for operation,” she said. “This could lead to supply challenges in the future. Commercial and industrial power demand may have decreased during the lockdown, but this has been offset by an increase in power demand from our own homes. Once community quarantines are lifted or eased, we can expect a surge in demand. There is immense opportunity, therefore, for us to plug our growing gaps in local power production, if only we were to tap into our bountiful sources of clean, renewable, and indigenous energy and implement stronger energy efficiency initiatives.”

Finally, Atty. Ibay says we need to stray away from thinking that our economic recovery will be a choice between livelihood and the environment.

“The dichotomy… does not exist,” she said, stressing that sustainable business can easily meet our needs as a country.

“We’ve seen that investing in natural capital for ecosystem resilience, especially in climate-responsive sectors such as sustainable agriculture, does not only come with the associated environmental and health benefits, but can also provide a much needed economic boost,” she said. “It is possible for our economy to recover on the back of green industry, so long as companies are innovative and we create the environment for sustainable businesses to thrive. It is not a choice between the economy and the planet.”

Making the new normal green

According to Atty. Ibay, we can look to investments in clean energy infrastructure, clean research, and the greenification of private and public spaces as a way to expand the economy while addressing the looming climate crisis.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas recognizes this with their recent sustainable banking framework, which integrates sustainability in the banking sector with increasing financing flows and investments to green and sustainable economic development.

The pandemic has forced us to dramatically rethink and recalibrate our way of life, Atty. Ibay said. Hopefully, we will see this crisis as an opportunity to rebuild our economies for a better and more equitable future, one that is more resilient to systemically disruptive factors such as pandemics and climate change.