Withdrawing from companies with environmentally destructive practices

Withdrawing from companies with environmentally destructive practices

Greetings, dear readers, this Season of Creation. Many of us have been busy these past weeks as we took part in efforts and actions in gratitude to our Creator for this beautiful world we live in, and in solidarity to the cry for its protection.

In the global landscape, one must notice the tremendous feat that happened on a weekend this month: days ahead the highly anticipated Climate Ambition Summit of the United Nations, over 600,000 people across the globe mobilized for a united call to phase out fossil fuels—fast, fair, and forever. I am astounded by this display of solidarity and clarity of vision by people, young and old, of different nations: a vision for a sustainably powered future and ambitious climate action. It is moments such as this that encourage us to renew our hope daily for the rejuvenation of nature, and that the collective care we pour on our neighbors and our environment will bring forth changes that are for the better.

I thus take the opportunity through this column to find joy in the fruits of labor and love that stewards of creation, communities, and the thriving movement for climate and ecological justice have reaped in recent years. In doing so, it is my hope that we become fueled with even more courage and motivation to move forward.

In the last decade, the massive expansion of dirty coal energy in our country brought suffering to communities across the Philippines, caused electricity prices to soar, and turned a climate-vulnerable country like ours into one of the biggest promoters of coal power. But years of work by frontline stakeholders pulled the brake on this expansion. By 2020, a moratorium on new coal projects was in place. Even the coal-fired power plant in our beautiful city of San Carlos was cancelled. And over three years since we started engaging Philippine banks under the banner of Withdraw from Coal, there are now at least 6 banks who have said that they are working to restrict or move away from providing financial support to fossil fuels.

Today, these wins against coal are being taken advantage of by another fossil fuel industry—natural gas, or fossil gas as we like to call it. Like coal, it is a dirty energy source, producing large amounts of methane which is a short-lived yet highly potent greenhouse gas in causing the warming of the earth’s temperature. Planned construction for its facilities also threaten critical biodiversity areas where they will be built, like Tañon Strait between Negros and Cebu or the Verde Island Passage—where the concentration of new gas projects in development is found. Once again, communities and defenders of our environment are taking a stand. So far, three gas projects in the Visayas opted to pull out from their application for an environmental compliance certificate due to opposition and high prices of gas fuels. Efforts of civil society to communicate with those backing gas expansion in the VIP through financing are also paying off: in its last annual meeting, the German asset manager DWS announced that it has moved away from investing in San Miguel Corporation due to the company’s massive plans for destructive gas projects, including in the biodiversity rich VIP.

Amid these victories and progresses, one cannot ignore that threats and developments unfavorable to our environment and the interests of Filipinos continue to plague us. Today, fossil gas and also coal still figure significantly in the latest proposed Philippine Energy Plan of the Department of Energy (DOE) well into 2050—a time when we should have already long transitioned to 100% renewables if we were to meet the 1.5°C climate ambition. A gas development bill is also being considered in the halls of Senate after having passed at the lower house—haunting coastal communities with pollution and consumers with all time high electricity rates from LNG and fossil gas in the future. Meanwhile, those of our countrymen and women who are least capable of adapting continue to be the most vulnerable to intensifying climate impacts, from rising sea levels, to more destructive typhoons and other climate disasters. Worse is to come if world economies, including ours, continue to power themselves in a business-as-usual manner.

At this time, let us join together in seeking to be used by our dear Creator as instruments of caring for his creation, people and planet alike.

There are opportunities to do so left and right. We can speak to our authorities in government, and engage them towards opting for development pathways and policies that respect people’s right to a healthy, livable environment. We can engage financial institutions and urge them to restrict or end financial support to fossil fuels, destructive mining, reclamation, and other dirty industries, or industries and companies that may be known for human and indigenous rights violations. We could even engage dirty corporations themselves—from their shareholders to their management and clients—and urge them to transition out of destructive practices. It is a wonderful thing that bodies of the church are proactively organizing opportunities to learn about such possible efforts. I encourage you, dear readers, to also grab opportunities to learn about or implement these should they come to you.

In our daily lives, we probably have long been seeking to be granted faith that can move mountains, as our Lord Jesus spoke about in the years He spent walking this earth. Let us pray that He may also plant within our hearts the faith to protect our mountains, seas, rivers, lands, and all who live in them so that the whole of Creation may continue rejoicing in His glory.

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