By Imelda V. Abano
MANILA, March 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Climate change activist and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore has urged the Philippines government to end its dependence to polluting coal-fired power stations, particularly given the rapidly dropping prices of renewable energy.
Gore, founder of the non-profit Climate Reality Project, said in a speech to more than 700 climate action leaders being trained in Manila that while the Philippines is making significant efforts to deal with climate impacts it also needs to build a new energy infrastructure.
"We have the solutions at hand to address climate change. Shift to renewable energy," Gore urged Monday. "The age of renewable energy is beginning."
While many countries are adopting more clean energy, the Philippines government last year approved the construction of 25 new coal-fired power plants, said Philippines Senator Loren Legarda.
"While more and more countries are shifting to renewable energy, we are still moving towards the use of coal," she said.
Gore said that the costs of producing energy from wind, solar power and geothermal energy are all coming down, and that in a growing number of rural communities around the world renewable energy is as widely used as traditional power sources.
EXTREME WEATHER RISKS
Changing energy systems is crucial because climate impacts are putting lives in danger as a result of fiercer typhoons, longer droughts, more flooding and rising seas, he said.
The former vice president, after arriving in the Philippines, visited Tacloban City, one of the areas worst hit by Typhoon Haiyan, and talked to survivors. More than 6,000 people died in the 2013 typhoon, and more than 4 million were left homeless.
"Climate change is causing massive disruption, conflict, hunger, infrastructure destruction and is affecting the global economy. It is also threatening political stability in many regions. That's why we need to act and find solutions that work," Gore said.
He said moving away from the use of coal would improve the energy security of the Philippines in the future.
According to Legarda, the Philippines needs another 13,000 megawatts of power generating capacity by 2030, with about 8,500 of those expected to come from coal.
Consumption of coal by the Philippines rose 27 percent between 2012 and 2014, she said.
Legarda said she would push for a ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants in the country and introduce an energy-efficiency bill as part of efforts to reduce climate-changing emissions in the Philippines.
In 2014, about 74 percent of the Philippines' electricity came from fossil fuels, said Kenneth Berlin, president of the Climate Reality Project, which aims to spur action on climate change.
That year, geothermal and hydropower accounted for about 13 percent and 12 percent of electrical production, respectively, with solar, wind and biomass providing only one percent.
Berlin said some of the barriers to expanding use of renewable energy in the Philippines include lengthy and complicated regulatory, permitting, and construction procedures; complex and uncertain project financing conditions such as limits to foreign investment and ownership; and infrastructure and grid constraints.
"We have to bear in mind that increasingly renewable energy is cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable than fossil fuels. Transition to a clean energy economy will benefit the country and create jobs. We must remove barriers to the deployment of renewable energy," Berlin said.
(Reporting by Imelda V. Abano; editing by Laurie Goering :; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)
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