Greenpeace challenges government to Quit Coal and join the Energy Revolution this Earth Day

Feature story - April 21, 2009
Greenpeace activists held an “Earth Day Barbecue” at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) compound in Quezon City to call attention to how the government’s distorted coal power policy aggravates rather than helps solve the global threat of climate change. The activists ‘roasted’ a balloon replica of Planet Earth over charcoal, which is safer than the coal used in power plants, to illustrate how the relentless pursuit of coal-fired power plants is cooking the planet.

Greenpeace activists held an "Earth Day Barbecue" at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) compound in Quezon City to call attention to how the government's distorted coal power policy aggravates rather than helps solve the global threat of climate change. The activists "roasted" a balloon replica of Planet Earth over charcoal, which is safer than the coal used in power plants, to illustrate how the relentless pursuit of coal-fired power plants is cooking the planet. In the barbecue were volunteers dressed as DENR Secretary Lito Atienza and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, both of whom play key roles in the Philippine Task Force on Climate Change and are part of the newly formed "Carbon-Cutting Coalition".

In the barbecue were volunteers dressed as DENR Secretary Lito Atienza and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, both of whom play key roles in the Philippine Task Force on Climate Change and are part of the newly-formed 'Carbon Cutting Coalition.'  In reality, their agencies abet rather than prevent the construction of coal-fired power plants which scientists now recognize as the single greatest cause of global warming.  The activity also featured the Philippine launch of the Greenpeace report  "True Cost of Coal" which details how the use of coal as fuel causes irreparable damage to the environment, people's health, and communities around the world.

"The government's chosen Earth Day theme this year is 'Earth Survival: Climate Change Solutions.'  The single greatest move the government can do to help stop climate change is to phase out coal and stop the construction of coal plants.  Unfortunately, such a thing is not in the government's plans.  In fact, the DENR deliberately turns a blind eye on the environmental costs, continuing to issue Environmental Compliace Certificates to these dirty and polluting plants.  The Department of Energy meanwhile has at least nine coal plants in the pipeline for construction or expansion.  This is clearly a case of sheer hypocrisy,"  said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Climate and Energy Campaigner Amalie Obusan.

Coal is the most climate-polluting fossil fuel, responsible for one third of all global carbon dioxide emissions.  Although widely considered as a cheap source of power, the cost of coal becomes immeasurable when its effect on the climate, the environment and people's health, are counted.  According to the report "True Cost of Coal," the global cost of coal in 2007 alone was at least €360 billion.  However, this figure is most certainly an underestimation, as it doesn't account for all damages caused by coal while very conservatively estimating the ones that it does.

The impacts of coal are not only related to climate change. Coal also pollutes water resources, dirties the air and causes black lung disease. The report contains 'on the ground' stories from 12 countries that describe how human rights are violated in Colombia while mining coal, how mountain tops are blown apart in the United States and how coal use adds dramatically to air pollution in China.  It also includes stories of community struggles against coal plants, such as in the Visayas in the Philippines.

Coal fired power plants at present account for 26.44 % (4213 MW) of the country's total energy mix--the largest share in terms of installed capacity.  Current plans will increase this capacity by 1915 MW.  In contrast, genuine climate change solutions such as new renewables (solar, wind, etc) account for only .16% (25 MW) and plans are only to double this amount.

"As one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, the Philippines is already paying a high price for the cost of coal, with thousands of lives and billions of pesos lost due to climate change impacts such as extreme weather events.  Greenpeace is challenging the government to Quit Coal and show its sincerity in working for climate change solutions," said Obusan.

"There are better options available to us other than coal, and which does not require the use of dangerous nuclear energy.  Greenpeace's Energy [R]evolution Philippine Scenario provides a practical blueprint that shows how renewable energy, combined with greater energy efficiency, can cut CO2 emissions from fossil fuels by 50% by 2050.  In these times of economic crisis, the need to catalyze an energy revolution takes on an increased urgency, as it shows how tackling climate change by investing in renewable energy systems and energy efficiency not only makes environmental sense, but economic sense as well."

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