By Chuck Baclagon

President Duterte’s signing of the Paris climate agreement is welcome news for the Philippines. It opens the potential not just for renewables and the bigger energy sector but also for the overall economy.

With the Philippines being rated as among the most climate vulnerable countries worldwide, our status as a country that would ratify the agreement advances the voice of those who should be heard the loudest. We are glad that President Duterte has decided we can raise that voice louder in the global climate negotiations, and has taken up the plight of those to whom climate justice is due.

Yet beyond the Paris agreement is the test for all governments, including ours, is to pursue an energy policy direction that seeks to keep fossil fuels in the ground. This is the best indicator of a country’s seriousness in dealing with the climate crisis.

The sobering reality is that there are other battles that need to be won outside the agreement. We are working on all fronts to mobilize and invest towards a low-carbon, resilient and sustainable future that will keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, if not within the aspirational target of 1.5 degrees Celsius. And this requires halting all new fossil fuel development now. Should the construction of all coal plants in the pipeline push through, the Philippines would be locked into 20-40 years of coal dependence.

We hope that this scenario wouldn’t materialize given the president’s previous statement that he sees pollution as the price to pay for industrializing the country. Fossil fuel dependence is not synonymous and even detrimental to development.