Gov’t, private sector must study ‘circular economy’ model to cut PH carbon emissions

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III

 Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has called on the government and the private sector to jointly explore the model of a “circular economy” to help reduce waste and lessen the Philippines’ carbon footprint. 

Now being gradually adopted in some industrialized countries, a circular economy involves replacing the ‘take-make-waste’ method of current production and consumption processes with new systems that will lengthen the lifespan of materials and products by reusing, recycling, upcycling or remanufacturing them. 

While the national government is pushing the passage of the bill banning single-use plastics and supporting initiatives to replace this product with new environment-friendly materials, these are not enough to meet the complex challenges of the worsening climate crisis, Dominguez said. 

“It is not enough to replace plastics with something else. We have to reimagine the terms of our economic life so that all of humanity stops making things in order to dispose of them. Almost everything we buy and consume is intentionally designed to produce waste and to add to greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dominguez in his pre-recorded message at the Joint Conference on Environment-Friendly Alternative Plastics, which was spearheaded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), 

Attended by representatives from the government, business sector and the academe, the conference was also organized by the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, (DENR) and of Finance (DOF) and the Climate Change Commission (CCC). 

Dominguez, who is also CCC chairperson-designate, expressed the hope that the conference will lead to near-term results in finding viable substitutes for single-use plastics as this outcome “will be dramatic in terms of reducing our emissions, cutting down our indestructible waste, and saving our marine life.” 

He said this “relevant and timely” forum can go a step further by exploring the “circular economy” model as a long-term measure to reduce the country’s carbon footprint. 

“There is a new idea gaining ground in industrial countries. It is about building what is called a circular economy. It involves replacing current production and consumption processes that are destined to produce waste with new systems that will enhance recycling and up-cycling products. We could explore this idea of a circular economy in this meeting,” Dominguez said. 

Dominguez said climate change is not only felt in vulnerable countries like the Philippines, but in other parts of the globe as well, as he recalled his experience about the devastating heat waves that struck parts of the western United States during his recent trip to Portland, Oregon. 

“From Germany to China, extreme flooding caused death and destruction,” Dominguez said. “These terrifying events have sent a stark reminder that climate change is making weather disturbances more extreme across the globe. It is a terrible glimpse of the future in store for us if we do not change the course now.” 

As one of the countries most vulnerable to the ill effects of climate change, Dominguez said the Philippines is determined to take action now and become a world leader in reversing its negative impacts, which is why it had submitted as its commitment to the Paris Agreement the ambitious target of cutting down its greenhouse emissions by 75 percent by 2030. 

Dominguez acknowledged that this goal “cannot be achieved without bold changes in our energy mix, a stronger policy package on managing wastes, and a determined effort against plastic waste pollution.” 

“We only have one planet and only one generation to save it. This is the decade to take action,” he said. 

Dominguez said one of his first tasks as CCC chairperson-designate was to ask the agency to focus its efforts on passing a national policy banning single-use plastics as a concrete response to the global effort to reduce carbon emissions as well as plastics pollution in the oceans.

“I thank the Climate Change Commission and other relevant agencies for the hard work in pushing legislators to pass the anti-single-use plastics bill. At the same time, many of our local government units (LGUs) have issued their own ordinances to ban or regulate plastics,” Dominguez said. 

He described as a “national shame” the findings of an international study showing that seven of the Philippines’ rivers are on the list of the Top 10 plastics polluters of the oceans. 

“Plastics, however,  need to be replaced with some new materials that are environment-friendly, low cost, and sustainable. This meeting hopefully opens the door to the development of such substitute materials to replace single-use plastics in their many areas of use,” Dominguez said. 

“We need to be innovative and creative. It is high time for the government, industries, businesses and advocates to work together to develop better alternatives. By not consuming plastics, our people will be able to do their part on a daily basis in saving the world’s environment,” he added.  (DOF)