Covering Just Transition in the Philippines: Challenges and Ways Forward

Just Transition roundtable

The Philippine government has committed to taking steps toward climate action by raising its carbon emission reduction target to 75% by 2030. The Marcos administration has pushed for the transition to renewable energy, vowing to prioritize the country’s shift to clean energy as its top climate agenda.

To discuss key issues, Climate Tracker, supported by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung held a Just Transition Roundtable Discussion last September 28, 2022. The event, which was attended by over 20 delegates was comprised of journalists and representatives from the labor, power, and research sectors, and non-profit organizations.

What is Just Transition?

Just transition in the Philippines began as a labor movement in the 1970s, which later expanded to include climate agendas. There have been significant developments at the legislative level through the enactment of the Philippines Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA), the Renewable Energy Act, and the Green Jobs Act in 2016. The laws were enacted to promote sustainable growth in the energy sector and to incentivize businesses in green job generation to address the challenges of living in a changing climate.

Today, the urgency of just transition is becoming more evident with the increasingly adverse impacts brought by the climate emergency. Stakeholders and concerned citizens are campaigning for a just transition that prepares beyond the transition’s impact on the economy, but also extends a careful outlook on how it would affect all sectors of society.

Just transition, as defined by various stakeholders, is an inclusive transition in line with the interest of the people and the planet. It means creating cooperatives for workers, women’s participation in policymaking, and creating a regenerative economy inclusive for all. And since just transition permeates every sector, the genuine investment and active participation of the government is fundamental to achieving it.

Currently, the Philippines is a signatory to the Paris Agreement in 2015 which takes into account the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities. However, despite being a signatory, there has been no detailed implementation of the laws in the country, nor is there a rigorous study that measures the country’s movement in terms of just transition.

There are still a lot of questions and uncertainties in attempting to detail just the transition in the Philippines. Sectors do agree that going forward without leaving anybody or anything behind is the only “fair” change.

Where are we in Just Transition? Experiences Per Sector

Moving Forward: Collaborations

While there is literature that discusses just transition at the legislative level, the Philippines is still lagging behind the actual implementation of just transition. At present, there is no decommissioning plan for existing coal plants, and the moratorium to close down coal plants isn’t followed. Laws may have been in place but energy democracy is still a far cry. Just transition and climate financing have also been coopted by neoliberal banks and development agencies.

Communities are still at a loss with the concept of just transition because there’s little community dialogue spearheaded by government programs. In addition, communities that can afford to just transition are limited to malls and universities with financing opportunities. For marginalized communities like the urban poor, a transition is nearly impossible due to the lack of financing.

Much of the access to just transition programs is still a question of money, and government support is fundamental for the actual implementation of programs. As shared by stakeholders, much is handed down to the private sector and just transition in the Philippines is still a foreign concept for the average Filipino.

Despite this, stakeholders will continue to campaign in mainstreaming just transition through collaborations with journalists and opinion makers. The just transition roundtable fostered the opportunity to discuss key issues with stakeholders and facilitated a dialogue between sectors and journalists on how to better highlight issues per sector and creatively communicate just transition until it is widely understood by the general public.