Waste management for climate change mitigation takes center stage on World Habitat Day in the Philippines

UN-Habitat Philippines joins countries, cities, and towns across the globe in celebrating World Habitat Day on October 4, 2021, with the event “Race to Zero PH: Reflecting Waste as Resource in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time.”

Anchored on the global theme, “accelerating urban action in a carbon-free world,” the national event gathered experts to talk about the climate change mitigation contributions of the waste sector.

The virtual event, which amplifies the global #RacetoZero campaign in the run up to COP 26 happening on November 2021, kicked off with global messages from the United Nations Secretary General António Gutteres and UN-Habitat Executive Director Mainmunah Mohd Sharif who both stressed the transformative potential of sustainable urban action and the role that cities play in achieving a carbon-neutral planet.

Representing the national government, Atty. Jonas Leones, Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), opened the discussion by sharing how the Philippines has been an active player in international discourse on climate change and waste management.

“The Philippines has always led efforts to adapt to the impacts of anthropogenically driven climate change while at the same time identifying climate-smart strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with its sustainable development agenda and national policies and programs.”

Minister Masahiro Nakata, Economic Affairs Minister of the Embassy of Japan shared the environmental programs in the Philippines supported by the Government of Japan.

“Our response to address waste, climate change, and loss of biodiversity must not stop, this is an urgent issue that must be tackled for the future of humankind and other lives on earth. Japan will continue to lead the world in responding to these global challenges, but what’s essential is cooperation with each country and we would be happy if we could strengthen cooperation with the Philippines.”

Climate Change Mitigation in the Waste Management Sector

A series of technical presentations on the landscape of climate change mitigation in the Philippines and how it intersects with waste management opened the first moderated discussion.

Sandee G. Recabar, Head of the Implementation Oversight Division of the Climate Change Commission, presented the national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory of the Philippines, focusing on the contributions of the waste sector. Delia M. Valdez, OIC-Chief of the Solid Waste Management Division, Environmental Management Bureau of DENR, elaborated on the five mitigation options for the municipal solid waste management (SWM) and their related policies. Elenida dR. Basug, Director of the Climate Change Service, DENR, stressed that proper solid waste management contributes to climate change adaptation and community resilience. Dr. Rajeev Kumar Singh, Sustainable Consumption and Production Researcher of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), explained the life-cycle assessment of emissions from short-lived climate pollutants, which are powerful climate agents that have more warming potential than CO2, and how proper municipal SWM can greatly contribute to reducing them.

Actions on the ground

The second discussion featured different initiatives of the local government, socio-civic groups, and private sector that support climate change mitigation in the waste sector. Kohei Hibino, Programme Manager and Deputy Director of Kitakyushu Urban Centre, IGES, opened with a presentation on norms-based community behavior change. Providing the experience of local government units, Mayor Noel Rosal of Legazpi City shared their city’s actions and early wins on GHG Management through the application of sustainable environmental management technologies and approaches. Anna Oposa, Executive Director and Chief Mermaid of Save Philippine Seas walked through their organization’s successful campaigns and how they effectively engaged with various stakeholders. Lastly, sharing the private sector initiatives on climate change mitigation, Commissioner Crispian Lao, Founding President of the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Recovery (PARMS), highlighted the need for food waste reduction and management.

Opportunities ahead

Both sessions closed with a discussion of the resource speakers which raised the following key points:

  • Composting, reduction of food waste, and control of open-burning are some of the low-hanging, low-investment actions that can be done in the waste sector to reduce GHG emissions;
  • Research and development opportunities such as emission estimates of the waste sector, cost estimates of the mitigation options, and further research for policy recommendations can be explored;
  • Educating consumers and households to make proper choices is important but this should be supported with,
  • A whole-of-society approach mobilizing all stakeholders is needed to accelerate climate actions.

The event closed with the call to action for the Zero Waste to Nature 2030, a strategy and roadmap developed by PARMS which commits to initiate and support efforts to manage plastic and packaging waste and reduce the country’s waste footprint.

The event also launched #KwentongClimate, a video series that focuses on individuals from all walks of life engaging in the climate conversation.

Race to Zero PH is the first of the exciting line up of activities for Urban October in the Philippines. For more information on local events, click here, or visit the global Urban October website here.

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