Unveiling the Philippines' Carbon Footprint: Challenges and Sustainable Approaches


The Philippines, an archipelagic country with a population of over 111 million, is facing the challenges of carbon emissions in its own unique context. Unlike its regional neighbors, the Philippines is rich in natural resources, but its growing urbanization and industrialization present a complex set of challenges. In 2020, the Philippines emitted an average of 1.98 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita, which is way below the global average of four metric tons per capita. However, the country’s carbon dioxide emissions have been growing at an increasing rate, with a 7.42% increase from the previous year. 

The rise in carbon emissions has led to significant environmental impacts in the Philippines. The country is increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including higher temperatures, more intense rainfall, and rising sea levels. These changes pose substantial threats to its infrastructure, agriculture, and the well-being of its residents.

These environmental changes also have serious economic implications. As one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, the Philippines’ economy could be significantly affected by the impacts of climate change. Industries such as agriculture and tourism, which contribute significantly to the country’s GDP, are particularly at risk.

Recognizing the potential of technology in addressing climate change, the Philippines has committed to a 75% greenhouse gas emission reduction and avoidance by 2030, as part of its commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This sector, which leverages advancements like the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, big data, and quantum computing, is pivotal in unlocking the world’s carbon sink. These startups play a crucial role in overcoming barriers to NbS uptake, employing technology to address ecosystem challenges.

But it’s not just the Philippines; addressing climate change presents significant opportunities for Southeast Asia. Based on a study developed by BCG and Fairatmos titled "Climate Technology in Southeast Asia: Key to Unlocking the World’s Carbon Sink" highlights that nature-based solutions (NbS) could supply approximately 30% of the global carbon offset by 2030, despite Southeast Asia covering less than 1% of the world's total landmass. Critical sectors such as agriculture, tourism, and fishing can thrive by focusing on sustainable practices while enhancing human health and labor productivity.

To be able to successfully harness Nature based Solutions, there is a need for collaboration between multiple stakeholders, especially in terms of technological advancement, private-public collaborations, and green investment. While technology has played a crucial role in NbS implementation by utilizing advancements like the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, big data, remote sensing, and quantum computing, the sector still needs more green investment and political will to overcome the barriers to NbS uptake.

Green Investment as Key to Develop Nature-based Solution

In Indonesia, the impact of collaboration and investment to develop NbS is already underway in the form of support for Fairatmos. This Indonesian-based organization works on high-quality carbon offset projects across Southeast Asia.

Fairatmos Founder and CEO Natalia Rialucky said, “Indonesia hosts 15% of the world's potential Nature-Based Carbon sinks. Fairatmos seeks to simplify the process, enabling anyone, regardless of size, to initiate nature-based projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions without excessive costs. Therefore, overcoming hurdles like limited technical expertise, lengthy certification process, and high capital investment is vital to ensure everyone can take a part in restoring the atmosphere.”

As a climate technology company, Fairatmos has received support for its product, Atmoswatch, from ANGIN, an early-stage investment platform and development advisory consulting company based in Indonesia, through its PMF (Product Market Fit) Program powered by Official Development Assistance (ODA). This initiative aims to refine startups’ products to better meet market needs by providing funding, tailored mentorship, and networking opportunities.

Ursula Toding, ANGIN Business Development Senior Associate, said, “We were impressed by Fairatmos’ alignment with government priorities, especially in carbon offset initiatives, amid Indonesia’s focus on carbon regulation. Startups like Fairatmos are crucial in leveraging business to address environmental challenges, aligning impact with commercial viability. Through impactful businesses like Fairatmos, we can become more strategic in our approach, achieving both meaningful impact and sustainable growth.”

On the other side of the collaboration, Fairatmos invested by Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia and India (VVSEAI), regional venture capital firms. The Singapore-based venture capital is driven by their understanding of the critical importance of mitigation and adaptation strategies in our collective fight against climate change.

VVSEAI's Partner Puiyan Leung said, “Innovators like Fairatmos play a vital role in supporting these efforts. We hope there will be similar projects across Southeast Asia so we can mitigate the impact of the climate crisis in a creative and innovative way. Not only to reduce emissions but also to provide economic and social benefits to local communities and support their efforts in adapting to climate change, just like Fairatmos.”

To replicate this model in the Philippines, identifying green-tech startups with a fervent dedication to sustainability is essential. Venture capital firms, such as VVSEAI, can provide support through funding, mentorship, and networking, while the Philippines government and stakeholders foster conducive environments for sustainable investments.

The collaboration between Fairatmos and key ecosystem players serves as a successful blueprint for green-tech startups, investment platforms, and venture capital firms. This partnership showcases how these entities can synergize to mitigate carbon footprints and accelerate Southeast Asia's transition to a low-carbon economy, significantly advancing sustainability endeavors. Characterized by efficacy, this collaborative model offers a replicable framework for the Philippines, demonstrating the potential for effective climate change combat through strategic alliances with firms.

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