Local government units can now identify exactly which activities contribute to carbon emission and carbon reduction

Although the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emission of the Philippines represents only less than 0.5 percent of emissions worldwide, the country continues to implement policies, mechanisms and programs to keep its emissions in check.

But two criticisms have been leveled against Philippine-prepared plans.

The first is that there are no specific targets for lowering GHG emissions within a given time frame.

The second is the absence of a baseline data against which the impact of action plans can be evaluated.

To resolve these gaps, the group of Professor David Leonides Yap of the UP Diliman School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP), Professor Toshiaki Ichinose of the Graduate School of Environmental Studies at Nagoya University, Antipolo City Planning and Development Coordinator Rowena Zapanta (who is also a student of SURP) and Faith Dumaligan of the UP Diliman College of Architecture developed the Annual Carbon Calculator for Cities (ACCC), an assessment tool that can quantitatively track carbon emission and reduction using data routinely generated by local government units (LGUs) in their annual reports.

The ACCC, which aims to “compute city-level carbon emissions in the smallest possible scope that when measured and mitigated will result in a significant amount of carbon emission reduction,” consists of two parts.

The red sheet – or the carbon emission account – measures energy or electricity consumption, transportation or fuel consumption, solid waste disposal, and emissions in system processes on electric consumption. These areas had been singled out by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as the primary sources of carbon emissions.

The green sheet – or the carbon reduction account – measures carbon emission reduction achieved through: (1) use of solar energy, (2) use of non-motorized transport, (3) recycling solid wastes, (4) open or green spaces, or (5) other carbon emission reduction programs or projects in the city.

Both sheets have columns for carbon emission activity or carbon emission reduction activity, carbon emission factor (CEF) or carbon emission reduction factor (CERF), the quantity and unit of measurement of the emission source in a year, and the amount of carbon emitted or carbon reduced. By multiplying the annual figures with those under CEF or CERF, emission or reduction in kilograms can be estimated. Subtracting total carbon emission from total reduction will determine if the city has a carbon surplus or deficit or has achieved a reduction in carbon.

In their pilot study in Antipolo, Rizal, the researchers found that the city was in fact emitting more carbon than it could reduce. But because the tool had measurements for each type of emission or reduction activity, it became possible for the LGU to know exactly what kind of programs would create a significant decrease in carbon emission. This assures that resources in the efforts against climate change are deployed where they will be most effective. The numbers, furthermore, would serve as the baseline data in assessing growth or decline in emissions.

The 2013 zoning map of Antipolo City shows the expanding urban areas and remaining open spaces and forest areas. At present, Antipolo is implementing measures that support low-carbon development such as preserving protected areas and converting small idle lots into pocket parks. (Source: Antipolo City Comprehensive Land Use Plan, 2010-2020)

The bigger task now, according to the researchers, is to have other local government units adopt this scientific way of determining carbon emission figures and deciding on activities that can directly ease GHG levels – and mitigate climate change.

Climate change is caused by an increase in the greenhouse effect.

GHGs from human activities such as fossil fuel combustion, industrial processes and deforestation build up in the atmosphere and limit its ability to release into space the energy given by the sun to the earth. As a result, the amount of heat trapped on earth gradually increases.

Research has shown that carbon dioxide accounts for 75 percent of greenhouse gases emitted.

(The tool was introduced in the paper “Developing an Assessment Tool to Assist Local Government Units to Monitor Low-Carbon Programs in the Pursuit of Ecological Governance” which has been published in the latest volume of Espasyo: Journal of Philippine Architecture and Allied Arts. The research was partially funded by the Sumitomo Foundation.)