Clear Skies: What it takes to make beautiful views the norm

QUICK READ: The Philippines needs to radically shift to energy efficiency and alternative energy to help fight climate change.


By GreenMan Matthias Gelber



We all thought we had seen the recipe for a new world—the skies were clear, and the air was crisp and healthy to breathe, even in the usually polluted cities of Delhi, Manila, and Dhaka. Wherever you looked there was a breathtaking clear view in front of you!


How did that happen? It was an accidental consequence of the world standing still. Human activity was reduced to staying at home to reduce the risk of a COVID-19 spread. In other words, lockdowns. It was as well a lockdown of the sources of the PM2.5, PM10, Nitrogen Oxides, and Sulfur Oxides that usually come from vehicles, traffic, airplanes, factories, and other sources that are run and used by us humans. Once we humans stopped, the pollution stopped. A simple and very linear relationship. It became clear that the pollution that was choking our cities was not natural, but human-made. We humans came up with the industrial fires that burn coal, oil, and gas after we have dug those non-renewable resources out of the soil. Mother Nature itself will not dig them out and burn them—it makes no sense for a natural cycle which in the first place put them in the soil as a carbon sink. 


Nature will not burn forests either, unless there is something out of balance. Us humans put it all out of balance. Once our movement was restricted, the planet started to recalibrate and put fresh and clean air onto the atmosphere. It was amazing for all of us to see.


And where are we now many months after this magical experience that was borne of a tragic disease which threatened our lives and our economy to the core? What have we learned and what has changed? 


Not much really. We are back to the bad old days. How much is it costing us in terms of health impact and medical costs? How many years does it shorten our lives? How many more years will it cause more premature deaths than the dreaded disease we are facing that led to the lockdown in the first place?


The update for humanity is sobering. I read in a BBC article: 


“The global response to the COVID-19 crisis has had little impact on the continued rise in atmospheric concentrations of CO2, says the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).


This year carbon emissions have fallen dramatically due to lockdowns that have cut transport and industry severely.


But this has only marginally slowed the overall rise in concentrations, the scientists say.

The details are published in the WMO’s annual greenhouse gas bulletin.”


Cities like Delhi, Dhaka, and Manila do not have the beautiful clear view anymore. We are back to where we were before, as if nothing has happened.  


The current pandemic looks like it is reversible. Vaccines are seeing progress after successful tests. Lives might move back to normal this year. But should we go back to normal? I do not think we should. 


In my opinion, we need to do two things: 


1) Implement a radical work-from-home policy with occasional central office time but only when really needed. Let’s keep vehicles for non-essential travel off the roads—they really do the bulk of the damage. Compared to the lockdown it would cost little but it will have a huge impact. Can we really afford to keep those pollution-spewing vehicles on the road?


2) Radically shift to energy efficiency and renewable energy. No newer coal-fired power plants should be built. We need an alternative energy source to power both residential and commercial use. Contestable customers in the Philippines (those who have a monthly average peak demand of at least 750KW) such as large factories, office buildings, hospitals, and universities can choose their own supplier and should definitely choose renewables. In many cases, this will even be cheaper. Thanks to geothermal energy, there is a stable 24-hour consistent baseload available in the country. Hydro, solar, and wind energy make their contributions as well. The Philippines used to be the top producer of geothermal power in the region but has now slipped behind Indonesia. That alone should be motivation to ramp up again, particularly for the geothermal legacy that the country has, being part of the Ring of Fire. 


Climate change, once it hits us with more than 2°C of additional temperature rise, will not be reversible. The clear skies we have seen are a sign of hope and a call for action. We hope that everything can be done to make it happen. It starts on our roads and with those who make laws, provide incentives, and make investments. May the conditions for the cause of pollution get worse and the conditions for cleaner mobility and power get so good that it becomes the only option to be profitable and in operation. 


And may it start with me and you. We, our families, our friends, our barangays, our cities, our companies, and our organizations can choose alternative energy resources and the cleaner option. It is in our hands. I hope and believe that we can move back to clarity once again for the sake of our children and our planet.


Matthias Gelber graduated with Masters in Environmental Science from Brunel University in the UK and went on to start a successful environmental consulting company in 1999. Matthias is also an impactful speaker and trainer on environmental and sustainability issues. 

You can contact Matthias on his site or listen to him on the newly launched The GreenMinded Podcast on Youtube.

The Energy Development Corporation (EDC) is a pioneer in generating 100% clean, renewable, and reliable power as an electricity supplier in the Philippines for over 40 years. With power plants all over Visayas and Mindanao, the company is one of the biggest producers of geothermal energy in Asia and is expanding its reach in the international market, allowing it to offer customers affordable energy rates. EDC also strives to provide the best customer service it can to all its clients by having helpful salespeople and easy to understand contracts. Because of all of this, it is poised to become the premier supplier of electricity for the Philippines’ Green Energy Option Program. EDC takes its mission as a renewable energy provider seriously and goes beyond sustainability by investing in programs that enhance the environment and empower its partner communities, thereby fostering regenerative development. The company has also been working toward being carbon-neutral by improving its energy efficiency, as well as implementing various greening projects to ensure that its mission to provide future generations with a better life remains intact.