International Finance Corporation’s Forum on Green Building

International Finance Corporation’s Forum on Green Building

by Former Senator Heherson T. Alvarez
Commissioner, Climate Change Commission


Extemporaneous Speech Delivered during the
International Finance Corporation’s Forum on Green Building
April 18, 2013, Joy Nostalg Center, Oakwood Premier, Ortigas Centre,


We can trace back the problem when mankind started to be aware of how he has been misusing the resources that provides for his well-being, and ultimately called for a global conference.  This was in Rio of 1992 so that they measured what they have been consuming in resources – in water, in fiber, in timber, in marine and terrestrial resources.

Later, in Rio again, 20 years thereafter, we measured how well we have done in trying to rationally use these resources to the continued well-being of humanity or to the perpetual well-being of mankind. 

We found out that we have not been using our resources for fiber, for things that give us our sustenance, our fish stocks, our fresh water resources, our natural resources.  We have been misusing it to the point where if we must sustain the kind of quality that we have brought above, the kind of a social evolution that enables man to be man, to be as bright and beautiful as he is, we have to create 3 worlds.  Tatlong daigdig, in order to supply these resources because we have overdrawn from them.  We have exhausted them.  We exhausted our resources of fresh water, practically, our carbon, our fibers.  And within these constraints, all 192 countries of the United Nations have been convening.  Copenhagen has been mentioned by Hans. 

In Copenhagen, the developed countries were pointing to each other.  ‘We must reduce.  You must reduce,’ the Germans have been saying to the French.  ‘You must reduce by 20 percent of carbon.’  They have pointed carbon as the principal culprit because science has now narrowed on carbon as the principal focal point of this disaster. 

But of course the Philippines and other Asian countries and I along with many other small voices said, “Guys, if you reduce by 20%, by the time you are finished reducing, we’ll be wiped out from the face of the earth.  You at least reduce by 30% so we have a winning chance.  If you don’t reduce enough, the high winds, the gales, the melting snow caps, all the archipelagic small islands – we’re about 7, 100 islands, Vanuatu, Tonga are smaller than we are – will be wiped out from the face of the earth and there’s 70% water on the face of the earth. “

The CO2 that you, prosperous, intelligent nations of the world that created the gigantic machines of progress and convenience continue to spill CO2 that last for about sandaang taon, 100 yrs.  So the CO2 that your forebears are there accumulating with the CO2 of the emerging giant countries like China, and India, which is 1 billion. 

If you don’t do something about this, the science now tells us - I called for a Conference here on climate change in (1991) 1994 and China came with their serious scientists - they agreed CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere, the wastes that we generate whenever we burn cheap fossil fuel which is coal, which is oil and its many derivatives when you refine it is the culprit.  This coal, this carbon filters out all the difference spectrum of the ultraviolet rays of the sun, except the red band.  So it captures the red band and this red band hits the earth.  Iinit ang daigdig. 

Now the earth has been heated well enough that it is in a very dangerous juncture.  It is now 1.4°C according to the IPCC headed by an Indian friend, Mr. Pachauri, a very bright fellow.  Of course the Australian said, that’s a lot of bum.  The earth is so vast, it can accumulate garbage and recycle.  A Texan, an American President even said, Climate change is a hoax.  Of course, what would the Arab say? 

Unfortunately, for the naysayers, some group of sensitive people gave the Nobel award to the findings of Dr. Pachauri.  It is now the mainstream thinking that we are in danger.  The temperature is now 1.4°C.  If this continues to the tipping point of (4) we’ll do a sin.  The tipping point of (4) will warm the oceans. 

And then we will see the planktons dying because the coral reefs will be bleaching.  If you see the planktons dying, much of the fish life will perish.  And you’re going to have brain damage especially people like myself, an Ilocano. 

You know who Ilocanos are.  We’re river dwellers.  We’re on the coast of the sea.  We depend for our protein supply for our brains from the ocean - 85%.  And, I think, so are the Koreans and the Japanese.  They eat a lot of fish.  The rest of mankind would really be in trouble when the coral reefs begin to bleach. 

And we’re close to that.  We’re close to that because the tipping point has been predicted to be 2°C.  Ban Ki Moon said, I don’t know where he gets his figures, “it’s worse than that.”  But the British came out, categorically with the recent finding.  They said that we may be reaching the peak and that they may have miscalculated.

So we’re throwing a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere at such a tremendous and dramatic way that we may reach a point of no return - that the rest of this habitable earth may not be as habitable.

And the principal production of CO2, of course, is your power plants.  Mga planta ng kuryente that use fossils like coal, and transform diesel into gasoline, etc.

And the other derivative users - transport - which uses derivative fuel from crude oil.  These are all the energies mined from under the earth, very deep from the heart of the earth, and now being resurrected to be in the atmosphere. 

And of course, our habitations, our buildings.  We have to cool it.  In the process, building is just as bad as transport in the volume of CO2 emission because consumption of electricity in buildings is just as wasteful, as careless, as wanton, as profligate. 

Look how cool this room is.  I don’t know how much we can save?  This is a third world building.  It’s not as huge as many skyscrapers in Manhattan, perhaps in London.  We can save perhaps, by tinting or glazing the glasses so that only a certain amount of heat will come in and the rest of the light will come in and that would be less of a burden to our air conditioning.  We can save perhaps by the insulation.  We can save perhaps by piping in some volume of wind, ventilation or limited air conditioning for individual users.  We can save by using lights that do not use as much electricity as these compact fluorescent light does.  CFLs are electricity guzzlers.  We could invest in LEDS perhaps. 

These are the major arenas where civilized man can focus in an organized manner so it can organize its finances.  It can organize its engineering, its structure, its architecture.  I have been talking to PSVARE in the last four years.  They have been fond of getting me as their guest speaker so I am fond of talking to them.

I think the technology and the intelligence could be there.  But the problem always in developing country is how to be able to use intelligently limited and very scarce financing and technology to address this problem. 

Hans invited me last November and we’re grateful to him, to his institution for their many corporate interventions that they have done in behalf of humanity.  Mind you, I’m not bias against people making profit.  IFC is the profit-making arm of a global institution.  I said why don’t you intervene not for profit but for social benefit.  If you should invest money and don’t expect as much money as you have done in many ventures in the past.  Just enough money so you begin to solve this terrible, incubus climate change.

If you want to do it for an island let’s do it in an island here.  We can have models.  We have 7,000 islands.  Perhaps 60 model islands.  And then Indonesia can do the same.  I’m sure you can do faster because knowledge travels faster.

If we can do this for the buildings of the world then I think we will begin to slow down the crescendo of danger because we’re picking up.  We’re going high in our discharge of CO2.  We will reach a point where human ingenuity may not be able to hold back this deposit of CO2. 

The earth will gradually perish.  Of course if we do not have anymore the fish for the brains of the ocean dwellers like myself, your capacity to be able to manage quality life will gradually be lost.  And then humanity could be reduced to struggling specie living in the high mountains with very limited capacity for building institutions that we have done now. 

Some are even saying that we would be like Venus whose life died. Once upon a time it was believed that there was life in Venus.

So ladies and gentlemen, we’re here on an experiment. 

But experiment is not to save mankind but to show humanity that we can put our cooperative spirit together.  In difficult situation like the Philippines, where its politics is as confused as its government, we can have a lucid solution to a problem of global existence.  Scientists, managers usually do that over the heads of their political leaders. 

Although I may make exception to this municipality because ever since I started putting out rules on environment they have always been even ahead of me.  When I did the Clean Air Act, when I did the removal of lead from gasoline, the garbage act.  All the series of legislation was being implemented by this beautiful city.

It’s going to be a very difficult task because there are so many colliding, and perhaps, very bright interests.  The government will try, the Climate Change Commission will try as much as possible to behave like a good brother, perhaps not a big brother because none of us can command any of you. This is going to be the primary core of IFC - to make the world safe, not necessarily profitable, but safe. 

Ultimately, a safe world is more profitable than an unsafe world.  Then we can give a gift to ourselves and to our children.  And people will look back and say, looking at our grave-sites when we shall have passed away, these guys have done so well.  They have enabled us to survive.

Thank you