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Doubts cast over SMC net-zero pledge


San Miguel Corporation (SMC) can neither claim nor achieve sustainability leadership while taking charge of continued expansion of fossil fuels in the Philippines, sustainability think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) and fellow environmental advocates said on Thursday.

The comment comes after SMC CEO Ramon Ang announced “an ambitious sustainability goal to become better socially, environmentally, and as a business” during the conglomerate’s Annual Stockholders Meeting (ASM) earlier this week, a commitment which includes “achieving net zero emission by 2050.”

“Fossil fuels clearly still take center stage for San Miguel Corporation. This net-zero pledge is meaningless for as long as it aggressively builds new gas and coal capacity, and for as long as it fails to set a roadmap for urgently phasing out existing fossil fuel businesses. With the world about to breach the 1.5 degree C limit set by the Paris Agreement to avert even more catastrophic climate changes, its insistence on dirty and costly energy eclipses any net-zero pledge,” said Gerry Arances, Executive Director of CEED.

At 14 GW, SMC has the biggest pipeline for new gas capacity in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. In a report published in time for SMC’s ASM, CEED urged SMC to address the contradictions in its energy business directions – a call that is carried by fellow advocates.

“Fossil giant SMC ironically has among the biggest commitments for clean energy among other players, including a pledge for 10GW of new renewables and expansion of its battery energy storage system portfolio to 1,000 MWh nationwide. This is telling of SMC’s unique potential to be instrumental to a renewable energy transition, which it chooses to ignore to the detriment of communities host to its fossil fuel facilities, national climate ambitions, and consumers who suffer increasing power prices – especially with LNG now coming in. For the benefit of Filipinos and the health of our environment and climate, SMC must abandon its gas plans,” said Bishop Gerry Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos, and convenor of advocacy group WagGas.

“At the same time, SMC is also creating risks for itself,” warned Arances.

CEED and other civil society partners, particularly groups seeking to protect the biodiverse Verde Island Passage – the site of an existing 1,200 MW gas plant and a nearly constructed new LNG power plant both owned by SMC, are actively engaging banks and investors with financial relations with San Miguel Corporation and its controversial energy projects. The briefing comes in the lead up to another series of engagements with SMC’s financiers in the United States.

“SMC’s financiers have the right and responsibility to know that the company is using their money to harm biodiversity, people, and the Philippines’ hope for an urgent shift to 100% clean and affordable renewable energy. They must also know that civic movements and communities are not merely standing by as SMC wreaks havoc with its fossil fuel obsession, and that this opposition will continue to pose serious challenges for San Miguel’s business operations. These financiers have the capacity to either influence the energy transition directions of SMC to genuinely advance sustainability, or to drop it as a client in accordance to their own sustainability policies and portfolio guidelines,” said Arances.

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