Ayala Land sets 450 hectares to carbon forests for sustainability

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The world is changing at an alarming rate, and not all for the good. While the continued progress of technology and the lasting effects of the industrial revolution have propelled many countries towards prosperity, the benefits are taking their toll on the planet.

Climate change has become one of the most critical issues of the modern age, mainly because of the amount of greenhouse gases that many economies produce daily. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which includes more than 1,300 scientists from the United States and other countries, forecasts that the temperature of the Earth would rise 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century if unmitigated, in the process doing catastrophic damage to various ecosystems, causing severe weather conditions like droughts and super hurricanes, and raising the ocean’s water level.

“Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner,” NASA stated on its climate change Web site.

“Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.”

Why climate change is so difficult to address, however, is because the modern society has become dependent on the carbon-emitting processes that many industries use to fuel growth. The Philippines, for instance, emitted 157.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2012 alone. More than half, or 54%, came from the energy sector, followed by the agriculture and industrial processes, which contributed 33% and 8%, respectively, according to data from the United States Agency for International Development. Recent estimates are sure to be higher, as the country is currently experiencing a boom in its economy.

The Philippines is currently ranked the fifth most vulnerable country to climate and disaster risks. Much work needs to be done, and Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI), a leading developer of sustainable mixed-use estates and the real estate arm of Ayala Corporation, is taking the lead through a significant carbon emission offsetting program that targets the carbon neutrality of its commercial properties by 2022.

This January, the company announced that it is dedicating 450 hectares of land to develop carbon-guzzling forests in line with its aggressive targets, alongside its endeavors in renewable energy and green building.

“We have been tracking, among other environment, social, governance metrics, our greenhouse gas emissions throughout the various stages of our project development process,” Anna Maria Gonzales, ALI Sustainability manager, told the media in a recent briefing.

“We are taking this a step further by aiming for carbon neutrality, and one of the ways to achieve this is through our carbon forests,” she added.

Through a process called carbon sequestration, the carbon forest sites remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through natural processes. ALI collaborated with the Center for Conservation Innovations, Inc. for a study to determine the baseline carbon stock in these carbon forest sites, which consists of five sites located in different parts of the Philippines.

In addition to this, the study identified the best protection and enhancement approach through assisted natural regeneration (ANR) and other methods to maximize the carbon storage potential for each site. These methods aim to support forest regrowth through protection, and encourage biodiversity through the tending of diverse indigenous plant-life.

ALI has partnered with community-based, nongovernment organizations like Pusod, Inc., Soil and Water Conservation Foundation, and Philippine Eagle Foundation.

“ALI’s carbon forests sites are expected to augment ALI’s total carbon emission reduction by approximately 20% year on year,” Ms. Gonzales said.

Other than forest regeneration, ALI is also looking into a combination of strategies to reach its carbon neutrality target, such as the implementation of passive cooling designs in its developments, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sourcing.

As a subsidiary of one of the biggest and most influential conglomerates in the country, ALI is pushing for sustainable and environment-friendly practices in the real estate industry. The company stated that it believes that real estate developments greatly influence how society operates and by promoting responsible and sustainable developments, this will gradually promote awareness and inculcate the standards needed to create long-term value for the country.