Setting the Goal on Net Zero Carbon Emissions for Mining

By: Marcelle P. Villegas November 12, 2023

[Manila Elks Club] Sept. 4, 2023 – Mr Ricardo L. Calderon, Former DENR Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and Director for Biodiversity Management Bureau (Photo by Marcelle Villegas)


Governments and corporations around the world are taking serious steps in achieving the goal of net zero carbon emissions. During the keynote speech of former DENR Assistant Secretary, Mr Ricardo L. Calderon, he emphasized the connection between climate change, nature loss, and business. He also noted the role of forest conservation and restoration in achieving the net zero carbon emissions goal.

Mr Ricardo L. Calderon was the guest speaker of the PMEA Monthly Membership Meeting last September. His presentation’s title is “Net Zero Carbon for Mining Operations”.

Mr Calderon is best known as the former DENR Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and Director for Biodiversity Management Bureau. He is a field veteran in forest management.

He graduated with a degree of B.S. Forestry in 1985 from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna. Also from UPLB, he has a Master’s Degree in Forestry (Major in Forest Resources Management and Minor in Silviculture and Forest Influences) in 1992.

During his career in DENR, he is known as the youngest DENR CENRO 1994 Eagle Awardee for meritorious services after receiving recognition as Model CENRO of the PENR Office, Puerto Princesa, Palawan in the same year for exemplary performance. [1]

Additionally, he was a three-time Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) awardee in 1998 and 1999 when he was PENRO of Laguna and in 2003 as PENRO of Aurora Province.

Mr Calderon served as Regional Technical Director (RTD) for Forestry in Central Luzon from 2004 until 2006. He became the Regional Executive Director (RED) of Davao and Iloilo and thereafter was appointed as RED of DENR Region III from July 30, 2009 until June 8, 2012, after which he was assigned as Director of the DENR’s Forest Management Bureau (FMB).

As keynote speaker of PMEA’s Monthly Membership Meeting last September, he started his report by enumerating the facts about mining the Philippines. He noted that the Philippines ranked the 5th in terms of mining potential in the world. Among the 9 million hectares of high mineral potential, more than 90% are located in the 15.2 million hectares of forestland. Only 2.42% are under mining development.

He reported that mining offers substantial contribution to the economy (102.3 billion pesos in 2020) through job creation, employment, and improved infrastructure for local communities. On the down side, mining in the Philippines is restricted or regulated due to history of environmental mismanagement.

Mining also enjoys full government support. Last Feb. 19, 2023, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. said, "So it is a question of enforcing the law in terms of responsible mining and that is what we will continue to do. And we will always make sure that mining companies who come in, once they are finished mining that they will leave the site in the same condition as it was when they found it." [2]

Mr Calderon noted that the President and MGB agreed in principle to maintain biodiversity with mining thru the reference forest scheme or approach, but this has to be operationalized thru policy and program with the full support of the mining industry and mining professionals.

In relation to this, DENR DAO 2022-04 “Enhancing Biodiversity Conversation and Protection in Mining Operations” was approved on March 4, 2022.

In order to achieve the net zero carbon emission goals, why is it important to invest in forests?

He reported that, “Forest conservation and restoration is a powerful tool to address the dual climate and nature crisis that businesses are facing.”

To further explain this, he showed an illustration of a triangle where “Climate Change --> Nature Loss --> Businesses” are interconnected.

So how can we achieve forest conservation and restoration? One obvious solution is making it a vital priority to stop business practices that contribute to nature loss and climate change. As an effect, “investing in forest conservation and restoration can mitigate the effects of climate change and can protect and restore biodiversity and ecosystem services.”

“Governments, consumers, and investors are increasingly putting pressure on businesses to transition towards net-zero emissions. Businesses are vulnerable to the physical effects of climate change, e.g. extreme weather events can disrupt supply chains.”

He also mentioned that businesses are dependent on nature and its services, and $44 trillion of economic value generation is moderately or highly dependent on nature. With that said, it clearly emphasizes the importance of protecting nature.

“Can the private sector, mining industry, and mining professionals in particular be part of the solution to combat climate change and biodiversity loss which is now a global problem?” To answer that, he gave the following key point:

1. Climate change and biodiversity loss has become a top priority worldwide.

2. Government economic policy makers and corporate strategies are embracing sustainability goals most notable the Net Zero Emissions.

3. Businesses including mining are vulnerable to the physical effects of climate change.

4. Governments, consumers, and investors are putting pressure to transition to Net Zero Emissions.

5. Removing and storing more carbon than we put in the atmosphere demands new technologies and innovations. New industrial processes and new way of business practices are at a very high cost that has to be front-loaded.

Additionally, he noted that restoring trees in the forest and landscape through reforestation, restocking and rehabilitation, agroforestry and preventing deforestation is the single largest and cost-effective opportunity for carbon removal and storage. This is in reference to the IPBES 2019 report.

IPBES refers to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. It is an intergovernmental organization established to improve the interface between science and policy on issues of biodiversity and ecosystem services. IPBES was founded in April 21, 2012.

According to IPBES, “The IPBES' 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services comes at a critical time for the planet and all its peoples. The report's findings — and the years of diligent work by the many scientists who contributed— will offer a comprehensive view of the current conditions of global biodiversity.” [3]

To conclude his presentation, he ended with two important questions for everyone to think about.

Can the net zero ambition be achieved by 2050 or 2070?

Can the mining industry and the mining professionals be part of the global efforts for climate change mitigation and adaptation including biodiversity conservations?




[2] Geducos, Argyll Cyrus (Feb. 19, 2023). "Marcos vows to protect environment, enforce mining law".  Manila Bulletin.

[3] IPBES 2019

Additional Photo credit: Event poster of ASec Ricardo Calderon – by Ms Girlie Yu, PMEA Secretariat

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