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Speech: 10th Anniversary of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety’s International Climate Initiative

May 5, 2018

Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
10th Anniversary of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety’s International Climate Initiative
5 May 2018 | Gustav-Stresemann-Institut, Bonn, Germany

 

The International Climate Initiative (IKI), over the past ten years, has been a valuable resource in support of climate and biodiversity projects in developing and newly industrializing countries. Thus, it is an honor to have been invited to be part of this anniversary conference and it is a gesture of gratitude to accept such invitation.

 

My country, the Philippines, boasts of fertile, arable lands with rich natural resources and diverse flora and flauna. But, it is also a country highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which is a great threat to the very biodiversity that we are proud of.

 

The need for a comprehensive adaptation plan that will enhance the resilience of our nation has always been a priority for us in order to protect the quality of life of our people and our environment, upon which the livelihoods of millions of Filipinos depend.

 

In 2009, the Philippine government enacted Republic Act 9729 or the Climate Change Act of 2009—a law that I principally sponsored and authored in the Philippine Senate—which created the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change, anchored on adaptation as the strategy.

 

The support extended by the IKI in the formulation of the Philippine Strategy on Climate Change Adaptation 2011-2028 is a fine example of how the IKI helps capacitate partner countries in the areas of climate mitigation, adaptation, and biological diversity.  This strategy document provides the country’s strategic direction in responding to climate realities and its projected impacts on vital sectors of our economy and the country at large.

 

The IKI has been a valuable partner in at least sixteen projects in various stages of implementation, spanning climate and biodiversity protection initiatives amounting to 62 million euros. Among the programs are the Protection and Restoration of Coastal Ecosystems for Improved Adaptation to Climate Change in the Philippines and the Coral Triangle; Protected Area Management Enhancement in the Philippines; Adapting to Climate Change and Conserving Biological Diversity; and Climate Resiliency in Urban Planning.

 

As a biodiversity hotspot and as a mega-diversity country, we cannot overemphasize the importance of the contribution of IKI to promoting global biodiversity conservation.

 

It is therefore gratifying to note that 10 years hence, Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) continues to consider the Philippines as one of the priority countries for Germany in the fight against climate change and for the preservation of biodiversity.

 

IKI has shown how global engagement can mobilize resources to support international projects supporting climate change mitigation, adaptation and biodiversity projects with climate relevance.

 

We recognize that governments alone cannot provide all the solutions to the growing challenges posed by the climate crisis. There is a need to leverage private sector investments to stimulate low-carbon development process. The private sector can help introduce innovative climate-friendly technologies.

 

IKI has supported a number of private sector programmes that promote the introduction of climate-friendly technology or demonstrate the application of innovative technology. The IKI can further strengthen its support in this area to mobilize the private sector as a vital partner in mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

 

In saying this, policies that will promote sustainable low-carbon economies and facilitate private sector participation in climate action and biodiversity conservation will also need to be adopted.

 

Carbon or energy taxes and the removal of environmentally harmful subsidies have to be adopted in order to provide a strong and consistent message that GHG-emitting activities need to be stopped. Carbon pricing also has the potential to raise substantial revenues and therefore increase spending for public programs.

 

In October of last year, I introduced a provision in the Philippine tax reform bill that sought to correct the highly disproportionate and biased incentive policy that provided incentives to the coal industry for the past 42 years. We had a perverse situation whereby one of the dirtiest fossil fuel was taxed very lightly, while the cleaner form of energy was taxed heavily.

 

This situation went on for decades because it had been argued that the cost of power will increase with the introduction of tax on coal. But with determination and political will, the tax on coal was ultimately adopted.

 

Policies that will accelerate the up-take of “green technologies” and practices, such as encouraging energy efficiency, are urgently needed.  The Philippine Senate has adopted an Energy Efficiency Bill but continues to await the House of Representatives to adopt its counterpart measure.

 

Moreover, while the Philippines is not considered a major emitter of carbon dioxide, we have been looking for ways to make our own contribution to these efforts.  Our government has been trying to find ways to encourage innovation in ways that will encourage firms to invest in research and development (R&D), adopt sustainable building and infrastructure designs, and develop energy efficient transport facilities.  I introduced the Philippine Innovation Bill, which seeks to promote and develop clean energy and promote of R&D efforts.

 

In developing policies, it is important to ensure complementarity in policies; otherwise, the “push-pull” effect of inconsistent policies will bring us nowhere in our efforts to promote effective climate policies and action.  For example, it is important to integrate climate change and energy policy objectives.

 

Investments in the power sector, infrastructure, and technologies will lock in our economies for decades to come. The same is true for buildings and transportation infrastructure.  We have to make sure that investments in these areas are consistent with policies to reduce GHG. Long-term transport planning is essential in this regard.

 

In the Philippines, we adopted one of the earliest comprehensive laws on renewable energy. Ten years since its adoption, we continue to struggle with its full implementation.  We continue to work for consistency across policy measures – from the power sector, transportation, infrastructure, agriculture, among others.  Switching to non-carbon intensive energy sources such as renewables, while considered a primary option to reduce GHG emissions, has not been very easy.  It remains to be a work in progress.

 

Clearly, policies are important, but the full cooperation of the government, the private sector, and the public at large is necessary.

 

With the adoption of the Paris Agreement, many economies face complex challenges in keeping environmental sustainability and economic development in balance since the agreement has implications on a wide range of sectors, including energy and economic planning to city planning, infrastructure, and transportation. Climate and biodiversity initiatives, therefore, will need to be developed in ways that these are not taken in isolation of other inter-related concerns.

 

The IKI can further support capacity building programs that will allow governments, local communities and even the private sector to adopt and practice this perspective.

 

Moreover, the IKI can also help provide assistance in the following areas:

 

Demographic patterns, characterized by aging and urbanization, present some of the biggest challenges facing governments today.  Unplanned and unregulated urbanisation, for example, can have serious and possibly irreversible consequences for the environment. More and more cities are also expanding into the rural hinterlands where we now find many peri-urban wetlands such as lakes, streams and swamps being filled up to accommodate human settlements and business establishment.

 

The volume of solid waste and wastewater that is produced in cities and towns is growing rapidly.  Many cities and towns do not have comprehensive wastewater treatment systems.

 

Growing demand for food, water, and energy require more sustainable ways of meeting these requirements.

 

Land use is a key development concern, with forestlands being cleared for conversion to crop production and pasture, and for timber and mining.  There is clearly a need to restore millions of hectares of degraded forests and agricultural land in developing economies.

 

Emerging and developing economies face high demand for new infrastructure to support growing populations and industries. Infrastructure development needs to be pursued in conjunction with developing efficient and clean transportation and energy systems.

 

Innovation, while central to economic growth and productivity, is sometimes overlooked as a vital tool to promote the rapid diffusion of clean technologies and to achieve low-carbon development models.  Countries need to “leapfrog” over more polluting stages of development.

 

These issues need to be looked at as opportunities for action and cooperation. They present numerous opportunities to boost efficiency in the use of energy, water, land, capital and other crucial resources through policy reforms and action.  IKI can leverage on these realities as opportunities for cooperation with governments and the private sector.

 

In a decade’s work, the IKI has served as a call to action for greater private sector and multi-sectoral support and engagement for climate action and biodiversity conservation. Its numerous experiences and milestones can provide a benchmark upon which better international collaboration in climate and biodiversity action can be developed and implemented.

 

The International Climate Initiative is a vital and relevant platform for global engagement. Its work is a reminder to all of us that we live in only one planet and, thus, we should all work together in keeping it a resilient and sustainable home for us and for the future.

 

Thank you.