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Speech: Conference on the Philippine Roadmap for the Paris Accord

May 29, 2017

Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
Conference on the Philippine Roadmap for the Paris Accord
29 May 2017 | Manila Hotel

 

Our vulnerability to climate change impacts has always been highlighted in various reports and statistics. It is nothing new when we see the Philippines in the yearly rankings of countries most at risk to climate change.

 

In fact, our vulnerability has been our negotiating factor in climate talks, as what happened when we, together with other members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), led the successful push to enshrine the tougher warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the Paris Agreement.

 

The Philippines’ accession to the Agreement sent a strong signal of our continuing commitment to work with the rest of the world in ensuring the survival of this generation and the generations to come, and the ability of the Earth to sustain life.

 

But even as the Paris Agreement has been hailed by many as a landmark agreement, its aspirations will not happen on its own. Effective enforcement emanates from everyone’s understanding and appreciation of responsibility and accountability.

 

All of us here today know what this treaty offers. We have our own inputs on how we can make it work for our country. But the layman would ask: What is in it for me? What do I get out of it?

 

Often, we need to present the risks so people would understand the need to take immediate action.

 

Sea level rise threatens to submerge our coastal towns. At risk are 64 coastal provinces, 822 coastal municipalities and 25 major coastal cities. This would result in the relocation of approximately 13.6 million Filipinos.

 

Ocean acidification is causing irreversible damage to our coral reefs. With global warming of up to 2 degrees Celsius, 98 percent of coral reefs will die by 2050. A World Bank study shows that this would cause decrease in marine fish capture by about 50 percent in the southern Philippines by the year 2050.

 

Moreover, sudden shifts from hot temperatures to incessant rains pose uncertainties to agriculture, which would bear losses of 26 billion pesos per year through 2050 due to climate change impacts.

 

Extreme rainfall and heat, heavy floods, and constant changes in weather pose great threat to lives, health, livelihood and development. Food prices will increase by 50 percent. About 1.4 million more Filipinos will go hungry in 2030 and 2.5 million more in 2050. Socio-economic losses would impede growth with projected 6 percent GDP loss annually by 2100.[1]

 

We bear the brunt of climate change even if we are among those who contributed the least to the crisis. But this does not mean that we would always be victims.

 

We have proven many times that we have the capability to lead—when we enacted the Climate Change Law, which is a model legislation for many countries; when we started climate-tagging our expenditures under the national budget; and when we led the CVF and spearheaded the creation of the Vulnerable Twenty group of Ministers of Finance or V20, which works to address climate change more assertively through innovative financing and technology, among many other initiatives.

 

Even at the local level, communities and local government units (LGUs) have their own climate adaptation initiatives.

 

In November last year, during the Climate Change Consciousness Week, the Climate Change Commission (CCC) announced the winners of the inaugural Climate-Adaptive and Disaster-Resilient (CLAD) Awards for Cities and Municipalities.

 

Ten LGUs were awarded for implementing innovative strategies to manage climate and disaster risks in line with Philippine environmental laws.

 

Last week, I was able to visit one of them—the Municipality of Carmona, Cavite.

 

The Solid Waste Management Program of Carmona is among the most innovative in the country. The Carmona Ecology Center has been a regular study destination of various LGUs, students and other institutions. Aside from maintaining a clean environment, among the highlights of their initiative include more than 60% waste diversion, high income generation from recyclable collection, and compost production provided to constituents.

 

Aside from this, the LGU has been distributing LED lights among its poor constituents. It started in 2012 and in 2015, all LGU officers, barangay halls and street-related lights within the municipality have been converted to LED.

 

In Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, a CLAD awardee in Mindanao, the LGU’s health programs include the prevention and monitoring of climate-sensitive diseases. They carry out anti-dengue campaigns, filariasis case monitoring, chikungunya case investigation, measles mass vaccination, and senior citizen pneumonia vaccination, among others.

 

The LGU also adopted the Isang Litrong Liwanag program, which uses homemade solar bulbs as intervention to conserve energy. Aside from providing cheap light source for unventilated low-cost residential houses, it promotes recycling since the light bulbs are made from empty plastic bottles.

 

The Municipality of Dumangas in Iloilo, one of the CLAD awardees from Visayas, has set up a Climate Field School. Since palay and milkfish production are the backbone of the Municipality’s economy, they needed to address concerns brought by climate change to their farming and fisheries sector. This initiative ensures that farmers and fisherfolks have strategies to cope with climate variability affecting the crops and fish yield. The methodology used in teaching is participatory in nature, which plays a crucial role in implementing the program.

 

Climate change may be a complex issue, but these initiatives show that we can all do our part no matter how small or vulnerable we are.

 

Now that we are officially a Party to the Paris Agreement, we need to ensure that we are able to determine our path towards sustainable, low carbon development through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) that are transformational and ambitious.

 

  • We need to create sectoral roadmaps such as in the energy, transport and agriculture sectors.
  • The budget of government agencies should support our NDC goals.
  • All government projects, including those foreign funded, must be aligned with the Agreement as well as with other international frameworks for development such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
  • LGUs should carry out climate resilience initiatives and access the People’s Survival Fund.
  • Off-grid local communities should leapfrog to the use of clean and renewable energy.
  • The CCC should promote an energy efficiency rating system for residences and business establishments, and carbon offsetting, and initiate capacity development in strengthening understanding of climate change and disaster risk for resilient and sustainable development planning.

 

It is also important that the Philippines continues to champion climate justice for the climate vulnerable. We must monitor the implementation of the Paris Agreement especially in operationalizing financing for mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, technology transfer and capacity building.

 

If there is one important thing we should all realize as we move towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement, it is that our vulnerability presents so many opportunities for green, sustainable and resilient development.

 

The uncertainty of our future due to climate change impacts should make us even more aggressive to take the necessary action now.

 

We are called upon to pursue a development path consistent with the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal to protect our people and the environment. We are challenged to do more, to do better, and to be more innovative.

 

We cannot be forever vulnerable. Let us not just live with the risks; let us deal with it.

 

Thank you.

 

 

[1] Climate Change Commission, Presentation of Commissioner Emmanuel de Guzman, Senate Committee On Climate Change Briefing, 22 August 2016