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Training Workshop for National and Local Governments in Southeast Asia and South Asia on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation

February 10, 2012

I am pleased to be part of this Training Workshop for National and Local Governments in Southeast Asia and South Asia on Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation.
ICLEI is a laudable organization of local governments. It is a trailblazer in its effort to make environmental sustainability a central part of the development process. And allow me to congratulate you for successfully organizing this important initiative.
National and local leaders across the globe increasingly realize that developments practices have not been sustainable, adaptable and disaster-resilient.
It is critical that the increased attention, interest, and sense of urgency in addressing the challenges posed by climate change and disaster risks are translated into national and local actions that effectively reduce disaster vulnerability.
In different parts of the world, like in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific region, climate change has already ushered unprecedented disasters, among the more recent was the flooding in the Southern Region of the Philippines last December that has left more than a thousand people dead and ten million others struggling to rebuild their lives.
Also in 2011, Cambodia, Thailand and Bangladesh went through devastating floods, which are among the worst in their history; Pakistan suffered from severe inundation in 2010 and 2011. These extreme weather events are certainly bound to recur, perhaps with even worse outcomes if we are not prepared.
We in the Asia-Pacific region have more reasons to double our efforts on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. A 2010 United Nations report revealed that: “People in the Asia-Pacific region are four times more likely to be affected by natural disasters than those in Africa; and 25 times more likely than those in Europe or North America.”
Given this grim scenario, how much of the costly humanitarian responses can world governments afford in the future? How many more precious lives will be lost before we act decisively to prevent them?
During the 17th Session of the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, we had hoped that strong and clear policies commensurate to the needs of nations to reduce risks and adapt to the changing climate would come out.
Governments agreed to adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change and approved a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from January 1, 2013. However, this second commitment period is said to cover less than 15% of global emissions, which could warm the world to the tune of 3.5 degrees, dangerously way above the 2 degrees acceptable limit.
It is clear injustice to witness the devastating impact of climate change being borne by the poorest groups with least responsibility for having caused it and least capacity to adapt. For the developed nations to compensate for this inequality, the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund, which is expected to provide $100 billion per year for climate change adaptation by 2020, must be at full speed. We gladly take note that in the Durban outcome, this fund will become fully operational this year.
While we await concrete global action, our respective nations must sustain efforts in addressing climate impacts.
Allow me to share the legislative initiatives of the Philippine Senate. In 2009, we adopted the Climate Change Act. This legislative milestone mandates the mainstreaming of climate change into policy formulation and poverty reduction strategies. The law places the local governments in the frontline of the formulation, planning and implementation of climate change action plans in their respective areas.
We have also passed in May 2010 the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, a law that strengthens our institutional mechanisms for disaster risk reduction and management and lends great importance to disaster prevention and mitigation.
These two landmark laws give the Philippines and our people pride as they are now considered legislative models by the UNISDR and the Inter-Parliamentary Union for other nations to emulate.
However, while these laws are adopted, their implementation remains an enormous challenge. We need to sustain and intensify our initiatives at national and local levels that have taken roots in pioneering communities.
The role of local leaders to drive and push these initiatives into greater success and benefits to the communities is crucial.
The tasks before national and local leaders are straightforward: We have to make our communities safer, more resilient, and even more ready to act when disaster strikes.
Committing to make our countries disaster-resilient means increasing our investments in disaster risk reduction, conducting and sharing risk assessments, establishing effective and efficient early warning systems, and protecting our ecosystems, among other actions.
We must link disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation to national and local development planning.
We must build homes, schools, and hospitals that are safe and secure amidst natural hazards.
We must design and construct roads, bridges and other infrastructure that helps spur economic growth with disaster risk reduction in mind.
We must recover and rebuild from any disaster impacts with building-back-better-and-greener as objective.
As leaders, we have to make the right choice for our people and their future.
We have the mandate to introduce change and to ensure that it happens; and local government leaders, being closest to the people, have the privilege to translate national policies, plans and programs into concrete and visible actions for the people.
In a global context where economic performance and people’s wellbeing do not go hand in hand, where progress against poverty has slowed down, where the unequal distribution of the benefits of prosperity prevails and worsens, and where losses to disaster are increasing faster than wealth is being created, we should come to rethink that perhaps our old, consumptive, and extractive development model has not worked. And, it is unresponsive and irresponsible to continue using failing development models to address the complex problems of our contemporary society.
Now is the time to redefine development – to change our way of thinking and our way of doing. Now is the time to pursue the kind of development that is founded on good governance, sustainable and equitable socio-economic development, ecosystems protection, cultural renaissance and disaster resilience.
Now is the time to give nothing less than our wholehearted commitment to a safer world, a more resilient human society for many generations to come.
Thank you very much.