Welcome Remarks of Senator Loren Legarda
The Necessary Alternatives: Balancing Energy, Health and the Climate Challenge
11 November 2015 | Padilla Room, Senate of the Philippines
I welcome you today to this gathering of pioneers, a generation of passionate individuals that could make the future of the world livable. We are here to talk about how climate change, our health and clean energy are interconnected.
One way to perceive how the climate works and affects the world is to allude to it like the engineering of the human body — complex and interconnected.
The body is an amazing creation, made of parts that are integral to making it function. Millions of pathways combine to form cells, tissues, and organs that allow us to be human.
It is the same way that our climate and our planet’s environment are interconnected. Even a minor change in the climate creates impacts that are large and encompassing, affecting every living thing.
Climate change is not an overnight problem, and it has taken us super typhoons and tsunamis, sinking islands, arid, unusable land, and staggering numbers of lives displaced and perished to visualize what scientists and environmental activists have been warning us for decades – that among other effects, “climate change will be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”
As climate change alters rainfall patterns and brings deadly, intensified and frequent calamities, it will affect public health. Governments, organizations, businesses and the private sector will face conundrums that include the spreading of deadly diseases and viruses, decrease in well-being of citizens, not to mention medical relief needed with each catastrophe.
According to a study conducted by the World Bank, “the average global cost of adaptation in the health sector for the prevention and treatment of diarrhea and malaria alone will reach $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion per year (in 2005 dollars) over the period 2010–2050.”
A United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) study estimates the adaptation cost in the health sector to range from $2 billion and $14 billion over the period 2010–2030.
For a more relatable scenario, in the Philippines the rising cases of dengue and malaria are related to climate change. In 1998, when the Philippines experienced El Niño, almost 40,000 dengue cases, 1,200 cholera cases and nearly 1,000 typhoid fever cases nationwide were recorded.
The state of our health as human beings is under threat but it is not a death sentence—yet. We are alive and able to address the crisis of climate change, which is related to how we access and use fossil energy. We have made energy choices that have been detrimental to the planet and to our health. There is strong scientific consensus that climate change is largely the consequence of greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions largely come from human activities, including burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, transportation and agriculture.
The world’s governments, movers and shakers need to urgently, and with conscience, examine how we use energy and how to use innovation and new technologies to provide for the energy it needs in a sustainable and inclusive manner.
Growth is difficult to imagine without energy; and energy that does not take into consideration the needs of future generations can only destroy and not build.
In the Philippines, for example, estimates indicate that we have some 246,000 megawatts of untapped renewable energy capacity. This is thirteen times more than our current installed capacity. Failure to develop these capacities would be unforgivable. It is for this very reason that I co-authored the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 to ensure the aggressive development of renewable energy resources in the Philippines.
We already have the necessary laws to aid us towards building a healthy, resilient, sustainable and climate-adaptive nation. We have the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law, Renewable Energy Act, Rainwater Catchment Law, Climate Change Act, People’s Survival Fund Law, and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Law, among many others. We just have to take that first crucial step of actually taking action.
This event is an opportunity for all of us to address issues that need immediate response, and propose strategies that will help us mainstream the use of renewable energy.
Clean energy is not a future concept; it is the necessary alternative if we want to live a healthy life in a world that is not decimated because of climate change, but a world for the next generations to flourish in.