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Winning the war on climate change

August 5, 2018

Just last month, the country dodged another potentially fatal bullet in Typhoon “Gardo” (international name: Maria).

With gustiness of up to 280 kilometers per hour and sustained winds of 220 kph, Gardo was headed for the Philippines, with the country thoroughly prepared for it. National and local agencies were on standby; classes and work had been suspended, and millions braced for the worst.

By some miracle, however, Gardo strayed off its predicted course. Though the typhoon was nowhere near the level of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), it wasn’t difficult to imagine the devastation it could have wrought had it made landfall.

And to think it was just the start of typhoon season. As climate science warns, more of these bullets are headed our way. As an equatorial archipelago that directly faces the Pacific Ocean where typhoons emanate and gather destructive strength, the Philippines is visited by an average of 20 tropical cyclones every year.

Fortunately, Filipinos are tenacious by nature. Over the centuries, we’ve learned to face natural adversities and have even managed to celebrate rituals and festivals in accordance with established climate patterns.

Global temperature rise

But the increasing challenges of extreme weather events linked to climate change have put our tenacity to a test. Even modern societies and industrialized nations have been reaping the consequences of a dangerously warming planet — in the heaps of bones of endangered and extinct species, devastated landscapes, and polluted bodies of water.

Faced with such prospects, small nations and developing countries that bear the brunt of climate change have converged in groups to espouse the principle of “climate justice.” Among these is the global alliance of the Climate Vulnerable Forum where, in 2015, the Philippines led the call for greater and more ambitious climate action through the Paris Agreement.

While developed countries found it acceptable to limit global temperature rise to “well below 2 degrees Celsius,” the Philippines pushed it down further to 1.5 C, bearing in mind the warnings of scientists that going above this threshold would mean massive damage to ecosystems and economic impact in the trillions of dollars.

Rather than wait for drawn-out negotiations on climate finance and rely solely on foreign aid, the Philippines came up with several initiatives that have inspired many other vulnerable countries.

Following the passage of the People’s Survival Fund (PSF) Law which amended the Climate Change Act, the government has been giving local government units (LGUs) P1 billion in grants for climate change adaptation projects since 2015.

The vision is for LGUs to take the lead in strategically addressing the varying effects of climate change in their respective communities, with the ultimate goal of mainstreaming climate action in local planning. Earlier this year, a total of P196 million was approved for release to four municipal projects: the Climate Field School in Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte; the Ridge-to-Reef Disaster Risk Reduction as an adaptation mechanism in Lanuza, Surigao del Sur; ecological-based farming in San Francisco, Camotes Island in Cebu, and promoting climate-resilient agriculture in Gerona, Tarlac.

The Department of Finance, which leads the PSF Board is set to announce a new batch of recipients soon.

Adaptation measures

The Climate Change Commission (CCC) has been assisting LGUs in formulating proposals for the PSF and has trained 429 LGUs so far. To complement these efforts, the commission launched the National Integrated Climate Change Database and Information Exchange System, an online portal that consolidates climate change data for use in policy-making, development planning and more importantly, investment decision-making.

There’s also a modular training program for LGUs and public and private higher education institutions called Communities for Resilience, or CORE, that aims to develop comprehensive land-use plans that take into account climate and disaster risks, as well as adaptation measures.

CORE also guides LGUs on risk assessment, community-level inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, geographic information systems and tagging of climate change expenditure.

Citizen participation

For 2018, the budget allocation for climate change through national government agencies has substantially increased by 96.7 percent. Climate change-tagged programs, projects and activities have a total share of 7.26 percent of the total budget.

As chair of the Senate committees on climate change and finance, I am committed to ensure that our public institutions are fully equipped logistically to address climate change impacts in the context of multisectoral convergence and citizen participation.

We are making strides toward transitioning to a low-carbon development pathway, which would actually mean more jobs, less vulnerability, less risks and more income for the people. Enforcing the increased excise tax on coal and petroleum tax under the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleraton and Inclusion) law has broken the wall of dirty energy that could not be penetrated for decades.

The Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Sector Roadmap for 2017-2040 should also pave the way for a clear policy on carbon pricing to spur market mechanisms that will drive down greenhouse gas emissions, while providing revenues for priority programs.

With the passage of the Green Jobs Act of 2016, the CCC is likewise fast-tracking the development of standards and a certification system for providing incentives to enterprises that generate and sustain green jobs—jobs that nurture the environment, promote social protection and decarbonize the economy.

The eyes of the whole world are upon us, keen to pick up lessons and eager to help us surmount difficulties. Resilience is the clarion call of the times and the Filipino people deserve nothing less.

Source: Inquirer