Climate change threatens asian RP economies – Loren

January 26, 2010

In an address at the Asian Institute of Management here, Loren said that “If the Philippines will do nothing, climate related risks will create a 6 percent decline of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) annually by 2010.”
Loren, the NP vice presidential candidate, cited a report of the Asian Development Bank, stating that climate change impacts could cost Southeast Asian nations 6.7 percent of their total GDP each year. GDP is the total amount of goods and services produced in a year.
However, the same study found that if the Philippines would invest 0.5% of its GDP by 2020 in climate change adaptation, “we can avert losses of up to 4% of our GDP by 2100 — clearly a short term investment with a long term eight-fold gain,” said Loren, who is the chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change and Risk Reduction.
In the face of greater disasters from climate change, Loren stressed that the Climate Change Act recently passed by Congress should be fully and successfully implemented as a “moral imperative and a social responsibility.” Loren was the principal sponsor of the bill in the Senate.
Speaking on the theme, “Capacity Building for Future Southeast Asian Leaders”, Loren pointed out that the Philippines is visited by typhoons about 20 times a year. Also, its location right within the Pacific Ring of Fire where most of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruption occur constantly exposes the country to these natural hazards.
She said that in 2008 the world suffered from 321 disasters which killed about a quarter of a million people and affected more than 200 million lives. The total economic cost was a stunning 180 billion US dollars, which is twice the average annual economic losses of the past seven years. The Asia and the Pacific bore the brunt, accounting for more than 80 percent of the global loss of life, said Loren, who is also the UN champion climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in the Asia-Pacific region.
“As leaders, we need to rethink our approach to pursuing and protecting our development from the regressive impacts of disasters and climate risks. We need to revisit our current frameworks and strategies for socio-economic development (to fully address) the disaster risks which prevail today,” said Loren.
Based on the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Loren said that there are three main reasons for the aggravation of disaster risks caused by climate change — poor urban governance, vulnerable rural livelihood and ecosystems decline.
Loren said that this “calls for improving urban governance – which involves stopping corruption and enforcing building codes; enhancing rural livelihoods – which involves enhancing agricultural productivity and supporting farmers better; and protecting ecosystems – which involves protecting our forests, cleaning our rivers, and stopping pollution.”
Because of good urban governance, Japan, with approximately 22.5 million people exposed annually to typhoons, compared to 16 million people in the Philippines, suffers much less casualties than the Philippines. The estimated annual death toll in the Philippines is almost 17 times greater than that of Japan. Overall, tropical cyclone mortality risk in low-income countries is approximately 200 times higher than in countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
People living in rural areas are more vulnerable to climate change, said Loren. The Philippines is periodically affected by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon that induces prolonged wet and dry seasons. Climate change, and resulting extreme events will further upset our agriculture production schedules and exacerbate the problem of food security.
Concerning ecosystems, the Millennium Ecosystem Report, released in 2005, found that 60% of ecosystem services – services that nature provides to sustain human life, are declining with some services like fisheries beyond repair, rued Loren. In the Philippines, forests and mangroves are fast disappearing, posing risks of greater floods and landslides.
“Over the last century, the proportion of land area covered by forest in the Philippines has fallen from 22 percent in 1990 to just 19.4 percent in 2000,” said Loren.
To help solve the problem, she cited the work of the Luntiang Pilipinas, an organization that she helped organize several years back and is the Philippine partner of the United Nations Environment Programme in its Billion Tree Campaign Today, it has planted and grown almost two million trees nationwide.
“Now is the time for all of us to unite on all these issues, and to transcend territorial boundaries, political persuasions and institutional affiliations. There is no more appropriate time to show political will, good governance, and exemplary leadership than now,” Loren told the young parliamentarians and policy-makers of Southeast Asia.