Coherence and convergence: Key to managing risks and achieving sustainable development

May 31, 2016

In 2015, two dominant themes that guided multilateral work were that of sustainable development and managing risks better as a global community.

There were four framework agreements that resulted from four separate multilateral processes – the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (Sendai, March); the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development (Addis Ababa, July); the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (New York, September); and the Paris Agreement on climate change (Paris, December).

All of these agreements have one overriding objective – that of achieving inclusive, sustainable and resilient development for all. The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda sets out 17 sustainable development goals, including climate action.

Addressing the climate change and sustainable development nexus requires a firm grip on financing and resilience issues. Setting a development agenda is just one part of the story. Delivering the agenda into action, in a way that builds a more resilient global community, is the more important part. Without realistically addressing the problems of today’s climate realities and its risks, as well as financing, the lofty goals we have established on paper will remain just that – goals!

This underscores the importance of achieving greater coherence in multilateral agreements. There are four in 2015 alone.

On April 22 of this year, the Philippines and 174 other countries affixed their signature to a document that will go down in history as one of the most important agreements bequeathed by world leaders to future generations – the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The main aim of the Paris Agreement is to limit global temperature rise within the century “well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

The Philippines pushed for a more ambitious ceiling of 1.5°C as chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) representing 43 of the most vulnerable nations. We have taken this leadership for very good reasons.

Global warming has already breached the 1°C level and its impacts have been massive.
Over the past two decades, the Philippines endured a total of 274 natural calamities, making it the fourth most disaster-prone country in the world. Globally, 605,539 lives have been lost due to weather-related disturbances, 59 percentof which were accounted for by low- to lower- middle income countries.

These weather disturbances can derail countries off the development path as shown by the collective experiences of countries over the past decades, with economic losses from disasters now averaging $250 billion to $300 billion each year.

Seeking to sustain the momentum in global climate action, the Philippines has joined calls for the early entry into force of the Paris Agreement.

Our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) targets 70 percent reduction of emissions by 2030 from the business-as-usual scenario of 2000-2030 in energy, transport, forestry, industry and waste. This goal, however, is conditional to the provision of the means of implementation that we will receive, whether through climate finance, capacity building and technology transfer.

The mobilization of the $100 billion Fund under the agreement is necessary to support vulnerable nations who happen to be low-emitting, developing economies. This Fund is just a fraction of actual resources needed to deliver current and more ambitious programs consistent with the 1.5°C goal. Additional support in the form of official development assistance commitments is also vital.

Further, there should be a 50-50 balance in international climate finance between adaptation and mitigation. Funding should not only be on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Equal financial support must also be available to help the developing nations, who are the least emitters of carbon, but which bear the greatest brunt of climate change. The figures I shared illustrate this point.

Clearly, sustainable development can no longer be discussed without equal consideration given to disaster risk reduction, as well as climate and financing issues.

A careful consideration of the four key multilateral agreements will show that the word “development” was mentioned 103 times in the Sendai Framework; 253 times in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda; and 46 times in the Paris Agreement.

On the other hand, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development speaks of the fact that “there is no country in the world that is not seeing first-hand the drastic effects of climate change,” and calls for mobilizing $100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries and help mitigate climate-related disasters.

There are points of convergence across these agreements on a number of issues, but the real test of these agreements come in the form of delivery at the state and community level.

At the national and local levels, legislative measures are needed to translate the principles enshrined in these instruments into action. In the Philippines, we have a National Development Plan covering different sectors, that serves as guide post to policy making and program delivery. The long-term view is vital as we chart a course of action to address the problems of today and create a resilient and progressive future.

The thrust should be no different at the multilateral level. We take inspiration from the goal of realizing inclusive, sustainable and resilient development as forged in the international arena. This needs to be translated, however, into action through effective legislations, governance, and service delivery at the national and local levels.

In the Philippines, we have numerous laws and policies on disaster resilience, environmental conservation and climate change adaptation as key components for sustainable development strategies. Among these are the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Renewable Energy Act, Environmental Awareness and Education Act, Climate Change Act, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, and the People’s Survival Fund Law. These are national instruments that have carried our international commitments into practical application at the national and local levels.

It has been a productive collaboration between the Senate Committee on Climate Change, which I chair, and the Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE International) in raising the bar for climate and sustainable development policy making and advocacy in the country through our various fora and roundtable discussions. These are vital steps to realizing policy and legislative alignment.

GLOBE’s ‘Coherence and Convergence’ approach, supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), calls for ‘mutually reinforcing’ outcomes from the 2015 agenda-setting summits and provides focus and direction for legislators. Nothing less is required. Coherence in all these summits and their outcome documents, most specially, the frameworks they produce, are required if these are to guide national and local legislation. No issue is ever more important than the other. No international body is more relevant than the rest. The global community is faced with the most grievous threats ever to face us and the moment requires us all to selflessly address these issues as one community.

By doing so, we can confidently say that that, we may be vulnerable, but we are not incapable of collective action.

We live in only one planet. The challenges we face today should make countries – developed and developing – realize that moats, gates, massive barriers, and individualism are concepts of medieval past. The truth is, we are all connected and in the case of climate change, we suffer and rise together.

Now is the time for coming together… for managing risks together as a global community.

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(Senator Loren Legarda is the Chair of the Philippine Senate Committees on Climate Change, Finance, and Cultural Communities. She is also the Global Champion for Resilience of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Co-Chair of GLOBE Philippines, and member of the Women in Parliaments (WIP) Global Forum Executive Board. She is a UNEP laureate and a Global Leader for Tomorrow awardee by the World Economic Forum.)

Source: Philstar