Green Breakthroughs 2015

June 25, 2015

Message of Senator Loren Legarda
Green Breakthroughs 2015
Philippine Trade and Training Center, Pasay City
25 June 2015

Citizens of the Asia-Pacific region are more likely to be affected by natural hazards than those in Africa, in Europe or North America, says a report from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

In many countries in the region, poverty, badly planned and managed urban and regional development, informal settlements on unsafe lands, vulnerable rural and urban livelihoods, and ecosystems decline are the underlying drivers that increase the risks of these hazards turning into disasters. Even as we confront these challenges, the impact of the Earth’s warming temperature already looms over us.

It is the responsibility of the government, especially local government units (LGUs), to understand these challenges and to take proactive measures that will optimize our nation’s future — to plan, build and support sustainable communities.

But climate change knows no boundaries, and its impact is felt all over the country and worldwide. Hence, a paradigm shift to a sustainable energy system requires close, cross-sector collaboration – between governments, businesses and civil society.

In order to build a sustainable society, it cannot be business as usual. We need to stop consuming more than we need and start making sacrifices, including cuts in our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The Asian Development Bank’s Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2012 noted that the increase in carbon dioxide emissions could rise to 10.2 metric tons per capita by 2050 if interventions to reverse the trend are not introduced.

A cursory look now proves that the 4-degree Celsius global temperature, which may have seemed impossible 20 years ago, is not far off today.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report suggested that a 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius increase in global mean temperatures from pre-industrial levels threatens extinction of 30 percent of all species.

Definitely, we need to reverse the global warming trend because the extreme weather events we are experiencing threaten our basic human rights—food, health, potable water, decent shelter, and even life itself.

The Philippines is a minor emitter of GHG. But even as we are taking steps to demand the world’s biggest polluters to reduce their carbon usage for the sake of the planet, we cannot just wait for other parties to turn their commitment into action.

We need to take care of our own backyard so to speak, and in this case we need to make that first step in controlling the levels of anthropogenic pollution. We can cut our carbon emissions, improve our environment and create sustainable communities if we build green.

When we build green we help reduce our global carbon footprint, we cut down costs and we improve our citizens’ overall way of life. The implementation of the National Climate Change Action Plan by LGUs makes sure that building green not only looks good on paper but also for the planet.

We must also promote community resilience. LGUs could prioritize resilience as part of their political and sustainable development agenda and make reducing disaster risk their legacy opportunity. Paying attention to protection will improve environmental, social and economic conditions, including combating the future variables of climate change. It will also make the communities more prosperous and secure than before. Initiatives could include making schools, hospitals, and other critical public infrastructure resilient against disasters.

The Green Building Code will be an important tool in strengthening resilience to natural hazards and improving our sustainable development strategies from the national down to the local level.

Moreover, building green should be complemented with a low-carbon lifestyle, which means a shift to indigenous and renewable energy sources to economize on energy consumption; considering energy-efficient transport modes like walking, biking and taking public transport; maximizing the use of natural light and wind flow in house design; and building rainwater catchment recycling systems.

We should strive for a zero waste economy where the output of each resource use is converted into input for another use. We can precycle by avoiding buying unnecessary goods, upcycle or creative reuse of waste material, and recycle. We should also adopt the concept of adaptive reuse in buildings, especially heritage structures, so that instead of destroying, we can restore old buildings and use them for a new purpose.

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 (Republic Act 9003), Renewable Energy Law (RA 9513), Rainwater Catchment Law (RA 6716), Climate Change Act (RA 9729), and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Law (RA 10121), among many others. We just have to take that first crucial step of actually taking action.

We are already feeling the impacts of the climate crisis in various aspects of our life, most evident with the harsher and more frequent natural hazards we experience. Sadly, it would even be worse for future generations, unless we do something now.

If we start today, there is no promise that we will be lucky enough to see the undoing of the damage on our earth within our lifetime, but at least, we leave our world with the gift of hope for a better, kinder future.

Thank you.