Keynote Speech: Breakfast Meeting of Climate Vulnerable Forum Members

April 20, 2016

Keynote Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
Breakfast Meeting of Climate Vulnerable Forum Members
20 April 2016 | UN Headquarters, New York



Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.


We come together this morning against the backdrop of a historic gathering of nations to bring the global community a step closer to unleashing actions towards a low carbon, resilient and sustainable future.


One hundred ninety-five (195) nations have come to agreement in Paris.  It is time we bring this agreement into action.


Looking back, the last time we were together was during the Sherpa Senior Officers Meeting in Manila when we all agreed that the Paris Agreement should go for the 1.5°C warming limit.


Our appeal did not go unheeded given the Paris Agreement’s aim to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.


The end result may not have been the ideal outcome we had hoped to achieve, but the accord, as a whole, represents a considerable leap forward.


For that, I congratulate everyone who worked hard and endured the grueling days of the negotiations and the months before that.


Two days from now, representatives of nations will assemble once again, this time, to take us closer to delivering meaningful action on climate change.


Our advocacies will not stop in New York; but rather, our efforts will need to ramp up as we strive to achieve the ratification by at least 55 countries representing 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is only then that the Paris Agreement will enter into force.


This only means that there can be no hesitation.  We cannot relent in our efforts.


This Agreement is vital because national actions will be driven by the countries’ ambitions and plans for carbon reduction. The members of this Forum are put in a unique leadership position in that our commitments and actions should inspire action from others, such as in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy deployment, and forest protection.


I have written my fellow parliamentarians from CVF member countries to ensure the early entry into force of the Agreement.


I laud Fiji, Palau, Marshall Islands and Maldives for having ratified the Paris Agreement ahead of this gathering in New York.  Your swift and decisive action underscores the great urgency of putting this Agreement into action.


As we await the action of other governments, we need to remain optimistic. There will be challenges, and for that, we need to sustain our campaign for firm and urgent climate action by all countries.


Regrettably, ratification may take longer for some countries. Others are going through a political transition, including my own. Congress is currently in recess as we are in the midst of an election period.


There is no telling how much more we have to wait before we reach the numbers needed for the Agreement’s entry into force, but I hope it would not be as long as the years we had to endure before this Paris Agreement was achieved.


We must unite to rally our governments, and all other nations to make this treaty work. Procrastination has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. It is time to bring the era of inaction to a close.


Farmers are restless, including in my country, as lands are drying up, making it impossible for them to grow anything.  They seek subsidies.  Others seek food.


Is it not ironic and sheer paradoxical that the very people who till the land so that others may have their share of rice on their tables are now begging for food?


We seek climate justice for them and for other victims of extreme weather events who are at the receiving end of the global climate crisis.  Justice, to a certain extent, will be served, once we have all parties to this Agreement, take significant climate action.


We cannot afford delays in carrying out our commitments because the more we stall action, the faster we reach the dangerous 2°C mark, which could cause 20 percent decline in water availability; 15 to 20 percent decrease in crop yield; sea-level rise of 70 centimeters; and increased acidification of the oceans and reduced farm fish yield by 90 percent, among others.


These scenarios can happen in our lifetime; and the bitter part of it is that our countries will be at the forefront of these impacts due to our natural vulnerabilities.


In fact, we have already been experiencing the severe impacts of climate change even before warming exceeded the 1 degree Celsius mark above pre-industrial levels.


The 20 nations[1] that first joined the CVF have recorded, collectively, an average of more than 50,000 deaths per year since 2010, a number expected to increase exponentially by 2030. We have also experienced escalating annual losses of at least 2.5% of our GDP potential per year, estimated at US$45 
billion since 2010. This is expected to increase to close to US$400 billion in the next 20 years.[2]


The number of extremely hot days and hot nights has doubled in the last 50 years and extreme weather events have increased and have become more frequent, like typhoons with wind speeds that are around 10% stronger as my country had experienced during Supertyphoon Haiyan.


I call on my fellow parliamentarians in the CVF and beyond, my fellow legislators in the Women in Parliaments Global Forum, my fellow policy-makers in GLOBE International, and everyone who values life and our future — let us continue to rally our networks, organizations, and civil society in ensuring that our governments keep the promises they delivered in Paris.


Within our respective economies and among us vulnerable nations, we must adapt and mitigate. We need to strengthen the capacities of our governments and apply the whole-of-society approach in integrating responses to climate change within national to local policy frameworks and programs of actions.


In the Philippines, our government has started climate-tagging expenditure for climate change adaptation and mitigation and will prioritize funding for adaptation to reduce the vulnerability and address the climate risks to our communities.


In our national budget for this year, we have mainstreamed provisions that ensure that the implementation of government programs would contribute towards building resilience and achieving the goals under the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the country’s Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions.


We are also preparing to mobilize the People’s Survival Fund, the product of a law I sponsored in the Philippine Senate that complements our Climate Change Law, to fund climate adaptation programs of local governments and community organizations. The Fund supports the improvement of the monitoring, controlling and prevention of diseases triggered by climate change; establishment of forecasting and early warning systems; and strengthening institutional development, for local governments, for preventive measures, planning, preparedness and management of impacts relating to climate change.


The Philippine Government has also taken an active role in the CVF, initiating the establishment of the Vulnerable Twenty Group of Ministers of Finance or V20, a high-level policy dialogue and action group that hopes to address the critical challenge of climate change more assertively through innovative financing and technology.


Finally, I wish to share with you a novel and revolutionary movement that was hatched recently by a group of deeply committed environmental thinkers and doers.  This movement will seek an advisory opinion before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the question:


“Under international law, what are the duties of States to protect humankind of the present and future generations from the climate crisis?”


The legal action will not be adversarial; but would seek the advice of the world’s court on a question of law.  The challenge, however, rests in getting the UN General Assembly to issue a resolution, requesting the ICJ to issue an advisory opinion on this question.


Should plans materialize, I enjoin your support in mobilizing your communities to support this initiative.


Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,


Creative approaches are needed for the problems we have at hand.


The situation we are in requires urgent, massive, and effective action.


Let us not just live with the risks, but deal with it. Let us take the necessary action now!


Thank you and good morning.

[1]The first 20 CVF Member States: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Kiribati, Madagascar, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Vietnam

[2] V20 Communique; Climate shocks – Vulnerable Twenty Group of Ministers of Finance, 8 October 2015