Keynote Speech of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda for the 7th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum

March 8, 2021

Plenary Session on Policy and Climate Governance

7th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum

“Enabling Resilience for All: The Critical Decade to Scale-up Action”

08 March 2021


Good day to all our colleagues in this plenary session on policy and climate governance for the 7th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum.


The massive scale of the climate crisis has never been more evident than today. We meet today in recognition of a planet that is fast declining, as record highs of 2020 as the warmest year and the period 2011 to 2020 as the warmest decade on record, worsening effects of climate change, and economic shocks from this pandemic set us back to achieve our goals on  sustainable and resilient development.


Our planet has been ailing for more than a century and half, which started when we began to burn fossil fuels that released harmful greenhouse gas emissions. This has brought about extreme weather events, increasing temperatures, and rising seas. And this trend is set to continue and intensify due to the increasing heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.


Our region, aside from being considered as the most disaster-prone region, is also considered extremely vulnerable to climate impacts.


The Asian Development Bank’s study called “A Region At Risk – The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific” stated that, “even under the Paris consensus scenario in which global warming is limited to 1.5°C to 2°C above preindustrial levels, some of the land area, ecosystems, and socioeconomic sectors will be significantly affected by climate change impacts, to which policy makers and the investment community need to adapt to.”[1]


We could expect the deterioration of the Asian “water towers,” prolonged heatwaves, coastal sea-level rise, and changes in rainfall patterns, which could disrupt ecosystem services and lead to severe effects on livelihoods, and in turn, affect human health and migration dynamics, and give rise to potential conflicts.


The 2019 Asia-Pacific Disaster Report also pointed out that the inclusion of slow onset hazards has, for the first time, shown the full extent of disaster risk in the region. It noted that “economic losses due to disasters are larger than previously estimated with most of this additional loss linked to the impact of slow onset disasters in the agricultural sector” and that “multi-hazard average annual loss (AAL) for the region is $675  billion, of which $405 billion, or 60  percent, is drought-related agricultural losses, particularly in rural economies.”


With the COVID-19 pandemic, our people’s health, well-being, and livelihoods have been severely affected. We are also seeing the worst economic performance across countries since World War II,[2] with the Asia Pacific region as a whole expected to grow by only 0.9 percent in 2020—the lowest rate since 1967.[3]


We therefore need greater solidarity, cooperation, and action in enhancing the resilience within our region, in light of the intensifying effects of the climate crisis and the crippling effects of this pandemic to our economies.


In the Philippines, laws have laid the policy landscape for managing climate risk and protecting the environment, so that the nation will survive and thrive in the present era of climate change. But beyond the four walls of the legislature, strong political will and commitment are needed to deliver and breathe life to these policies.


We have the Clean Air Act for reducing pollution, the Renewable Energy Act for promoting clean, sustainable energy, the Climate Change Act for strengthening climate governance, the People’s Survival Fund Act for financing local adaptation, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act for building resilience against disasters, the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas Act for ensuring ecosystems integrity, the Environmental Education and Awareness Act for inculcating love for nature among our youth, and the Green Jobs Act for fostering a just transition toward a green economy, among others.


With our call for government agencies and local government units (LGUs) to effectively implement environmental, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster risk reduction measures, we also make full use of our oversight and legislative functions to steer our communities away from the dire threats of continuing disasters. National policies, plans, and programs must translate into local action with measurable gains through fair and effective enforcement.


As a member of the Global Commission on Adaptation, I want to echo what has been defined as the “adaptation triple dividend”—that with proper adaptation interventions, we can “avert future losses, spur economic gains through innovation, and deliver social and environmental benefits to everyone, but particularly to those currently affected and most at risk.


In the GCA’s flagship Adapt Now report, adaptation investments were found to consistently deliver high returns, with benefit-cost ratios ranging from 2:1 to 10:1. Adaptation often creates more jobs per dollar spent than more traditional investment, with superior local benefits.


That is why we must not waver from our call, also made at the Climate Adaptation Summit in January, for governments and businesses to commit to bring climate finance to 50% adaptation from being skewed in favor of mitigation, and to address the problem that thus far, only 10% of climate finance actually reaches local communities.


We saw the urgent need to promote the principles of “locally-led adaptation” where frontline vulnerable populations must have a voice and role in shaping the recovery in every key sector and system. The response must address underlying inequities in society and give agency to local actors on the frontlines of climate change, including marginalized communities, indigenous peoples, women and children, and youth.  Local planning and action, and investments in the existing social capital of communities, can help ensure that the best information is shared, resources are made available, and the best policies are enacted.


We must expand financial resources available to local governments, community-based organizations, and other local actors, to help create multi stakeholder support with greater influence on evidence-based decision-making, especially at the local level where we can best identify, prioritize, implement, and monitor climate adaptation solutions.


We must facilitate efficient access to international and domestic climate finance and the transfer of technology and knowledge on adaptation and mitigation pursuant to the provisions of the Paris Agreement and in accordance with the principle of climate justice.


Considering that ecosystems contribute at least 30% of climate solutions, mainstreaming biodiversity conservation and nature-based solutions should be at the very heart of discourse, planning, and implementation of climate action, with cross-sectoral, cross-pillar, and multi-stakeholder engagement as its foundation.


We must widely adopt nature-based adaptation solutions, such as wetlands restoration for water storage and soil moisture; reconnecting rivers to floodplains; planting mangroves to protect from coastal flooding; and increasing green urban spaces. Nature-based solutions offer great potential to reduce risks from multiple hazards and to yield jobs and improve livelihoods, while protecting biodiversity.


We must invest in social preparation for the transformation of all sectors towards low carbon development and a green economy, and the sustained implementation and monitoring of outcomes of national climate plans.


We need to unite behind science, as a way to inform our actions and policies, most especially for our vulnerable populations in the region and on the ground.


We need to make the science work for us. We need to make it available, understandable, and actionable to our communities. We need to identify the specific risks and vulnerabilities in our region and to work together in addressing these challenges.


And we need to bolster the call for limiting the average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, because hard fought development gains and productivity will continue to be undermined or reversed if the 1.5-degree limit of the Paris Agreement is breached.


This year until 2030, declared by the UN as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, we need rapid action to combat planetary threats to safeguard our ecosystems, which are the basis of all business, all livelihood, even health, wellness, and happiness.


At the end of this decade, by 2030, is the deadline of the Sustainable Development Goals and will mark the closing of the window of opportunity to deflect the catastrophic effects of climate change.


As leaders, policymakers, planners, and implementers in our respective fields, let us give our region and the world the best fighting chance to bounce back better from this pandemic, ready and braced to cope with and to overcome the climate crisis.


Through this summit and beyond, let us learn from another, support each other’s adaptation and mitigation actions, advise on strategies, and strike convergence where possible. The Philippines looks forward and stands ready for more meaningful regional partnerships and initiatives that we could scale up at the global level.


Our region, being a climate vulnerable and disaster-prone region, has the insight and the resolve to truly enable lasting and genuine resilience for all and the world.


Thank you very much.

[1] A Region At Risk The Human Dimensions Of Climate Change In Asia And The Pacific. Asian Development Bank, 2017.


[2] The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 9.5% in 2020.

[3] From Containment to Recovery: Economic Update for East Asia and the Pacific, October 2020. World Bank.