Keynote Speech: The Climate Reality Leadership Awards 2018

November 7, 2018

Keynote Speech of Senator Loren Legarda*
The Climate Reality Leadership Awards 2018
5 November 2018 | National Museum of Natural History

*Delivered by Commissioner Rachel Herrera, Climate Change Commission

Congratulations to all the climate leaders and organizations recognized tonight and thank you to The Climate Reality Project Philippines for continuously inspiring and motivating more individuals to take urgent climate action.

But allow me please to be quick in congratulating our awardees tonight because there is an agenda more urgent—we are in a race against time.

Today is World Tsunami Awareness Day.  While a tsunami is generated by an earthquake, an underwater landslide, or a volcanic eruption, climate change increases its deadly impacts.

A study published by Science Advances found that rising sea levels causes tsunamis to reach much farther inland, significantly increasing the risk of floods.[1]


The study cited Macau as an example. A 1.5 feet, or approximately half a meter, rise in sea level will double the tsunami threat in the densely populated city.


Just this morning, a magnitude 4.7 earthquake jolted my home province of Antique, which has 15 coastal towns out of the total 18 municipalities. While there were no tsunami alerts, the threat of rising sea levels intensifying the impact of tsunamis is already a cause for alarm.


We do not want to witness more deadly tsunamis like the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, which caused the highest number of fatalities with an estimated 227,000 deaths in 14 countries; the Sulawesi tsunami just this September that claimed over 2,000 lives in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia; and the Moro Gulf tsunami in 1976, which registered 4,381 deaths, the highest number of tsunami-related fatalities in the Philippines.[2]


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report gives us more reasons to work double time to limit global warming not to 2 degrees Celsius, but to 1.5 degrees Celsius.


The IPCC report reveals why half a degree matters[3]:


  • With global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, global sea level rise by 2100 would be 10 cm lower compared with 2 degrees Celsius.


  • With 1.5 degrees Celsius, coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent; with 2 degrees Celsius, 99% or virtually all coral reefs would be lost.


The half a degree difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius matters. The 1.5 degrees Celsius is not a mere aspirational goal. It is the minimum deliverable. It is non-negotiable. It is a matter of survival. And there is only a window of just a decade or up to 2030 for global emissions to be reduced to 45%, and to be at net zero by 2050, otherwise we are on the path to destruction.


In December, as climate negotiators and nations gather for the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or COP24 in Katowice, Poland, we hope to adopt a rulebook that would effectively guide nations in implementing the Paris Agreement. We need a strong rulebook that would drive local ambition towards market and non-market approaches to reduce emissions, compliance, and predictability of finance.


We must continue to fight for the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit.


Current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) on the table submitted by countries in 2015 in the lead up to COP21 would take us to at least a 3 degrees Celsius temperature increase. This is simply unacceptable. We have an urgent need to enhance these NDCs. We must be bold.


We will endeavor to enhance our NDCs through enhanced policies to enable market-driven ambitious sectoral targets. And as we do so, we must enjoin other nations to do the same, as we did when we pushed for the inclusion of the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit in the Paris Agreement.

The challenge to all of us, who understand the risks of climate change and the urgency to take action, is to spread awareness and ignite stronger action.


The world cannot afford further delays, more so the vulnerable people who end up as climate refugees in their own communities, they who suffer again and again from tragedies brought about by a climate crisis not of their own doing.


For the sake of the vulnerable, we seek climate justice now to restore the dignity of those suffering and to strengthen the resilience of the poor and recovering.


For the sake of future generations, we seek a commitment to act now and to implement a holistic solution.


The journey may be tough, but this place full of climate leaders gives us more reasons to hope for a climate-resilient future. Let us turn that hope into reality.


Thank you.

[1] “A modest 0.5-m rise in sea level will double the tsunami hazard in Macau”, Science Advances 15 Aug 2018.

[2] Tsunamis in the Philippines.

[3] IPCC Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C – Summary for Policymakers