Legarda: Political Resolve Needed to Address Climate Crisis

June 27, 2013

United Nations champion for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation Senator Loren Legarda today called on the executive department to strictly enforce climate change, environmental, sustainable energy legislations passed by Congress over the past decade to mitigate and help the country adapt to the impacts of the warming climate.

Legarda issued the call following two notable facts—United States President Barack Obama’s action plan to confront climate change and a World Bank report showing that at least 23 Philippine provinces are vulnerable to disaster risks that are magnified by climate change.

“President Obama has made it clear that he is determined to save the future of Americans by taking that needed push to cut down greenhouse gas emissions and increase investments on renewable energy. This path that the United States has taken will benefit a developing nation like the Philippines, which is a low emitter of greenhouse gases but is greatly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly extreme weather events. But we also need to take bold actions to address our weaknesses,” she said.

“We have tons of legislations, adopted over the past decade, that sought to mitigate and address the adverse effects of climate change. More than a decade after these laws were passed, we continue to be faced with grim scenarios of cities submerged in floods, families buried by landslides, people forced out of their homes due to floods, thousands of students stuck in flooded streets, and economic destruction in massive scale. Amidst these scenarios is the bleak reality that the poor is hit hardest by these disasters,” she added.

Legarda, author of the Climate Change Law, said that the National Climate Change Action Plan speaks of the need for convergence among government agencies in responding to the impacts of climate change.

“We need to know whether we are indeed leading towards the path of convergence in the plans and programs of government, both at the national and local levels. Regrettably, such convergence is not evident in the energy programs as we see more and more coal-fired power facilities being put up at the expense of renewable energy,” she said.

Data from the Department of Energy as of March 2013 show that committed and indicative coal-fired power projects has a total rated capacity of 7,189 megawatts against only 1,248.8 megawatts for renewable energy.

The Senator noted that renewable energy projects can generate jobs that are badly needed given the country’s high unemployment rate. A study by the Greenpeace shows that 650,000 jobs have been generated by renewable energy in Europe alone.

“We need to match our policies on renewable energy with action. Adaptation measures also need to be vigorously pursued. The mere fact that people continue to live along waterways, notwithstanding legislations that say they cannot do that, is symptomatic not just of failure in the implementation of laws, but of the absence of development in other parts of the country that would offer better housing and employment opportunities to them,” she said.

“We also need to strengthen our preparedness in ways that will not only involve government, but also communities. Preparedness starts from every household,” she added.

Legarda said that one of her priorities in the 16th Congress is the conduct of an environmental audit to determine the state of implementation and enforcement of policies.

“The intent is not to create more laws, but improve existing ones where weakness is determined; and to ensure enforcement in ways that people and institutions will comply not so much because there is a law that penalizes non-compliance but because they understand that they have a personal stake in the enforcement of these measures,” Legarda concluded.