Legarda: “Put urgent climate action on top of government priorities along with pandemic recovery”

August 10, 2021

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released the first of its four-part Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which is based on over 30 years of climate science. AR6 is the product of over 200 of the world’s leading scientists analyzing and together reaching findings from their review of over 14,000 scientific research papers. It confirms the grave risks facing us in a warming world and tells us the climatic changes we are seeing today are unprecedented over thousands to millions of years. It confirms that temperatures are higher than they have ever been in the last 125,000 years. It tells us without any ambiguity that human influence is “unequivocal” and most importantly, it tells us that the Paris Agreement’s 1.5˚C temperature limit remains within reach so long as the calls from science for urgent action on climate are acted upon.


The report also shares to the public troubling findings on the consequences, if we fail to heed the science.


Climate risks are hitting home today, and no country is spared. Today, countries as disparate as Germany, Canada, and China are experiencing impacts that we in the Philippines have long confronted. Every life lost and every house destroyed by rampaging floodwaters, each forest that goes up in smoke due to ever drier and ever hotter conditions, are stark reminders the world has warmed by 1.1°C due to human made climate change.


AR6 tells us climate extremes such as heat waves, extreme precipitation, droughts and storms are on the rise and human-driven climate change has made them worse. As our own scientists have reminded us, sea levels in the Philippines are rising at rates twice the global average, and AR6 tells us sea levels globally have already risen by 20cm and will continue to do so for thousands and thousands of years.


The AR6 report has sounded the alarm on low probability climate risks and irreversible impacts, indicating that we may already be crossing “tipping points” of ice sheet collapse that could lead to catastrophic sea level rise even before 2100, together with abrupt ocean circulation changes. AR6 also tells us the occurrence of the most devastating compound extreme events cannot be ruled out if climate change remains unchecked.


As the AR6 report demonstrates, risks of sea level rise are higher than previously assessed. The IPCC tells us in an extreme scenario, more than 1m or even 2m of sea level rise cannot be ruled out this century, if rapid ice sheet melt is triggered. But the IPCC also tells us we can avoid the worst of it, because by limiting global warming to 1.5°C we can also drastically limit global sea level rise to between 0.28 and 0.55 m by 2100. The IPCC has reaffirmed the huge difference in impacts between 1.5C and 2C degrees of warming. In the long-run, at least 3 meters of sea level rise can be avoided if we limit warming to 1.5˚C instead of 2˚C.


As UNDRR Global Champion for Resilience, Commissioner of the Global Commission on Adaptation and as author of landmark laws for the environment and climate laws, I wish to remind our policy makers, especially all the aspirants for the top political post of the country – the presidency, vice presidency, senatorial and local elections – that the IPCC has confirmed again through AR6 that the 1.5°C limit agreed in Paris is still within reach. The report considers a small set of illustrative emissions scenarios that explore different climate futures. The lowest of those scenarios shows what is required to keep 1.5°C within reach reaffirming findings from the IPCC 1.5°C Special Report and other organizations such as the International Energy Agency (IEA). In order to do so, however, global deep and sustained emission reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gases are required – starting now and reaching net zero by 2050. And the responsibility for this falls squarely on developed nations, countries that are historically responsible for a crisis that continues to punish vulnerable communities that have contributed the least, if at all, to the climate crisis.


Limiting warming to 1.5°C would strongly reduce climate risks because as the IPCC report states, all additional increments of global warming increases changes in extremes, including the intensity and frequency of hot extremes, heatwaves, heavy precipitation, as well as droughts in some regions. But it also needs to be said that while limiting warming to 1.5°C would strongly reduce climate risks and avoid the most destructive impacts of climate change, even at 1.5°C of global warming, extreme climate risks such as heat waves, heavy rainfall, drought and storms will still become more intense and frequent around the globe. As the Philippines stated in 2015 during the COP21 negotiations in Paris, 1.5°C is no paradise, but keeping to such a global average temperature increase threshold means the harm that will be inflicted will be dramatically reduced.


There is no time for complacency. There is no room for indifference. It’s time we reflect resilience as the country’s priority strategy in our response to climate change. As I’ve said again and again over the last two decades, we need to pursue and realize economy-wide measures that aim at reaching our sustainable development goals sooner rather than later. For in providing sustainable food for our people, in prioritizing the mobility needs of the great majority of our people instead of favoring the small minority of private car owners, in advancing a modern power system that provides affordable, reliable, secure, and sustainably powered by flexible generation, renewable energy and storage systems, we get to contribute even more today to the global climate fight even as we advance the development interests of working Filipino families.


Heed the call of science. Look towards a far longer horizon. Take the long view, but act not tomorrow but today.”***