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From Lessons to Actions: Bridging Schools to Communities, Toward Addressing Climate Challenges

November 18, 2019

KEYNOTE ADDRESS

Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda

3RD NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE

“From Lessons to Actions: Bridging Schools to Communities, Toward Addressing Climate Challenges”

November 18, 2019

 

Esteemed colleagues in government led by the Department of Education; partners in the private sector, academia, and civil society; development partners; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen:

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.

Allow me first to express my gratitude for the chance to speak before you today. What a pleasure to see young, vibrant, and passionate men and women in this national consultation on climate change. I hope the older generation in this venue—myself included—could keep up with your energy as we go through today’s sessions. But in all seriousness, let me thank you for putting attention to climate change—and I would hazard to say that there is no matter more urgent and relevant especially for the youth. I hope you could bring forth the knowledge with you as you go back to your respective schools and home. From this day forward, I hope that we can count on you in this fight for your future and our world.

 

The Climate Emergency: 1.5 climate challenge

Ladies and gentlemen, climate change is the most daunting development challenge our world faces today—having the most far-reaching impact and requiring most urgent action from all.

The phenomenon is so complex and overreaching in its impacts that we should now begin calling it the ‘climate crisis.’ It threatens to take away the things we love and value– and this is the challenge that brings us to where we are today.

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, the leading international body for assessing the science related to climate change, affirmed the Philippines’ policy stand and rationale for advocating to limit global warming to 1.5 °C.

According to the IPCC Special Report, we are already experiencing 1°C above pre-industrial climate benchmark. Anything beyond 1.5°C, even half a degree of warming, will significantly worsen the risks of flooding, extreme heat, drought, and push our communities deeper into poverty.

Unfortunately, the IPCC Report also suggested that we no longer have the luxury of time. To contain warming at 1.5°C, man-made global net carbon dioxide emissions would need to fall by about 45 percent by 2030 from 2010 levels and reach “net zero” by mid-century.

Reducing this amount of emissions will need the exponential scaling up of renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, electrification of transport systems, and improvements of industrial and building efficiency on a global scale.

 

Paris Agreement

I need to emphasize that the world is only getting warmer as each day passes by.

Only greater ambition and urgent action in reducing the GHG emissions could help us meet the necessary scale and pace to evade the catastrophic effects of our changing climate.

Fortunately, after two decades of debates, the international community found unity in the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015—a common ground for global climate action, which was adopted by 197 countries and entered into force last year.

“Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” is the core principle of the accord, recognizing the different circumstances, and responsibilities of countries.

This principle means that developed countries must take the lead in mitigating climate change in their economies, and providing finance and capacity building plus facilitating technology development and transfer towards vulnerable countries so we can do our fair share in reducing emissions.

Moreover, developing countries are given leeway in the implementation of their contributions and provided with the tools and means to do so.

 

Understanding the 1.5 goal

The Paris Agreement aims to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degree Celsius.

The nod to 1.5 degree Celsius recognized that many low lying island nations are already feeling the impacts of climate change and that coral reef and Arctic ecosystems face high risks well below 2 degree Celsius.

Let me emphasize that half a degree makes a very big difference in terms of how different regions of the world will feel the effects of climate change.

For example, an extra point 5 degree Celsius could see global sea levels rise 10 centimeters more by year 2100, and water shortages in the Mediterranean double and tropical heatwaves last up to a month longer.

The difference between 2 degrees and 1.5 degrees Celsius is also “likely to be decisive for the future of coral reefs”, with virtually all coral reefs at high risk of bleaching with the former.

Limiting warming to 1.5 degree Celsius reduces risk of crossing tipping points, such as the irreversible melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers, permafrost collapse, leading to methane releases, and Antarctic and Greenland ice sheet melt.

 

Aligning policies to the 1.5 goal

For the world to get onto a 1.5°C pathway, the first and most urgent measures include the rapid scaling up of renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, electrification of transport systems, and improvements of industrial and building efficiency.

This is why the Philippine delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference consistently calls for increased global climate ambition. The way forward is to make sure that the big industrialized developed nations would actually walk their talk.

 

Philippine climate outlook

The Philippines has been the face of climate risk and vulnerability, even made more pronounced by the tragedy and devastation wrought by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

We are constantly on the top of the rankings of countries that suffered most from global warming.

In the 2019 Global Peace Index (GPI), our country topped the list of countries facing the highest risk of climate change hazards, such as floods, cyclones and droughts. Following the Philippines are Japan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Pakistan.

The 2019 Global Climate Risk Index has ranked the Philippines 5th among countries most affected by weather-related loss events from 1998 to 2017.

Moreover, the observed temperature in the country, according to PAGASA, is rising at an average rate of 0.1°C per decade and is projected to increase by as much as 0.9°C to 2.3°C by 2050.

This will cause drastic changes in weather patterns, an increase in frequency, intensity and duration of floods, and an increase in frequency and intensity of droughts in the face of climate change.

In Central Mindanao, Filipino scientists project declines in precipitation that will threaten food and water security.

Sea level has risen in some parts of the country by nearly double the global average rate from 1993 to 2015.

Worse, the state weather bureau projected that sea-level rise in the country will increase by about 20 centimeters under a high emission scenario, which might worsen storm surge hazards.

This will put at risk 60 percent of our local government units (LGUs) covering 64 coastal provinces, 822 coastal municipalities, 25 major coastal cities, and an estimated 13.6 million Filipinos that would need relocation.

With climate inaction, the IPCC projects that by years 2051 to 2060, the maximum fish catch potential of our seas will decrease by as much as 50 percent compared to 2001-2010 levels. A World Bank study corroborates this, saying that by 2050, fish catch in Southeast Asia will drop by 50%.

This compels us in government to bake-in climate policy in our long-term development strategies, while carrying out immediate risk-informed and evidence-based interventions.

Hence, despite our very tiny carbon footprint, we are resolved to rise to the 1.5 climate challenge. We are ready to heed the call for urgent and ambitious action.

But we cannot do this alone. We need consolidated efforts from everyone, especially the youth.

Climate change is not all about threats. Or at least, climate change will remain a threat only to those who refuse to recognize the imperatives to act with a far greater sense of urgency as well as to act on opportunities available today.

Businesses that wish to be around for the long haul need to confront rapidly developing realities brought about by climate change. Our local government units can do so much, being at the forefront of action. Our youths, whose minds are more creative and innovative than us, can make a difference if given the right platform.

 

Role of youth in advancing the country’s climate agenda forward

People of all ages are responsible for creating a sustainable and healthy planet. But it is the youth who may have most at stake in whether we achieve targets for sustainable living. The youth must raise their voices and take action to assure their future continues to be safe and sustainable.

With the world set to have the largest youth population ever in the coming years, we really need to start thinking how to mobilize their talent and capacity to make better decisions and influence the government when they become leaders of this nation.

They will be the ones who will find solutions to the problems the older generation has failed to solve.

This event manifests the widespread recognition of the role that you play. How can you do this very challenging task?

First, you must understand what climate change is, its effects and how, on your own ways, can address it. Continuously search for methodologies and strategies to not to contribute to the prevailing crisis.

Second, help raise awareness. There is now a momentum, discussions and peaceful rebellions have commenced. All you have to do is learn how to sustain it and move forward. As your mentors, we shall guide you every step of the way. With your access to social media, you have the power to act and mobilize others by raising awareness.

Greta Thunberg has been the talk of the town for a year as she bravely demands urgent climate action from leaders around the world. She has spoken at climate rallies to further raise awareness on the current status of our planet and how denial and inaction will lead us to a 4-degree Celsius world, and this will never be welcome news, especially for a country like ours that remains to be highly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Third, innovate. Youth have the capability to identify and challenge existing efforts and break through barriers as you have the capacity to bring fresh perspectives.

Fourth, communicate. You can initiate dialogues events and workshops that would enable people from different sectors can work together to create more efficient, practical and innovative solutions towards achieving a common goal.

I hope that you make the most of this opportunity at hand.

 

Closing

The approach of the Philippines to the climate change challenge is one of shared leadership, where the responsibility to lead is shared with developed nations. We do so by seeing the crisis as an opportunity as well to redesign nothing less than our country’s climate agenda.

Friends, indecision is the worst stance we can make today. By not acting decisively, we deprive ourselves of so many advantages and co-benefits, such as improved air quality, greener jobs, food security, peace and order, economic growth, and sustainable development, among others.

We are at a crucial moment to fortify our commitments to climate action, adhere to our commitment to the Paris Agreement.

We have a future to secure, and I hope we can count on all of the participants here today not merely to support government in this regard. Each of you can be leaders of your own community and together, let’s lead the country towards a better future — a future that is economically, ecologically and socially sustainable. The swifter we all move, the better off everyone will be.

Do know that I am excited to hear you and learn from you. Through this event, may we renew and strengthen our collective resolve to act and to foster more meaningful convergence like this among all sectors for a safer, greener, and more secure future for the Filipino nation.

Thank you and Mabuhay.