Opening Address: V20 Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting

March 8, 2017

Opening Address of Senator Loren Legarda
V20 Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting
08 March 2017 | ADB Headquarters, Mandaluyong City


It is an honor to open the first regional gathering of the V20 here in the headquarters of the Asian Development Bank in the Philippines.


Our country is proud to have taken part in the founding of the V20 during our presidency of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which we handed over to Ethiopia in August last year, here in Manila. And we continue to take great pride in being a member of the CVF and V20 Troikas.
It has been a week since President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed the Paris Agreement and transmitted the Instrument of Accession to the Philippine Senate. We in the Senate have been waiting for the baton to be passed to us. And now we are most eager to do our part. I assure you we will shepherd the climate deal with dispatch in order to give our country the platform it requires to lead our own region’s climate action agenda.


As chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Philippines has a unique opportunity to work even more closely with multilateral development banks and climate champion countries to increase investments that will allow all our economies to become more resilient, more efficient, more inclusive, and more sustainable.


In the Marrakech climate talks last November, at the High Level Meeting called by the CVF, China and Germany, together with Norway and France, pledged to fully support the ambition of vulnerable countries to transform their economies. Ladies and gentlemen, we are the ants leading the elephants. And we are only being consistent.


In 2015, the sister initiatives of the CVF and the V20 led the successful push to enshrine the tougher warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the Paris Agreement, and today I laud President Duterte for recognizing the value of this landmark deal for vulnerable countries.


Colleagues, our nations bear the brunt of climate change even if we are among those who contributed the least to the crisis. We know if the V20 does not remain ahead of the curve, pulling the world along with us, we will have no chance of seeing our 1.5 vision realized, especially in the current geopolitical climate. We need not only survive but also to thrive, and keeping within the 1.5 degrees Celsius global temperature limit is critical.


Our countries took part in launching the CVF’s Low Carbon Monitor report in the UN climate negotiations in Marrakech. The report shows that pursuing a development path consistent with 1.5 degrees will not only protect our people and the environment, it will also spur economic growth.


For instance, low-emission power generation and renewable energy produce the greatest number of jobs per megawatt, far more than carbon intensive energy systems. By aiming for 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees, and investing more in energy efficiency and renewable energy, we can create almost 70% more jobs as early as 2030.


Furthermore, fossil fuels are highly volatile commoditized products on the international markets. When we purchase them from overseas, we drain financial resources from our domestic economies to support employment abroad, all the while increasing our exposure to financial risks outside our control. This simply makes no economic sense when our countries have access to a great abundance of locally-available clean energy resources.


Off-grid renewable energy solutions will also be indispensable with more than one billion people outside of existing grid power systems, much of that in V20 economies. In the Philippines, for instance, we have over 7,000 islands and a national grid system is simply impossible. For many of our small island nation colleagues, the situation is the same.


For these reasons, I was pleased to hear that the Climate Vulnerable Forum committed in Marrakech to strive to achieve, with the support of our development partners, 100% clean energy generation for all members way before or by 2050. The call to transform and steadily decarbonize our economies will help us all pursue a path of development compatible not just with Paris Agreement ambitions but with the very needs of our people.


Here at ADB, we are reminded how even more crucial the international development system would be as we work to realize our vision of resilient, sustainable development.


ADB President Takehiko Nakao himself said as he launched the Bank’s flagship report last week: “The demand for infrastructure across Asia and the Pacific far outstrips current supply. Asia needs new and upgraded infrastructure that will set the standard for quality, encourage economic growth, and respond to the pressing global challenge that is climate change.”


ADB projects infrastructure needs in developing Asia and the Pacific will exceed 22.6 trillion dollars through 2030, or 1.5 trillion dollars per year, if the region is to maintain growth momentum. But the estimates rise to over 26 trillion dollars, or 1.7 trillion dollars per year, when climate change mitigation and adaptation costs are incorporated.


Here’s the rub: the 1.7 trillion dollars annual climate-adjusted estimate is more than double the 750 billion dollars ADB estimated in 2009. We have a lot of work ahead of us.


And yet as I have often reminded policymakers across the world, while the transition to clean energy-powered economies is critical to climate action, there is more than just energy to consider. The race to 1.5-compatible economies presents to the ambitious an opportunity to transform development itself. Due to the increasingly dire threat posed by climate change, we need to upgrade everything. Infrastructure, supply chains, urban services, logistics, food supply, and more.


In order to make everything more resilient, we need to upgrade virtually all facets of our economies, which can only produce massive jobs and pump prime our economies. Climate action makes development sense.


Climate vulnerable nations suffer economic losses amounting to 2.5 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP) every year, according to previous estimates from the Department of Finance. The Philippines alone loses around 6.5 billion dollars every year to disasters caused by natural hazards.[i]


Our particular vulnerability to climate change moved me to author the landmark People’s Survival Fund Law, which established the country’s first climate finance mechanism and pioneered direct access climate finance in the local setting. The PSF Board has already approved two local government projects worth over P120 million and is considering 95 more proposals. More local governments are lining up to submit more applications.


Like some of you, our government also tags climate change expenditures in the national budget, which totaled 201.4 billion pesos this year. The administration has also allocated over 15.7 billion pesos for National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund. And clearly this is still not enough.


While we need to ensure that pledges amounting to 100 billion dollars in public finance annually are delivered with the right balance—at least half going to adaptation – I need not remind any of you that this figure pales starkly in comparison to private finance, that is several magnitudes greater, which we need to tap with urgency. Instead of billions we need to tap trillions, because this is the big prize. And we can only achieve this if the plans we develop are truly responsive to the scale of the impacts of the climate crisis in our respective shores.


I hope this regional meeting will set a good tone for the other regional meetings planned for Africa and the Middle East and for Latin America and the Caribbean later this year. V20 Focus Groups are also meeting at the end of this conference, and one of their tasks is to establish a technical committee that will work with CVF counterparts to develop and put forward innovative collective proposals to international funding mechanisms, including the Green Climate Fund and Adaptation Fund. This is all exciting.


I encourage you to focus on innovation and to use transformation as your ultimate yardstick. Because while it is true that finance can enable ambition, it is equally true, if not more important, to note that ambition can and will enable greater finance flows to our countries.


We hope many inspiring examples of success in climate and disaster risk finance will be shared here today, including efforts to increase the bankability of programs and projects that employ a whole-of-government approach. Working closely with our development partners, and with boldness, we can more rapidly de-risk investments even as we rapidly increase incentives that pull in the right kind of private sector capital towards climate-resilient, sustainable and inclusive plans that likewise contribute to the fight to keep warming within the 1.5 degree threshold.


Survive and thrive, ladies and gentlemen. This is our collective goal. Nothing more. And certainly nothing less.***