Privilege Speech on the Paris Agreement

November 7, 2016

Senator Loren Legarda
Privilege Speech on the Paris Agreement
7 November 2016 | Senate Session Hall


Mr. President,


I rise today on the occasion of the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the third anniversary of Supertyphoon Yolanda. Yesterday was also the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.


In light of the commemoration of Yolanda anniversary tomorrow, allow me first to put on record that we have allocated 25.6 Billion Pesos housing assistance for victims of Supertyphoon Yolanda under the 2016 budget of the National Housing Authority (NHA). Unreleased funds as of June 2016 is 20.7 Billion Pesos. We hope that we can fast track the construction of permanent housing for the intended recipients if only to bring renewed hope to those who have survived the strongest typhoon to hit land.


Meanwhile, the 2016 National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund has 18.896 Billion Pesos, of which 18.433 Billion Pesos is unreleased as of September 30.


I wish to remind our agencies that the NDRRM Fund is no longer just a calamity fund; we should use it to build resilience, reduce and prevent risks in our communities, and to take proactive action so that natural hazards will not turn into disasters that kill and maim our people, and impede our development.


Mr. President,


What does the future hold for us—a nation greatly vulnerable to the ill effects of climate change?


We are walking on thin ice. Our future is uncertain because we are facing a crisis that we cannot resolve on our own.


Sea level rise threatens to submerge our coastal towns. At risk are 64 coastal provinces, 822 coastal municipalities, 25 major coastal cities and approximately 13.6 million Filipinos that need to be relocated away from danger zones.


Ocean acidification is causing irreversible damage to our coral reefs. With global warming of up to 2 degrees Celsius, 98 percent of coral reefs will die by 2050. Moreover, sudden shifts from hot temperatures to incessant rains pose uncertainties to agriculture, greatly affecting our food security.


The warming climate is now one of the most significant risks for World Heritage Sites, including our own Ifugao Rice Terraces. Extreme rainfall and heat, heavy floods, and constant changes in weather pose great threat to lives, health, livelihood and development.


The uncertainty of our future due to climate change impacts is the very reason why we have been actively participating in the climate negotiations. The Philippines, as chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) during the Paris climate talks last December 2015, was among the most influential in the crafting of the Paris Agreement as it led the call to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to be able to survive.


This is the call of vulnerable nations, the member states of CVF: “1.5 can and must be done. We will make it happen not just to survive but also to thrive.”


CVF members have a commitment to help each other, to equip ourselves together in this climate fight.


According to the Low Carbon Monitor that the CVF will launch soon, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could raise growth economic output by as much as 1% by the 2040s since so many of the devastating impacts associated with higher levels of warming would be avoided. This is crucial in our pursuit of our vision and development goals under the “Ambisyon Natin 2040” of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).


Mr. President,


The Paris Agreement will help us in our adaptation efforts as itallows the Philippines, as a vulnerable developing nation, access to the $100 Billion Green Climate Fund.


The Paris Agreement is a vehicle towards achieving climate justice as it compels developed nations that have polluted the world and caused this climate crisis to finance the Green Climate Fund and provide developing and vulnerable nations needed support on capacity building and technology transfer for adaptation and mitigation efforts.


The Paris Agreement will not hamper our development. It even presents opportunities for low carbon development and green growth. The 70% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions indicated in our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) is based on technical and financial assistance we will receive from industrialized nations.


Mr. President,


Vulnerable small island states, such as Fiji, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Palau and the Maldives, took the lead in ratifying the Agreement; and the largest emitters of GHG—US, China, India, and the European Union—have ratified as well.


The Philippines’ ratification of the Agreement will send a strong signal of our continuing commitment to work with the rest of the world in ensuring the survival of this generation and the generations to come, and the ability of the Earth to sustain life.


Even small towns around the world are already doing their share in the fight against climate change[1]:


  • Greensburg in Kansas built back better after it was flattened by a devastating tornado in 2007 and is now running on 100 percent renewable energy;


  • In the village of Kalisari in Java, Indonesia, tofu businesses used to throw away the water they use to create tofu. The liquid used to contaminate local water supplies until they turned it into tofu biogas which could replace 62,000 tons of fossil fuels a year;


  • In the Tayebat Workers Village in Egypt, sandstone buildings have solar panels on their rooftops. The architects behind the project aim to change the usual thinking that solar panels are ugly and undesirable;


  • In the small British town of Ashton Hayes, residents are working together to make their community carbon-neutral through lifestyle changes such as taking fewer flights, using clotheslines instead of dryers, and improving the insulation in their homes—shrinking their total carbon footprint by 40 percent so far.


These examples only show that we can all be part of the efforts to fight climate change no matter how small or vulnerable we are. In fact, our vulnerability has made our voice significant in the climate negotiations. We have become the poster child for climate change impacts. Our experience in Yolanda was one of the rallying points for a more ambitious Paris Agreement.


If we fully accept the Agreement, we can influence the decisions on how the accord will be implemented and we maintain our leadership role in the international climate talks and advocacy.


If we do not ratify, we are left in isolation while waiting to be a victim of natural hazards.


While the future may be uncertain, we can define the kind of future we want. We are part of a community of nations that can support us in addressing our vulnerabilities. We should be part of the body that will decide the future of the planet. We cannot be left out of it.


With the Paris Agreement, we only stand to gain and nothing to lose.


Thank you, Mr. President.***

[1] Kate Yoder, Meet the tiny towns taking on climate change, 26 October 2016