Privilege Speech: Towards COP21

November 4, 2015

Privilege Speech: Towards COP21
4 November 2015 | Senate Session Hall

Mr. President,

Three weeks ago, Typhoon Lando (Koppu) battered Luzon provinces. It lingered over the country for a week, affecting more than three million citizens and causing damages to agriculture and infrastructure worth Php11 Billion.

With ongoing post-disaster efforts for Lando survivors, we received reports that huge amount of disaster funds, particularly 81% of the quick response funds or QRF for 2015, remain unutilized, prompting this representation to meet with agencies comprising the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and urge them to spend disaster funds now for calamity survivors.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will utilize funds for cash for work programs, which usually involve clearing of debris and other rehabilitation work in affected areas. This is good, but we can expand this to other livelihood opportunities with the help of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

The government, particularly the Land Bank of the Philippines, should be more proactive in providing loan assistance to Lando victims, especially for farmers because it is the planting season. We do not want our farmers to be victims twice over—victims of natural calamity and man’s greed in the form of loans from loan sharks.

According to the state weather bureau, we are expecting three to four more typhoons before the year ends. I hope our agencies can efficiently utilize the QRF in the prepositioning of basic needs and personnel in affected communities days before the typhoons arrive. There is no excuse not to be proactive because the funds are available, ready to be accessed by the agencies concerned.

I repeat, we have to be proactive in addressing the needs of our communities, especially in reducing disaster risks, responding swiftly to post-disaster needs, as well as in adapting to and mitigating climate change.

I say this, Mr. President, as we are now in the month of COP21. Towards the end of November, delegations from 196 member states of the United Nations will gather in France to negotiate for our future and heads of state of these countries will commit or not commit to urgent climate action.

What is COP21?

It is the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC, the UN treaty that aims to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. This year is the 21st conference, thus it is called COP21.

Parties to the UNFCCC have been negotiating for more than two decades now, but what have we agreed on so far? Heads of state pronounce sweet promises but the true battle is on the negotiating tables where representatives of various governments agree or disagree over funding and technical support for vulnerable nations and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, among other issues.

The developing countries blame the developed nations for causing global warming. Developing nations are the ones most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change while the developed countries have the responsibility and the capacity to provide aid.

The COP has been, in the past years, a conference of all talk and no action. No action in the sense that the world has not done what it should have been doing the last decades to avert the climate crisis.

We are now scrambling to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius. Why only now when we could have started 20 years ago? Allow me to explain further the scenario now and other possible scenarios depending on our level of commitment and urgent action.

The average global temperature has risen by 0.8°C since 1880. At this level, we are already experiencing unprecedented extreme weather events.

Based on scientific studies, we need to limit warming to 1.5°C to be able to survive because 2°C is already destructive. COP21 aims to limit global warming to less than 2°C.

The UNFCCC has received 154 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which are country commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions after the year 2020. But these submissions are inadequate as the combined commitments as computed now would still lead to 2.7°C global warming by 2030.

We need to do more and certainly we cannot go business as usual. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that with a 1.5 to 2.5-degree Celsius rise in temperature in a span of 50-100 years, 30% of species would be at risk of extinction.

The World Bank projects that even under a 2°C scenario, there will be a 20% decline in water availability for many regions and 15–20% decrease in crop yield.

Moreover, with warming of up to 2°C, sea-level rise is projected to be around 70 centimeters. Sea level rise, floods that damage fish farms, and the increased acidification of the oceans by 2050 could reduce farmed fish yield by 90%.

If we reach 4°C warming, the IPCC further predicts “…severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security, and the combination of high temperature and humidity compromising normal human activities…”

These impacts can happen within our lifetime. We are talking about scenarios 15, 35, and 85 years from now, all within this century. Our children and grandchildren’s world will be very different from ours. Will we let them suffer knowing now that we have the chance to avert a global crisis?

We need urgent and aggressive climate action. Business as usual is not an option. Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions is a must. Nations with the capacity and resources to aid vulnerable countries must commit their support.

The COP21 agreement should define with clarity how to operationalize financing for mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage, technology, transfer and capacity building.

Meanwhile, the Philippines should achieve its INDC goal of 70% GHG emissions reduction. The government must commit to this and draw sectoral roadmaps that will lead us to this goal, most especially in the energy, transport, forestry and agriculture sectors.

As a developing nation, the Philippines needs more energy, but it cannot be “we need power at all costs and we will develop at all costs.”

They say that coal is cheap. I say, coal is not cheap. Coal affects our health, kills biodiversity and the environment, affects our waters and pollutes the air we breathe. If we input all of these in the cost of coal, we can no longer say that coal is cheap.

We are a country rich in renewable energy—the amount of sun and wind is more than enough to power our entire country many times over. We have the Renewable Energy Law and though we may not totally ban coal, we should have a good energy mix where there is a bias for renewables.

I will repeat: We cannot go business as usual. It is not an option, at least if we want our children and grandchildren to live.

The COP21 is a crucial negotiation. But more important than the agreement is the actual action that will be taken by each nation.

In closing, I wish to urge my fellow senators, many of whom will be campaigning for reelection or for higher positions, to be climate advocates. Monitor the COP21 negotiations because this will affect the development agenda of the next administration.

Climate change will make poverty alleviation and achieving food security increasingly difficult, new poverty traps will arise as extreme weather events become the new norm, and economic growth will slow down.

We need to take urgent climate action because humanity’s future depends on what we do now and what we will fail to do. Let us not make failure an option. Let us make resilience and sustainability our future.

Thank you, Mr. President.