Speech: Rotary Club of Makati Luncheon

May 3, 2016

Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
Rotary Club of Makati Luncheon
3 May 2016 | Manila Peninsula Hotel


It is with great pleasure that I take part in this gathering to encourage Rotarians to take a more active role in finding solutions to the growing social, economic and development challenges caused by environmental degradation and disasters arising from natural hazards made stronger by climate change.


We are living in a world with finite resources and yet generations have lived over the centuries like there is no tomorrow.


Our natural environment has been compromised. Our biological diversity has been significantly reduced and the general health of our environment is conceded to the greed of some. Our ecosystems have been altered more rapidly in the name of development; but the poor have remained poor and their numbers are increasing notwithstanding the emergence of megacities and the increasing “GDPs” of nations.


The effects of our exploitative activities are evident in the increased frequency and volume of natural hazards. We have seen many times the impact of natural hazard extremes and the prevalence of disaster risk, exacerbated by climate change. They kill thousands of families, wipe out cities and communities, and undo years of development gains.


Losses due to Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009 were equivalent to 2.7% of the country’s GDP; while damage from Supertyphoon Yolanda is estimated at P101.79 Billion, representing 0.9% of GDP for 2013.


Each year, five million lives are lost due to climate change and the health impacts of its chief driver — fossil fuels.[1] The World Health Organization estimates direct damage costs to health alone at between 2 and 4 billion dollars each year by 2030.[2]


The 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared that “about half of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions between 1750 and 2011 have occurred in the last 40 years.”


The world will continue to get warmer and with this comes long lasting changes in our climate system. Ordinary people have limited understanding of this, until they are painfully introduced to their impacts via extremely harsh weather events, flooding, declining fish catch, water scarcity, declining agricultural harvests, exacerbating health issues, extinction of animal and plant species, displacement of people, and even the demise of low-lying areas, among others.


Last April 22, 175 countries, including the Philippines, formally signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Agreement was the result of the climate negotiations in Paris culminating last December.


Now, we await the affirmation of commitments through the completion of ratification or accession processes of each country.


The Philippines has joined calls for the early entry into force of the Agreement by ensuring that at least 55 nations representing 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions will ratify the Agreement within the year.


But while nations await the Agreement’s entry into force, governments must already start the work to implement their respective Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement.


The main aim of the Paris Agreement is to limit global temperature rise within the century “well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”


Vulnerable nations, especially the member states of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), fought for the inclusion of the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit in the Paris Agreement. We must not go higher than that because the additional 0.5 degrees Celsius could spell the difference between survival and extinction.


Global warming has already breached the 1°C level with unprecedented warming in the past months. We have already borne countless tragedies and losses from recurring impacts of extreme weather events under a 1°C global warming. How much more with higher temperatures?


The World Bank projects that 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%.


The IPCC revealed that a 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius increase in global mean temperatures from pre-industrial levels threatens extinction of 20-30 percent of all species.[3]


The half a degree difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius matters. The 1.5°C is not a mere aspirational goal. It is the minimum deliverable. It is non-negotiable. It is a matter of survival.


Even the success of attaining the sustainable development goals (SDGs) is at risk if we do not limit warming to 1.5°C.


Moreover, the mobilization of the US$100 Billion Fund under the Paris Agreement is necessary to support vulnerable nations who happen to be low-emitting, developing economies. But additional funding in the form of independent official development assistance (ODA) commitments is also vital.


Finally, there should be 50:50 balance in international climate finance between adaptation and mitigation. Funding should not only be on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Equal financial support must also be available to help those on the frontline that are feeling the brunt of climate change impacts.


Here in our country, we actually have numerous laws and policies that are focused on addressing environmental, climate change and disaster resilience issues. Among these are the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Renewable Energy Act, Environmental Awareness and Education Act, Climate Change Act, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, and the People’s Survival Fund Law.


Laws, however, are just part of the equation, and their implementation through good governance could spell a big difference.


Solutions for climate and resource risks entail investing in water supply, sanitation, flood control, transport, roads, social and health services, and energy infrastructure that build resilience to climate variability.


Moreover, promoting sustainable growth is not the duty of the government alone. It is everyone’s responsibility. It is thus important to put communities at the heart of relevant programs and policies and gather collective action that is rooted in a sense of solidarity and shared responsibility.


The private sector is encouraged to promote green policies and put resilience at the core of their business strategies.


Morgan Stanley has started treading on the sustainable investments path.  From being a traditional investment banking group, it created its Global Sustainable Finance Group about seven years ago, in response to emerging markets and covering areas that supported sustainable living generally but as diverse as clean energy, green bonds, or even affordable housing.


Investing with Impact Product Platform was launched as a major product under the group, aiming at guiding businesses to gain financial returns while supporting positive environmental and social impact.


In Nigeria, for instance, Morgan Stanley supported a can manufacturing business that used to import empty cans from Canada and filled the contents of the cans in their Nigeria factory. Now that the company is able to manufacture its own cans, they produce less carbon emissions and create more quality jobs.


Here in the Philippines, investments in sophisticated sustainable energy technologies augur well in reducing harmful emissions, protecting health and the environment, and sustaining economic growth.


Businesses must also have proper business continuity planning to save themselves from disaster effects. Through this, they not only improve resilience and reduce their reliance on government for recovery, but more importantly, they also become available to assist the public sector in recovering from disasters.


Climate resilience and sustainability are intertwined with the growth of the world’s economy. If the world becomes an inhospitable place for living things, the concept of economy will disintegrate and we will be left in a pit where it will be a struggle to survive.


Ultimately, it makes good business sense, good economic sense, good environment sense to mitigate and build resilience.


As I conclude my speech, I wish to impart this message: We all live in one Earth. Climate change is now in our midst and it imparts to us the lesson that we do not own the planet. We are mere dwellers and stewards of its resources.


Each of us has opportunities to make a difference for our future. We must take hold of the opportunity to responsibly manage our environment and build a sustainable, resilient and healthy nation.


Thank you.




[1] Climate Vulnerability Monitor, 2nd Edition, DARA, 2012

[2] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs266/en/

[3] IPCC 4th Assessment Report (AR4)