The Security Implications of Climate Change

January 26, 2011

I am pleased to jointly organize with the British Embassy this important lecture on the security implications of climate change. This forum came at a great time as this will help generate inputs to on-going legislative discussions on ways by which the country’s strategies and responses to climate change can be best addressed.
I often assert in various dialogues that climate change has become the greatest humanitarian and development challenge of our time.
While the Philippine level of carbon dioxide emissions, which stands at 0.2% of global emissions, is so small, the impact to our communities, economy, and security is great because our socio-economic realities multiply our vulnerabilities many times over.
The 2009 Mortality Risk Index by UNISDR ranked the Philippines 12th among the 200 countries most at risk from tropical cyclones, floods and landslides.
The latest Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) risk assessment synthesis report showed that Metro Manila, the country’s capital, is most at risk of flooding within the region.
We should not be surprised with these facts anymore as we have been witness to the biggest, deadliest and worst disasters in history.
I believe you will agree with me that climate change is not just a scientific issue. It is a cross-cutting concern that touches upon our basic human rights – the right to food, right to potable water, right to decent shelter and right to life itself.
Projected decline in food production, spread of diseases, displacement of populations, and dwindling water supply may even lead to unprecedented societal demands that are beyond what the existing capability of governments can meet.
Floods, droughts and super typhoons regularly strike us with their attendant savagery. All of these kill people, destroy property, upset our production and planting schedules and undo our development gains.
A brief look at the past would show us the data that would back up these claims. Let us revisit the impacts of tropical cyclones Ondoy, Pepeng and Santi in 2009:
– Two (2) million families or 10 million individuals were affected in the flooding or landslides.
– Nearly a thousand perished.
– Total damage and losses amounted to USD 4.4 Billion or the equivalent of 2.7 percent of the country’s GDP
– The Agriculture sector alone lost Php29.38 Billion covering 30 provinces in 7 regions.
Clearly, climate change presents a new national security challenge of a different kind. But we are not totally oblivious to this fact.
We take pride in the significant gains that the Philippine legislature has achieved in passing the Climate Change Act of 2009 and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010. We have concurred with the ratification of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response or the AADMER, which will intensify the cooperation between ASEAN nations in early warning, prevention, preparedness, response and rehabilitation.
The difficult task, however, is to sustain these gains and translate them into clear and measurable impacts from the national to local level.
It is an honor to listen to UK Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti’s perspectives on the security implications of climate change in the region and beyond. We are privileged to expand our understanding on the subject matter through the lens of Rear Admiral Morisetti’s military experience as a strategist and a leader.
We need to know the serious security risks that a changing climate presents, the conditions that this will create, how these may affect a country’s national security interests and what actions should the nation take to address these consequences.
We need to encourage the mainstreaming of climate change into national security and defense strategies. We need to explore partnerships, amidst national boundaries and divergent economic status, that will help the country build the mechanisms necessary to enhance resiliency to climate impacts. We need to do these now in order to achieve a safe, stable and secure environment for our people.
The Philippines joins the rest of the global community in not just recognizing the security implications of climate change, but also in finding ways to address these issues. We look forward to working together with the British government in fighting this common battle.
Thank you very much and I hope we will have an informative and lively discussion.