UNFCCC Designates Legarda as 1 of 2 Adaptation Champions

November 15, 2017

On November 13, 2017, Senator Loren Legarda was presented to international press in Bonn, Germany as a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Champion designated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international treaty to which the Philippines is a Party.


Legarda, Head of the Philippine Delegation to the 23rd Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UNFCCC in Bonn, Germany, was joined by fellow NAP Champion Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu of Tonga, at the COP23 side event “Championing NAPs – Advancing National Adaptation Plans” organized by the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) of the UNFCCC.


“I am inspired by the designation of the UNFCCC as NAP Champion. With this, I will work harder in building the Philippines’ resilience through developing and financing adaptation projects,” Legarda said.


“Adaptation essentially means enhancing our resilience, policies, projects, and programs, against the impacts of climate change. There can be no resilience without adaptation. Adaptation is the battle cry for those who seek climate justice,” she added.


As further defined by the LEG, adaptation to climate change means “human-driven adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems or policy processes, in response to actual or expected climate stimuli and their effects or impacts.”[1]


Mr. Youssef Nassef, Director of the Adaptation Committee of the UNFCCC, noted that the designation of Legarda and ‘Utoikamanu as NAP Champions is “the first in the process of UNFCCC,” signifying the urgent need to promote the importance of resilience and facilitate linkages with external contexts to climate change adaptation.


For Legarda, being the Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, while also being the Chair of the Committees on Climate Change and Foreign Relations, is an advantage because this allows her to enshrine climate and environment provisions in the Philippines’ General Appropriations Act (GAA).


“I am proud that we are able to make our national budget a climate budget, with special and general provisions on adaptation, such as the establishment of multi-hazard early warning systems, rainwater harvesting, seed banks, mangroves, rooftop gardens, roadside ditches, sea wall, and practice drills for response and preparedness,” Legarda said.


Legarda also highlighted the crucial role of private sector in pursuing adaptation in the country. She said that the government should implement the mechanisms of what adaptation really is so that the private sector could understand and realize that resilience is extremely relevant in our businesses and industries.


“It is a misconception that adaptation is an unattractive investment for the private sector. We have to emphasize that adaptation means less reconstruction and rehabilitation, or less lives lost and less livelihoods and businesses affected,” she said.


Legarda also said that she would host an Adaptation Summit in the Philippines next year, with her fellow NAP Champion Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu of Tonga as guest of honor. Aside from showcasing best practices in adaptation, the Summit aims to launch a mentoring process for small vulnerable communities in the Philippines.


“Adaptation is a matter of life and death. It is important to learn from other country’s best practices, and share our own, as we further develop and implement our National Adaptation Plans. The Adaptation Summit for climate-vulnerable countries will serve as a platform to foster this cooperation towards realizing our objectives and goals,” Legarda concluded.


Legarda is a three-term senator who chairs the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations, Finance and Climate Change. She has authored the Philippines’ landmark environmental laws, including the Philippine Climate Change Act and the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, which were hailed by the UN as among the world’s best laws on climate and disaster resilience. She also shepherded the Philippines’ ratification of the landmark Paris Agreement.


Legarda was appointed by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) as its Global Champion for Resilience with a distinguished role to provide leadership to build the resilience of nations and communities to disasters.


Meanwhile, Ms. ‘Utoikamanu was appointed as High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) in April 2017 to lead the UN Office in undertaking appropriate advocacy work, assisting in mobilizing international support and resources, and providing appropriate support to group consultations for least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing States.


She was previously Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Tourism in Tonga (2017); Acting Pro-Chancellor and Chair (2015) and Deputy Pro-Chancellor and Deputy Chair (2009-2016) of the Council of the University of the South Pacific; Deputy Director General and Director of Education, Training and Human Development of the Secretariat of Pacific Community (2009-2015); Permanent Representative and Ambassador of the Government of Tonga to the United Nations, United States of America, Cuba and Venezuela and High Commissioner to Canada (2005-2009); and Secretary for Foreign Affairs and European Commission’s National Authorizing Officer for Tonga (2002-2005).[2]


About the UNFCCC

The UNFCCC is an international environment treaty that seeks to foster international cooperation to combat climate change by limiting average global temperature increases and coping with its impacts.[3] The UNFCCC is one of the three “Rio Conventions” adopted at the “Rio Earth Summit” in 1992.


The Philippines signed the treaty in 1992, which entered into force in 1994.


In 1997, the UNFCCC formally adopted the Kyoto Protocol, which also “operationalized” the Convention and also sought to commit industrialized countries to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions based on the principles of the Convention.[4]


The 2015 Paris Agreement, which was adopted on 12 December 2015, marked the latest step in the evolution of the UN climate change regime and built on the work undertaken under the Convention. Its central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.[5]