World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific Fellowship Night

July 26, 2012

Keynote Speech
World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific Fellowship Night
Bayleaf Hotel, Intramuros
July 26, 2012

Extreme weather shifts and all, Manila remains one of the world’s most interesting and historical cities, and it is with great pleasure that I welcome you here today.

Leaders across the globe increasingly realize that development practices in the name of economic progress have not been sustainable, adaptable and disaster-resilient.

In different parts of the world, like in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific region, climate change has already ushered unprecedented disasters.

In December last year, flooding in the Southern Region of the Philippines has left more than a thousand people dead and ten million others struggling to rebuild their lives.
Also in 2011, Cambodia, Thailand and Bangladesh went through devastating floods, which are among the worst in their history; Pakistan suffered from severe inundation in 2010 and 2011. These extreme weather events are certainly bound to recur, perhaps with even worse outcomes if we are not prepared.

We in the Asia-Pacific region have more reasons to reflect on our vulnerabilities, re-examine our development approaches and determine whether or not they are going to be the very source of our destruction.

After all, as a 2010 United Nations report revealed, “People in the Asia-Pacific region are four times more likely to be affected by natural hazards than those in Africa; and 25 times more likely than those in Europe or North America.”

‘Sustainable development.’ These are the two words that have become the battle cry of a new generation of world leaders.

These leaders demand progress that builds, not destroys; nourishes, not forsakes; in order to create an environment conducive to the prosperity of all. These are leaders who understand progress not as an end in itself but as a means towards providing today’s basic needs without jeopardizing the future of many generations to come. These are leaders who, I believe, are in this very room tonight.

I laud the World Youth Alliance for this conference, as it has created a venue through which the youth can discuss sustainable development, bringing different cultures together towards one aspiration.

Tonight I wish to underscore the message that it is time to recognize that disasters, turbocharged by a changing climate, can undo years of development gains, and that, unsound and short-sighted development practices play a significant role in worsening disaster risk.

It is impossible to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger without taking extensive measures to minimize the impacts of recurring floods, droughts, and other hazards that push the poor deeper into poverty.

Leaders from across the globe, especially from developing nations, are beginning to realize that with their country’s vulnerability to climate change closely linked to all of the Millennium Development Goals, halving poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and ensuring environmental stability remain an immense challenge.

As the United Nations Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation, I have been going around, even beyond the Asia Pacific region, campaigning for greater commitment among policy and decision-makers in building our resilience to disasters and to the impact of climate change.

In international climate talks, I persistently push for climate justice, urging industrialized countries to commit deep cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions and to support adaptation work in vulnerable nations, who have the least responsibility for having caused the climate crisis and have the least capacity to deal with its impact.
Climate change, affecting our fundamental right to life, food, potable water, shelter and security, is a real-life and real-time crisis in my country, the Philippines.

Through the Philippine Climate Change Act of 2009 and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, which I authored, proactive climate change and disaster preparedness measures were legislated. In the Philippine Senate, we have institutionalized a Committee on Climate Change, which I chair, to ensure the implementation of laws as well as the sustainability of initiatives for climate change adaptation.

I am also unrelenting in pushing for the full implementation of our major environmental laws: the Clean Air Act of 1999, the Clean Water Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, and the Renewable Energy Act.

Beyond the halls of the Senate, I run a nationwide awareness and education campaign on climate change, produce documentaries on climate change and environmental protection, implement an extensive tree-growing program through Green Philippines, a foundation I established in 1998, and mobilize humanitarian aid to disaster-affected and poverty-stricken communities.

Young as you are, I believe that you are the most active partners in challenging development norms, politics, governance and leadership.

You know as well as I do that the lack of political will, disregard for the environment, our failure to take action, and our apathy and complacency- all these have allowed disaster risks to grow, to spread, and to prevail until today. Fundamentally, leaders must re-think development – the kind of development that transcends traditional economic yardsticks such as GDP; and the kind founded on sustainability and socio-economic progress, ecosystems protection, and good governance.

With your future and your children’s future at stake, you are the effective frontliners in the overall climate change action. Youth climate movements facilitated by modern technology emerging in various parts of the globe and influencing policy are a testament to this. With your talents, enthusiasm, and passion, I trust that you will be my staunch partners in raising awareness for sustainable development, mobilizing direct action, and promoting solutions to climate change.

The time for talk is over. The time for action is now.

Thank you and good day.