CLIMATE CHANGE

Nowhere safe

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CLIMATE change is happening now, so there is a need to anticipate its effects on life and property. The Philippines, according to the CCC, or Climate Change Commission, is nowhere safe because of a number of factors affecting it, such as the excessive presence of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere that is brought about by human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels and bunker oils.

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In an interview with The Manila Times, Emmanuel de Guzman, executive director and vice chairman of CCC, said the “sharp increase” in the average global temperature—now at 1.1-degree Celsius—since 1850, or the pre-industrial revolution, has caused oceans to warm and brew super typhoons like Yolanda and Ondoy; massive hurricanes, such as Harvey and Irma; intense rainfalls; and severe droughts.

“In fact, sea-level rise, which causes storm surges and floods in our country, is thrice higher than the global average level,” he added. De Guzman said this puts at risk 60 percent of local government units (LGUs) covering 64 coastal provinces, 822 coastal municipalities, 25 major coastal cities and 13.6 million Filipinos who would need relocation.

Yolanda, which hit the country in 2013, claimed 6,300 lives and injured 28,688 others, left 1,062 missing, displaced 3.4 million families and damaged 1.1 million houses. The havoc it wreaked on public and private infrastructure and lands amounted to more than P89 billion.

Last year, the Philippines experienced one of the most severe droughts ever recorded. About 6,000 affected farmers held a protest in Kidapawan, North Cotabato, to demand assistance from the government. Such a tragic irony: Farmers–those who were supposed to provide food for the country–were the ones seeking help for their food.

In 2009, Ondoy brought nine hours of heavy rainfall equivalent to over a month’s volume, submerging the low-lying cities of Metro Manila and several provinces in Luzon. Typhoon Pepeng, on the other hand, unleashed its power shortly after and once more claimed lives and properties.

In Mindanao, long perceived to be typhoon-free, Sendong forcefully tore through the land with destructive flashfloods that washed away homes and people at its deltas.

De Guzman said the most recent Global Risk Index has ranked the Philippines as the fourth country most at risk from climate change. “By 2050, 90 percent of our coral reefs will have died or degraded,” he warned. “Keeping global warming low until the end of the century could allow our coral reserves to recover but only as much as 20 percent.”

De Guzman cited estimates by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) on the varying patterns and distributions of rain in the whole archipelago by 2020. Some areas are expected to have “significantly less rainfall,” while others will have “above normal rainfall” levels. “This could mean losses from increased incidence of floods, landslides and droughts,” he said.

Warning that failure to anticipate climate change will have devastating impacts, de Guzman added there would be a 50-percent decline in fish harvest by 2051-2060, while average agricultural losses would amount to P26 billion per year through 2050, when food prices would increase by 50 percent. He said 1.4 million Filipinos would go hungry by 2030 and 2.5 million more by 2050, while socioeconomic losses are estimated to be at 6 percent of GDP per annum by 2100, which will impede growth and development. Water collection at the Angat Dam, which supplies the Manila metropolitan area, meanwhile, has decreased by 500 million cubic meters over the last 50 years.

With a rise in temperature of 1.5- to 2.5-degree Celsius in a span of 50-100 years, de Guzman said 30 percent of species would be at risk of extinction. And saying that women are more vulnerable than men to the effects of climate change, he emphasized that higher temperatures trigger a surge of diseases like dengue, malaria, cholera and typhoid. In terms of productivity, climate change-induced heat in the workplace will also render a 10-percent loss in working hours, while global productivity loss will rise to more than $2 trillion by 2030.

Since all these perceived effects are imminent, de Guzman said, the Philippine government is implementing programs in response to climate change problems. “CCC has taken the lead in developing policies and coordinating actions toward enhancing the resilience of our country against the impacts of climate change, while pursuing green initiatives to limit global warming,” he added.

The CCC has crafted and is updating the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) 2011-2028, de Guzman said. The action plan outlines the specific long-term programs and strategies to address the effects of climate change (adaptation) and its causes (mitigation). His office is focused on capacitating the LGUs as they prepare and formulate their own science-based Local Climate Change Action Plan (LCCAP), which is founded on understanding climate and disaster risks and integrating risk assessment into local development planning processes.

To supplement efforts on the ground, Republic Act 10174, or the People’s Survival Fund (PSF), was passed in 2012. This allocates an annual budget of P1 billion from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) to finance the various climate-change programs of the LGUs.

The CCC has also rolled out the Communities for Resilience (CORE), its flagship program that seeks to revitalize partnership with grassroots communities within the 18 major river basins of the country. This will be done, according to de Guzman, through a series of training in a bid to make mainstream a risk-and-science-based approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation planning among the LGUs.

The technical services to all 1,710 LGUs, including provincial governments, throughout the country will be provided by 39 state universities and colleges that the CCC has formal agreements with.

In January 2015, during the Philippine chairmanship of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), an advocacy leadership group of 43 developing countries highly vulnerable to climate change, there was a successful championing of the 1.5-degree climate goal in the Paris Agreement. Manila pursued climate justice in the international arena as it held accountable the developed countries–which, it said, should provide more technical and financial support to poor nations–for contributing the most to global warming.

De Guzman said the CCC has been focused on achieving targets set in Manila’s local and international commitments, such as the Philippine Development Plan; Ambisyon Natin (Our Ambition) 2040; and the post-2015 global policy frameworks, namely, the Sendai Framework (for disaster risk reduction), the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The CCC must now focus on fostering cooperation among stakeholders, who should converge to finalize the Philippines’ NDCs, or Nationally Determined Contributions. NDCs identify the mitigation actions and adaptation priorities that the country will commit to undertake–due for submission in January 2018. “This process will engage key stakeholders in various sectors in determining sectoral targets and establishing transition plans,” de Guzman said. NDCs will serve as a roadmap toward a Philippine green economy and will provide a menu of climate change projects and programs that the public and private sectors could finance and implement.

The office of Sen. Loren Legarda, meanwhile, is working with the CCC in ushering green banking and financing into the Philippines. “There should be more avenues where climate finance could be accessed or initiated by just about anyone,” de Guzman said. “Our public and private banks could be our instruments to catalyze this much-needed green growth.”

Moreover, the CCC, along with concerned government agencies, is establishing an accreditation system to develop green standards and incentivize businesses that support green jobs and just transition, pursuant to the Green Jobs Act of 2016. The other projects and programs of the CCC include establishing national climate and disaster risk management information systems; undertaking National Energy Policy Review and Framework Development; mainstreaming climate change and disaster risk reduction in the K-to-12 curriculum; organizing the Climate Change Consciousness Week, by next month; and advancing the country’s interests during the climate negotiations at the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23), in Bonn, Germany, also in November.

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