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Local government leaders recognize climate emergency, seek strong climate action


TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte: “When will I die?” asked Mayor Alfred Romualdez as he recounted his horrifying near-death experience during the onslaught of super typhoon “Yolanda” (international name “Haiyan”) in Nov. 8, 2013 in his inspirational message during the Enhanced Local Climate Change Action Plan (E-LCCAP) Training for Yolanda Corridor local government units held at the Hotel Alejandro in this city.

Yolanda was one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded. It devastated the Philippines, especially the Eastern Visayas. It was the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record killing at least 6,300 people and left a “destruction on a massive scale” amounting to over P95 billion.

“For the first wave of this year’s resumption of the Communities for Resilience (CORE) Modular Training Rollout for Local Government, we only deem it fit to relaunch the CORE here in Tacloban, the ground zero of Yolanda. Tacloban, along with other cities and municipalities in the Yolanda Corridor, showed us that climate change is no longer a mere specter on the horizon. It is happening now and it will only get worse with business as usual. The Yolanda tragedy has made more pronounced the climate risk and vulnerabilities of the country,” Climate Change Commission (CCC) Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman said in his keynote speech.

Government leaders recognize climate emergency, call for ambitious climate action

In the document “The Communities for Resilience: Resolve of the Local Governments in the Yolanda Corridor,” signed by the local government leaders of the Yolanda Corridor — Romualdez of Tacloban City; Mayor Maria Ofelia Alcantara of Tolosa, Leyte; Mayor Midred Que of Dulag, Leyte; Mayor Lemuel Jin Traya of Abuyog, Leyte; and de Guzman — they committed to:

– Support the strengthening of cooperation between and among the national and local governments and the science and academic community on mainstreaming climate change adaptation and mitigation in local development planning

– Promote community-led climate change adaptation practices through peer-to-peer learning exchanges to accelerate and scale up climate resilience-building efforts at the local community level throughout the country

– Enhance our local climate change action plans to become science-based and risk-informed, more responsive to the prevailing and emerging needs of our local communities for climate change adaptation and mitigation, and more relevant to the pursuit of climate-resilient and low carbon investments for our sustainable future.

At the same time, the local government leaders “recognize the prevailing climate emergency in the country and the imperative for an effective, collective response at all levels considering the best available scientific knowledge and other specific needs and special circumstances of the country.” The same document stipulated the climate rationale:

– The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (C) (2018) found that human activities had caused approximately 1.0 C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, and projected that climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and infrastructure would increase with global warming of 1.5 C and further with 2 C

– The 5th IPCC Assessment Report concluded that climate change would create new poor between now and 2100 and will jeopardize sustainable development

– The Philippines ranked fifth among countries most affected by the impacts of extreme weather events from 1998 to 2017, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2019

– The Philippines is an archipelago, with most of its communities located in coastal areas and are prone to rising sea levels, which is nearly double the global average rate during 1993 to 2015 and, therefore, are at higher risk of coastal flooding, sea salt contamination of ground water, beach erosion and storm surges, among other impacts of climate change

– The observed temperature in the Philippines, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), is rising at an average rate of 0.1 C per decade and is projected to increase by as much as 0.9 C to 2.3 C by 2050, and to cause drastic changes in weather patterns, increase in frequency, intensity and duration of floods, and increase in frequency and intensity of droughts in the face of climate change

– The effects of slow onset events are particularly dire for vulnerable developing countries like the Philippines, where climate change worsens already difficult conditions in food security and the management of agriculture, fisheries and ecosystems

– Based on a study of the Asian Development Bank on the economics of climate change, the country stands to lose 6 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) annually by 2100. However, investing 0.5 percent of the country’s GDP by 2020 in climate change adaptation would avert losses by as much as 4 percent.

– According to the 2019 Global Report on Internal Displacement, the Philippines alone recorded 3.8 million new displacements associated with disasters in 2018, more than any other country worldwide.

– The Philippines has been the face of climate risk and vulnerability, even made more pronounced by the tragedy and devastation wrought by Yolanda in 2013

– There is a growing consensus that the entire planet is under a climate emergency, and that failure to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and to build the adaptive capacities of communities to climate change would lead to unprecedented loss to human society, environment and global economy.

Tolosa endorses the declaration of a climate emergency
Tolosa, under the leadership of Maria Ofelia Alcantara, endorses the declaration of a climate emergency and requests for a regional collaboration for an immediate just transition.

In its Resolution 08-64-2019 titled “Resolution Endorsing the Declaration of a Climate Emergency and Requesting Regional Collaboration on an Immediate Just Transition and Emergency Mobilization Effort to Restore a Safe Climate,” unanimously approved on Aug. 5, 2019, it “declares that a climate emergency threatens our municipality, state, civilization, humanity and the natural world.”

“The Municipality of Tolosa commits to a municipal-wide just transition and climate emergency mobilization effort to reverse global warming, which, with appropriate financial and regulatory assistance from the municipal government and the national government, ends municipal-wide greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible and no later than 2030, immediately initiates an effort to safely draw down carbon from the atmosphere and accelerates adaptation and resilience strategies in preparation for intensifying climate impacts,” the resolution further said.

The resolution was presented by Alcantara to de Guzman in a simple ceremony held at San Pedro Bay, Barangay Telegrafo, Tolosa.

Tolosa is a fifth-class municipality with a population of 20,978 (NSO 2015 Census) and located 24 kilometers south of Tacloban City.

About the Enhanced Local Climate Change Action Plan Training
The E-LCCAP Training is one of the CORE Capacity Building Program, a flagship program of the CCC. It is a five-day mentoring program, in collaboration with the Department of the Interior and Local Government-Local Government Academy, Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, Department of Science and Technology-Pagasa and various academic institutions, which presents and discusses a wide range of topics related to understanding vulnerabilities and climate risk information, both at the national and local levels.

The CORE Capacity Building Training Program incorporates the country’s National Framework Strategy on Climate Change 2010 to 2022, National Climate Change Action Plan 2011 to 2028 and the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Plan 2011 to 2028, as well as the post-2015 global frameworks for development.

Participants were trained on the components of E-LCCAP, namely climate and disaster risk assessment, ecosystem-based adaptation framework, community-level greenhouse gas inventory, climate change expenditure tagging, and accessing the people’s survival fund.

The author is the executive director of the Young Environmental Forum. He completed his climate change and development course at the University of East Anglia and executive program on sustainability leadership at Yale University. The author delivered on Friday, August 16, a 60-minute talk about the environment and climate change during the Youth Sustainability Convergence in Teacher’s Camp, Baguio City. He may be emailed at [email protected]

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