Philippines, Pacific islands urged to lead the world in climate change fight

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Vulnerability to climate change impacts is greater in poor countries. But rich nations can learn a new path towards climate resilience from poor nations such as the Philippines and the Pacific islands as their knowledge and understanding of adaptation to climate change is impressive, a top European Union official said.

Philippines and the Pacific islands are increasingly engaging its people on how to tackle the impacts of the changing climate by integrating adaptation plans into development, programmes and budgeting and other integrated approach to adaptation which is imperative, said EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard.

“ You can see how the Philippines started to integrate climate change into their development strategies, growth strategies, job generation and social aspects,” Hedegaard said. “Also in the Pacific islands, you can really see what is happening to them now is coming to the rest of the world next with increasing water levels and sea levels. But they can show to the rest of world that they can do it.”

Hedegaard Frebort

Hedegaard lauded the aggressive approach of the Philippines to climate change citing the creation of the Climate Change Act of 2009, which produced the Climate Change Commission (CCC) as well as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010. She was impressed that the country has been integrating climate risk management and adaptation to climate change into development projects and policies.

She said many islands in the Pacific– Marshall Islands, Solomons, Tuvalu, Carteret Islands and other low-lying island nations –are also vulnerable, and that they can share their experiences to climate change and how they are adapting to its impacts while the governments tackle climate finance.

“I think they are now telling their stories, showing examples of resiliency and they are proving that they can adapt but the whole world must get its act together,” the Commissioner said, who attended the recent Pacific Islands Forum early this month in Majuro, Marshall Islands. She added that the “Majuro Declaration” of leadership signed by all Pacific Islands during the meeting hopes to inspire other countries to focus on climate change fight.

Identified as the third most vulnerable country to climate change and extreme weather events by the United Nations University Institute of Environment and Human Security’s World Risk Report 2012, Hedegaard said Philippines should “take this opportunity to talk about climate change and urge the world to urgently act.”

Vanuatu and Tonga come first and second in the World Risk Report 2012 as they are highly vulnerable from sea-level rise and judged to be poorly armed to cope with disasters. Qatar shows the lowest risk worldwide.

The Philippines got an overall rating of 24.32% in the risk index. On exposure to risk, it received 45.09% rating, vulnerability 53.93%, susceptibility 34.99%, lack of coping capacity 82.78%, and lack of adaptive capacity with 44.01%.

Despite the difficult economic situation in EU, Hedegaard said it has already contributed 7.3 billion euro pledge of the so-called fast start climate finance.

According to Lubomir Frebort of the EU delegation, the EU has been assisting the Philippines through forest protection project with P60 million fund and another P20 million for low-emission capacity building programs with the CCC. That is apart from a number of European companies investing in renewable energy such as on wind power.

Hedegaard with Sering

Progress on mainstreaming climate adaptation

Climate Change Commission (CCC) Secretary Mary Ann Lucille Sering said that over the past three years, the government began its shift from reactionary policies to a more proactive stance, adding that the country is now consciously considering climate impacts in all government planning and national adaptation strategy .

Sering said that on-going projects and programs are focused on adaptation, disaster reduction, promotion of low-carbon development utilizing renewables, solid waste management and climate-proofing of infrastructure.

Other programs being implemented in 2013 include vulnerability assessment of various sectors, especially agriculture; the scaling-up the nation’s “eco-town framework” on building sustainable towns; and a youth advocacy campaign called the “Greeneration”.

The government also is pushing for a land-use bill that would incorporate climate change and disaster risk reduction issues in land use decision making, Sering said.

“ Our ‘eco-town framework’ is intended to mix both mitigation and adaptation measures. For instance, the push for renewables may provide electricity but it must also provide jobs in the process. Improve capacity to earn and to give them more access to financing,” Sering explained. “ It’s time that we harness local resources to support a green growth and lessen dependence on foreign goods. Think global but act local.”

At the same time, the CCC has partnered this year with the Government of New Zealand through the New Zealand Aid Programme for its “Project ReBUILD” which aims to assess the disaster vulnerabilities of the cities and municipalities surrounding the Cagayan River Basin (Region 2 and CAR) and the Jalaur River basin (Region 6), to geological, meteorological and meteorologically-induced hazards due to climate change. The result will provide the basis for priority mitigation and actions like community based and managed early warning systems and integrated contingency planning and mobilization.

The Commission, under the office of the President, has also formulated the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change (NFSCC), National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) and guidelines for Local Climate Change Action Plan (LCCAP).

In  the 2013 national budget, Sering said the government has already set aside 12 billion pesos ($295 million) for enhancing geohazard maps to include multiple hazards, early warning systems and other infrastructures to improve capacity to reduce risks

Last year, President Benigno Aquino III signed a law creating the 1 billion peso ($24.5 million) Peoples’ Survival Fund (PSF), which is expected to receive funding by 2014. The fund aims to implement local climate change action plans to make communities more resilient to climate-induced disasters.

“ While we adapt, a truly responsive climate funding is needed.  We need the support that will allow us to improve our capacities to cope with the impacts of the changing climate, such as funding for mitigation and adaptation,” Sering said.

 

Written By Imelda V. Abano, PNEJ member

photos: Mau Victa and Dino Balabo, PNEJ members; EU

Imelda Abano
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Imelda Abano

Editor-in-Chief at Philippine EnviroNews
--Founder and President of the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists;
--Asian Developmental Journalist of the Year, 2009
-- UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) media fellow 2008-2014
-- Council of Leaders of the US-based Earth Journalism Network;
--Board of Director of the US-based Society of Environmental Journalists
Imelda Abano
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