PH boosts action for climate, community resilience

By Catherine Teves

December 31, 2021, 2:08 pm

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – The government further enhanced its efforts this year to build climate resilience among communities nationwide and address climate change to better protect the environment, lives and property.

In April, the government finally submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat the Philippines' first nationally determined contribution (NDC) which covers planned reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the country.

This signified the commitment of the Philippines, a UNFCCC party, to help meet the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global temperature rise through GHG emission reduction worldwide so Earth can avoid dangerous climate change.

At the UN's 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Scotland in November, the Philippine government also reiterated its call for climate justice and developed countries' financial and technical support for climate initiatives of developing nations.

The government likewise reconstituted the National Panel of Technical Experts (NPTE) of Climate Change Commission (CCC) and focused this group's thrust on generating recommendations for implementing local climate change adaptation and mitigation measures that will help build communities' resilience.

"We have drawn up a Sustainable Finance Roadmap to help orchestrate public and private sector efforts to green our economy," Department of Finance (DOF) Sec. and CCC Chairperson-designate Carlos Dominguez III also said in his 2021 message for the country's annual Global Warming and Climate Change Consciousness Week observance.

He raised the urgency for action, noting climate change "is a battle we cannot afford to lose."

The devastation caused by the onslaught of extreme weather events already gave a preview of what inaction on climate change can lead to, he said.

According to experts, various human activities like fossil fuel-based power generation are among sources of GHG emissions.

They said GHG emissions continue accumulating in the atmosphere and trapping heat so global temperature is rising, changing climate.

The NPTE identified the Philippines' top climate-induced risks as rising sea level, coastal erosion, flooding, increasing frequency and severity of tropical cyclones, extreme drought, temperature increase and rising urban heat index, extreme rainfall, climate-influenced diseases, wind patterns and biodiversity loss, the DOF said.

It also said NPTE recommended several measures for dealing with such risks.

Among such measures are conducting nationwide climate and health impact assessments and including climate finance in LGUs' investment and development plans, the DOF said.

Experts said the Philippines accounts for less than 1 percent of global GHG emissions so this country is not a major source of these discharges.

Through its NDC, however, the Philippines still committed 75 percent GHG emission reduction and avoidance nationwide by 2030 in the agriculture, waste, industry, transport, and energy sectors.

Of such target, the government said 2.71 percent will be implemented mainly through domestic resources.

The government also said the target's remaining 72.29 percent is conditional or contingent upon climate finance, technologies, and capacity development which developed countries are expected to provide in accordance with Paris Agreement.

"We expect that developed nations, which historically caused the global climate crisis, will deliver their commitments to Paris Agreement with the right speed and scale to keep global average temperature from breaching the 1.5 degrees Celsius survival threshold," Dominguez said.

He considers the present time until 2030 "critical", noting this period is an opportunity to undertake low-carbon and resilient development as well as other climate action that'll ensure Earth's well-being "before it's too late."

Dominguez headed the Philippine delegation to the COP26.

The Philippines is "very reliant" on international financial support for capacity-building and technology transfers which climate projects need, he admitted.

"We hope this COP26 will result in positive action and will start the flow of funds to help countries,” he said at the conference.

Climate finance must cover grants for capacity-building, investments for green projects that'll generate high returns, and subsidies for addressing financial costs and risks of communities shifting to a climate-resilient economy, he noted.

He said the World Bank Group, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank can work together on addressing climate change and greening aspects of loans from these major multilateral development banks.

The search for international financial support isn't deterring the Philippines from undertaking locally supported doable climate action, Dominguez clarified, however.

"We realize that we are one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and we have decided to take action on our own and we will not wait for international agreements on climate change," he said.

The CCC said various local projects worth some PHP310 million already availed of funding support through the government's People's Survival Fund (PSF).

In 2012, Republic Act (RA) 10174 was passed, amending RA 9729 (Climate Change Act of 2009), and created PSF to help LGUs and accredited local/community organizations implement climate change adaptation projects in the country.

These projects aim to help vulnerable communities better deal with the changing climate, noted CCC which is part of the board that administers PSF.

The government reconstituted the NPTE so this group's current members are Filipino experts who can help promote doable climate action on the ground, Dominguez said.

"We are no longer in the business of building a grand theory about climate change. Science has accumulated enough evidence about what is happening and what all of humanity needs to do to reverse the apocalyptic course of planetary warming. We are now in the business of implementing concrete projects and programs to build the resilience of our communities, reverse degradation and protect our vital food sources," the finance chief said.

"What is global must now be addressed at the local level. What was theoretical now demands practical applications on the ground. No red light can stop us from moving towards a greener future. We have brought together brilliant minds to ensure that our race towards our planet’s survival will be coherent, concerted and compelling," he added.

To help promote public and private investment in green undertakings nationwide, the government developed the Philippine Sustainable Finance Roadmap that's anchored on three strategic pillars.

Those pillars are policy (creating a conducive environment), financing (mainstreaming sustainable finance) and investment (developing a sustainable pipeline), DOF noted.

A set of guiding principles serve as taxonomy for the country's sustainable finance ecosystem, DOF continued.

"The roadmap and its guiding principles are expected to spur investments from various financing sources to support the country’s NDC and long-term priorities," DOF said.

Dominguez said the Philippines also decided to participate in Energy Transition Mechanism, ADB's public-private finance vehicle for helping accelerate countries' transition towards a clean energy future.

Retiring GHG emission-intense coal-fired power plants around the country and replacing these with facilities using renewable energy will help accelerate such transition, he noted.

"The time for debate and merely discussing climate change theories is over - today, we are focusing on applied solutions and workable programs to quickly reduce GHG emissions," he said.

In October, Dominguez introduced to the public members of the reconstituted NPTE.

He said they are environmental planning and engineering expert Dr. Jihan H. Adil from Zamboanga City; agricultural engineer and Mariano Marcos State University's College of Engineering Dean Dr. Nathaniel R. Alibuyog; chemical engineer and waste management specialist Dr. Zenaida L. Andrade from Tacloban City; biological oceanography, coastal ecology and fisheries expert Dr. Wilfredo L. Campos from Iloilo province; agricultural economics and environmental accounting specialist Dr. Gay D. Defiesta also from Iloilo; climate change and public health expert Dr. Ramon Lorenzo Luis R. Guinto from Laguna province; upland, lowland and coastal forest landscape restoration and conservation specialist Dr. Eduardo O. Mangaoang from Leyte as well as fisheries and mangroves expert Dr. Jimmy T. Masagca.

The new NPTE members also include public health and food security expert Dr. Susan P. Mercado; marine scientist and coastal resource management specialist Dr. Richard N. Muallil from Tawi-Tawi province; climate and disaster resilience expert Dr. Emma E. Porio from Quezon City; disaster risk management and water resource assessment specialist Dr. Patricia Ann J. Sanchez from Iloilo; geodetic engineer and Caraga State University College of Engineering and Geosciences Dean Engr. Merriam M. Santillan; post-harvest fisheries specialist and University of the Philippines-Visayas College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences Dean Dr. Encarnacion Emilia S. Yap; inclusive business models, sustainable tourism and gender inclusivity expert Dr. Maria Angela G. Zafra from Davao City as well as geography, hazards studies and extreme weather events specialist Dr. Doracie B. Zoleta-Nantes from Quezon province, he continued.

"I am proud to say that we have brought together a high-caliber team of Filipino experts representing the broadest range of disciplines and backgrounds," he said.

He said NPTE's current composition doesn't merely represent change in this group's membership.

NPTE's current composition "reflects a change of paradigm in our efforts to combat the effects of climate change,” he added. (PNA)