I have just arrived from Bonn, Germany where I attended the 23rd Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Once again, the Philippines sent an outstanding delegation led by an able and focused Secretary Manny de Guzman, vice chair of the Climate Change Commission, in the first week. I am proud to have served once again as an adviser to our delegation. This was my 18th COP, missing only the years 2004-2008 when I consciously did not work globally on climate, preferring to immerse myself in thinking through the issues of adaptation. President Duterte is the fifth president of the Philippines I have served in these negotiations and I am glad that we have been quite consistent about prioritizing both mitigation and adaptation.
Last Monday, Senator Loren Legarda, who became the head of our delegation in Bonn, delivered two speeches that espoused this view of mitigation and adaptation.
In a side event sponsored by the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, and Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, Senator Legarda recalled how the people of Fiji, the COP President, and other climate vulnerable nations are seeing the destruction caused by rapid onset events, more commonly known as extreme weather events. According to Legarda: “We are also already dealing with the slow onset events or creeping impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise and ocean acidification.”
As expected, Senator Legarda emphasized the 1.5°C goal that the Philippines and other members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) has been espousing. According to her: “For vulnerable nations like ours, it is actually 1.5°C that gave birth to Paris, because without this long-term temperature threshold goal, this agreement would have been like many others—with no driver of ambition and transformation, and blind to consequences.”
Legarda then praised the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for rising to the critical task of assessing all of the science related to the 1.5°C target. The report is expected to propose enhanced climate action “by highlighting what more can be done now and in the near future to better align with 1.5 and by indicating how significant the additional risks are for just half a degree.”
The Senator also praised other member nations of the Climate Vulnerable Forum for continuing to lead the charge in addressing climate change. Quoting from an analysis of Climate Action Tracker released last week, Legarda pointed out that only Morocco and the Gambia have nationally determined contributions that are compatible with 1.5˚C. She also highlighted that four out of the five countries which have 2˚C-compatible climate action plans are also members of the CVF: Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and the Philippines.
Senator Legarda promised to do everything in her power to ensure the Philippines’ NDC will soon be rated 1.5˚C-compatible as well. She laid down the argument for this very clearly.
“We continue to pursue a development path consistent with 1.5 degrees not only because we know it is the best way to protect our people and climate, but also because we know it will also spur economic growth.
However, there is more than just energy to consider in the transition to clean energy-powered economies is critical to climate action. The race to 1.5˚C-compatible economies presents to the ambitious an opportunity to transform development itself.
To start, we need climate-responsive plans and policies that would allow us to upgrade virtually all facets of our economies, which can only produce massive jobs and pump prime our economies. This can be done by first filling the staggering gap in local and national climate data through a research framework that encompasses both the rapid onset and slow onset impacts of climate change. Having a deep understanding of our vulnerabilities will enable us to plan better and smarter.
We would therefore need to garner international climate finance support for data-gathering technology and bottom-up capacity building measures to enable a better understanding of our risks and investment opportunities.
And while we need to ensure that the pledges amounting to 100 billion dollars in public finance annually are delivered with the right balance, this figure pales starkly in comparison to private finance, which we need to tap with urgency.
We need financing and de-risking facilities that unlock investments in critical infrastructure assets outlined in the vulnerable country-led Climate Infrastructure Blueprints, including urban services, transport, water, energy, sustainable landscapes, and ocean and coastal ecosystems.
Working closely with our development partners, and with boldness, we can more rapidly de-risk investments even as we rapidly increase incentives that pull in the right kind of private sector capital towards climate-resilient, sustainable and inclusive plans that likewise contribute to the fight to keep warming within the 1.5 degree threshold.”
Another speech in Bonn, delivered also last Monday, gave Senator Legarda a chance to share her thinking on adaptation. According to her, adaptation has always been at the center of the Philippines’ climate change strategy. We see this in the Climate Change Act, in the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change, and the National Climate Change Action Plan.
Senator Legarda did not forget to highlight the importance of getting more definitive commitments from developed countries to finance adaptation in the UNFCCC process. This is consistent with our demand for climate justice. Echoing what many of us have been saying for years, Legarda argued that adaptation should be placed on equal footing with mitigation. Indeed, we need scaled-up, continuous, predictable, and adequate financial support for adaptation.
In teaching and writing about climate change, I have observed that the first decade of climate negotiation and action was focused on mitigation by developed countries of their carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. This was followed by a second decade which saw the need for the big developing countries like China and India to also reduce or stabilize their emissions; but alongside this was the emergence of adaptation as an agenda equal to mitigation. Today, on the third decade of the UNFCCC, climate justice is rightly the emerging priority. As Senator Legarda emphasized in Bonn, all our actions, adaptation and mitigation, must now be through this lens.
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