PNoy asked to give serious attention to climate change

MANILA (MindaNews/19 October) – Members of the civil society coalition Aksyon Klima who met in a national consultation yesterday under the fury of super typhoon Juan which ravaged the northern part of Luzon, called on President Benigno S. Aquino III to make climate change an urgent and vital action area in his government.

No less than Climate Change Commissioner Lucille Sering urged the President to sit down as soon as possible with the Climate Change Commission.

Aquino, by virtue of the Climate Change Act of 2009, himself chairs the Commission but has yet to preside over the important collegial body which is mandated to “be the sole policy-making body of the government which shall be tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change pursuant to the provisions of this Act.”

Sering, who hails from typhoon-prone Surigao City, said that with climate change impacts being experienced by the country, all development efforts, including the investments in our economy and infrastructure could be erased in one sweep by climate change-induced weather anomalies.

The country, which has an average of 21 typhoons a year, may face eleven more typhoons the magnitude of super typhoon Juan, officials from the Philippine Astronomical, Geophysical and Atmospheric Service Administration (Pagasa) warned.

Although there will be less number of typhoons this year due to the El Nino phenomenon, severe weather anomalies comparable in magnitude to Juan may rock the country until March 2011with a strong La Nina event.

Sering said it is important for the country to center its climate change policy on mitigation, which in effect would create communities which are resilient to abnormal weather events.

She said the Climate Change Act should be implemented with the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2009. The said Act mandates the national and local governments to shift their disaster response from preparedness and relief to disaster risk reduction.

At the center of the debate on the country’s climate policy is the “adaptation or mitigation” question. Adaptation refers to activities that make the country and the people more resilient to climate change impacts, while mitigation primarily refers to cuts in greenhouse gas emissions like carbon whose huge accumulation in the atmosphere resulted in climate change.

As a developing country, the Philippines is not obliged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate adaptation is viewed by many as an issue of “climate justice” and that the developed countries like the US, Europe and Japan, the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, should compensate developing countries that are less resilient to climate change.

Sering however, said that much still needs to be done in making the country’s policy on climate change focus on mitigation. She cited that 90 percent of budget of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for climate change is still on mitigation.

These climate change mitigation measures are mostly in the form of loans from multilateral and bilateral financial institutions.

Climate change impacts in the Philippines could be severe. Studies have indicated that without disaster risk reduction, 50 percent of the country’s vital infrastructure like roads and bridges could be damaged by extreme weather events induced by climate change.

According to the 2010-2022 National Framework Strategy for Climate Change, the average temperature in the country could increase from 0.9 degrees Celsius to 1.2 degrees Celsius by 2020 and from 1.7 to 3 degrees Celsius in 2050.

Increasing temperatures could result in sea level rise and could be very catastrophic to archipelagic countries like the Philippines.

According to the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria), a one-meter sea level rise could result in the inundation of 129,114 hectares of the country. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)