Official outlines why business must worry about climate change

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 2 February) – How does climate change affect business operations, particularly on production, labor, and value chains?

Businessman Antonio Peralta, in a Rotary Club gathering Wednesday, offered some disturbing answers, and challenging solutions.

Peralta chairs the Southern Mindanao Business Council, a group that operates under the aegis of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines. He also heads the Foundation for Rural Enterprise and Ecology Development of Mindanao (FREEDOM Inc.).

FREEDOM itself is keenly focused on the environment as it is poised to assist clients build resistance to climate change’s impact on agribusiness, manufacturing, and other vital sectors, Peralta said.

In his Rotary presentation, he warned that climate change can “adversely affect sources of raw materials and disrupt labor conditions.”

There will also be shifts in rainfall patterns, which can be a cause for concern as “too much or lack of rainfall can affect production.”

Rivers can become “more seasonal,” he noted, or these may disappear altogether.

Such unnatural conditions, Peralta added, “can affect production, transport of finished products, destroy crops, and affect quality of products.”

Perhaps one of the more telling results of extreme weather, the development official said, is the re-emergence in the countryside of diseases like malaria. This can have debilitating effects upon farm workers, he cautioned.

Peralta expressed concern over the increasing frequency of storms and other calamities.

One of the strongest of such typhoons was Yolanda, which in 2013 left more than 6,000 dead in Eastern Visayas. A staggering $12.9 billion in damages was recorded.

There are more hot days and warm nights in the country, he noted, and less cold days and cool nights, affirming a recent United Nations report that developing countries, located as they are in warmer latitudes, are much more vulnerable to extreme weather.

The country’s vulnerability, in fact, is even more worrisome, he said, with a 32,400-kilometer coastline. Seventy percent of the country’s 1,500 municipalities are said to derive their incomes from that long stretch of livelihood.

In order to help arrest this trend, traders, farmers, and other agricultural stakeholders would do well to explore ways on how to develop new crop varieties that are drought resistant, how to improve storage and processing techniques, and how to promote greater crop diversity, said Peralta, who once helped launch donor-assisted development initiatives in Mindanao.

Among other options, he pushed for improved livestock feeding strategies, the restoration and conservation of grasslands, the optimal treatment of manure, the improvement of animal husbandry and soil and water management standards, and the long-term practicality of contour planting.

Turning to a specific industry sector, Peralta challenged builders to be climate-sensitive, encouraging architects and contractors to “use energy-efficient and green buildings,” as these “substantially lessen (CO2) emissions.”

He said that this may be achieved through the “use of resources by integrating efficient systems (heating, cooling, lighting, water); by using alternative energy sources; retaining energy (efficient insulation and windows); and using recycle or low-energy building materials.”

He also enjoined urban planners to pursue “reliable waste water management systems that ensure the efficient treatment and recycling of domestic and industrial effluents in the mining, manufacturing, and tourism industries.”

Inviting his fellow traders to “think green,” Peralta said builders should respond to the adverse effects of global warming by devising better ways to build infrastructure.

He said that private enterprise, “as society’s engine of growth, has much to lose in climate anomalies.”

In the immediate term, the business community can help “seek long-term viable solutions to resolve the structural weaknesses of basic utilities (power, water, and road access) in the event of major calamities,” he continued, and that “this is important in order to reduce the turnaround time in restoring normal business conditions.” (Nikki Gomez / MindaNews contributor)