How the Paris climate deal can save lives

Renee Julienne M. Karunungan

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How the Paris climate deal can save lives


The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, but its mitigation and adaptation plans are not ambitious

BONN, Germany – All roads lead to Paris in December to ensure that every country will act on climate change. The Conference of Parties (COP) 21 is expected to come up with a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

After the failure of Copenhagen in 2009 to lock in this agreement, many are looking forward at a successful outcome in Paris. This is especially true because the last 6 years have seen many countries undergo extreme weather events, with thousands of lives lost.

After 20 years of talks and little action, there is much hope that the urgency of acting on climate change has become clearer this time around.

But if the conference succeeds, it will just be the beginning of a long journey in dealing with climate change. Right now, countries have their own set of commitments which can be seen through their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). The INDC serves as their contribution in creating a climate-resilient future and ensuring global warming stays below 2°C. 

Setting ambitious targets

But climate is changing, and it is changing fast. Every year, typhoons get stronger, drought gets longer, and the temperature increases.

This is why it is important that countries set ambitious targets, constantly be able to review it, and make new commitments every so often. This is where the concept of “5 year cycles” comes in.

According to the World Research Institute (WRI), the five-year cycles are meant “for assessing and strengthening countries’ actions to reduce emissions, adapt to climate change, and support low-carbon growth in a manner that is fair, equitable, and just.” Included in this cycles are mitigation, adaptation, and support.

“The 5 year cycles is important for the Philippines. Our INDC is just an official offer we will make and its constant review will allow us to take into consideration our Philippine Development Plan and economic growth,” Joy Goco, Assistant Secretary of the Climate Change Commission and head of the Philippine delegation in the Bonn climate negotiations, said.

The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. And yet, our mitigation and adaptation plans are not ambitious.

Our adaptation plans, specifically, have fallen short. Our People’s Survival Fund Law, passed in 2012 and which created a 1 billion peso fund for local governments’ local climate change adaptation plan (LCCAP), has not been implemented. No one has accessed these funds. As a result, we have not been able to prepare for catastrophic events such as Yolanda.

Financing adaptation 

In this age where “normal” is defined by typhoons going at 195 miles per hour, the next catastrophy is not a question of if but a question of when. And weak adaptation plans could mean that we will continue to face extreme weather events without strong defenses. 

With the 5 year cycles, each countries’ adaptation plans will be reviewed based on what they have already done, what they still need to do, and what they can do better with more support, including finance, capacity building, and technology and development cycle. 

Jasper Inventor of Greenpeace Philippines says that the Philppines should champion means of implementation in the agreement in order to ensure resources for adaptation.

“Finance for adaptation should be in the core of interest for the Philippines,” he said.

Finance for adaptation has been difficult for developing countries like the Philippines. According to a study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), developing countries need around $300 billion annually by 2050 for adaptation alone.

Where will these resources come from?

“Right now, developed countries are giving us ‘peanuts’ for financing adaptation,” Inventor said.

At the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform (ADP) on adaptation held in Bonn, the United States made a position that finance should not be included in the adaptation section of the agreement. The G77 countries, led by Bolivia, stood their ground. Bolivia reminded US why finance must be mentioned in adaptation — to ensure developed countries’ support for developing countries.

Through the 5-year cycles, vulnerable countries like the Philippines can demand developed countries for support. Developed countries will have the responsibility to support developing countries in its adaptation needs.

Climate change impacts are urgent and happening fast. We need to be just as fast in adapting to it. The 5-year cycle of adaptation and finance will strengthen our adaptation efforts, preparing us for the next Yolanda (Haiyan) and other climate change impacts. It will help save the lives of thousands of Filipinos. 

Renee Juliene Karunungan, 25, is the advocacy director of Dakila. Dakila jas been campaigning for climate justice since 2009. She is also a climate tracker for Adopt A Negotiator.

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