MANILA, Philippines – “At the time Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the Philippines, you became the talisman to the world. Your experience was the reminder of the future we all face.”
This was the message that World Bank (WB) vice president and special envoy for climate change Rachel Kyte gave to legislators, government officials, and members of the academe in a forum held at the House of Representatives on Thursday, May 22.
Kyte, who was in the Philippines for the World Economic Forum 2014, discussed the importance of crafting and implementing environment-friendly and climate change-adaptive policies and creating disaster-resilient communities.
“Climate change is something legislatures around the world need to understand. The cost of inaction is higher than the cost of action,” Kyte said.
The country has existing laws on climate change mitigation and disaster response – the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, which strengthens the national government and local government units’ disaster response and reduction management, and the Climate Change Act of 2009, which created the Climate Change Commission (CCC) “to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change.”
However, much still needs to be improved in implementing the laws.
Key areas of concern
Kyte suggested 5 areas where government, the private sector, and civil society efforts are needed to lessen the impact of climate change.
1) Build low-carbon, climate-resilient cities
According to Kyte, over the next 40 years, experts are expecting an explosion of urban populations with 2.6 billion people added to cities, with 90% of this growth expected to happen in Africa and Asia.
“The future cities of the world are being built on the coastal zones of Asia and Africa. By 2050, this means that we will have doubled the number of people exposed to disasters in cities,” she added.
Metro Manila, being one of the most vulnerable cities in the world, needs to start the innovations suggested by experts, Kyte said.
“What you will start here will become a blueprint for the rest of the world to follow,” she stressed.
“Innovation in all aspects of development is going to be a challenge but it is the absolutely essential next step,” Kyte added.
2) Build climate-smart agriculture
Food security is a top concern for climate change and disasters. Kyte said that it is important to bolster farmers’ resilience while enhancing agricultural productivity.
“It is possible to increase yield, build resilient communities that farm, and make agriculture systems resilient to changing weather patterns. At the same time, by the way in which we farm, we can reduce carbon gasy emissions,” she added.
3) Accelerate energy efficiency
Kyte emphasized the need to shift from fossil fuel and coal generated energy to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, water, and geothermal.
“We are urging policy makers and regulators to drive energy efficiency on a large scale through standards for buildings, lightings, and vehicles, and to encourage markets for energy efficient solutions,” Kyte added.
4) Accelerate investment in renewable energy
Kyte said that there is a need to increase the efficiency of current economic policies to incentivize companies that shift to renewable energy.
“In many countries today, we subsidize the bad and do not incentivize the good. For many countries, fossil fuel substance that is harmful and that increases carbon needs to be reduced in a way that doesn’t punish,” Kyte added.
She also said governments should incentivize civil society organizations that promote and shift to renewable energy.
5) Put a price on carbon
Kyte said this is critical to turning energy use and driving investment toward low-carbon growth.
“If you put a price on it, you will provoke conversations in government, conversations in parliament project committees, in board rooms. You will start to see a shift from carbon-intensive growth to low-carbon growth,” she added.
For a low carbon-emitting country like the Philippines, Kyte said this is the perfect time for carbon pricing, given the country’s steady economic growth.
“It is in your own interest to grow in a low carbon environment,” she said.
According to Kyte, these are the most important things that must be done because “time is not on our side,” she added.
Real economic impact
The effects of climate change should be everyone’s concern. Extreme weather conditions equate to more loss of lives, poverty incidence, and infrastructure damage.
“To end extreme poverty, we have to build resilient communities and mitigate disasters,” she added.
According to WB data, economic losses from natural disasters have risen from around US $50 billion a year in the 1980s to US $200 billion a year in the last decade. Around 75% of the losses are results from extreme weather.
Kyte added that it is important to mobilize the public and private sectors, especially from the poorest countries, to invest in climate change resilient plans and safer communities.
Country in spotlight
Because of the Philippines’ experience during Yolanda, Kyte said WB, international agencies, and many countries around the world are looking at how the country will rebuild its communities.
“We very much hope that in the execution of the policies and plans that you have put in place, you will demonstrate a new way of thinking about how to finance additional costs of resilience and how to make that an integral part of your financial services and projects,” she said.
WB gave US $500 million in financial assistance to the government 2 weeks after the super typhoon hit Eastern Visayas. They provided another US $500 million for community-driven development projects later.
“We hope that our partnership with you will give you a platform for resiliency and that you will become a beacon of hope for other countries, in the same situation as you are, those that are vulnerable,” Kyte said.
Kyte added that the Philippines’ next action could start a ripple effect to the international community.
“You have had an impact. We do see more countries earnestly trying to put the right policies in place. Is it enough for the next vulnerable community? No. But I believe we are getting there,” Kyte concluded. – Rappler.com
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