Friday, July 23, 2010

July 22, 2010

If there is one vehicle in the country that deserves blaring sirens, it's the ambulance called climate action. Its mission: administer public finance at the soonest possible time to communities most vulnerable to increasingly severe climate change impacts.

A team composed of the country's best environmental, scientific and political medics is ready. What the ambulance needs desperately is the best driver in town. His name is P-Noy.

The dangers we confront today in the face of climate change are no longer unknown to us.

Feverish temperatures, intense precipitation and severe drought, rising sea levels and storm surges -- Filipinos have already begun to experience what the future might be like if concerted global action is not taken soon.

We also know who will be hit hardest - impoverished working Filipinos, particularly the most vulnerable among the poor such as small women farmers and urban poor mothers.

Few doubt that action needs to be taken with a sense of urgency equal both to principles of basic justice and the magnitude of the climate threat facing the Philippines. But it is no longer sufficient to just demand dramatic greenhouse gas emissions reductions from developed nations. It is no longer enough to simply insist that funds from those responsible for the problem flow urgently towards victims of the avarice of elites in rich and developing countries.

It's time to take steps that decisively protect our people.

The failure of Copenhagen to deliver a fair, ambitious and binding deal on urgent mitigation and financing issues, and the threat of another dismal, if not collapse, of international climate talks has left developing countries like the Philippines with little choice but to take local action.

Governance chaos currently reigns over the administration of foreign-sourced climate finance that has entered the Philippines. This has skewed domestic action towards the wrong priorities. More international finance has gone to mitigation efforts instead of adaptation activities. Worse, it appears most resources allocated for Philippine adaptation efforts have come in the form of loans. This is the case with the $250 million package approved recently by the World Bank supposedly to help recovery efforts of Filipinos hit by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. What an irony - long after the typhoon-induced flood waters have receded, poor communities will remain mired in debt.

All this is contrary to the negotiating position in the global climate talks championed for years by the Philippines: climate finance is neither aid nor charity but compensatory by nature. But it would be folly to depend on the largesse of developed countries.

Global funds for climate-resilient development appear to be proliferating at unprecedented rates, but the scale of resources so far pledged is far from the magnitude of finance required to meet the needs of countries like the Philippines. In addition, most of the pledges remain just that -- pledges written on water, many recycled from previous commitments.

Among developing countries, mitigation efforts alone are estimated to cost $140 to $175 billion a year over the next 20 years while adaptation investments are projected to average $30 to $100 billion a year over the period 2010 to 2050. Sadly, only $2 billion of the total $19 billion pledged funds have been deposited into dedicated climate funds, with only $700 million disbursed.

This is the reason why new climate-driven public finance initiatives from luminaries such as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile deserve the public's support. Among other aims, Enrile intends to establish what he calls The National Survival Fund, which will help secure the long-term viability of Philippine development ambitions. It will democratize access to and create predictable, long-term finance streams for adaptation activities and climate-induced disaster preparedness programs. It will also prioritize areas in the country that require urgent adaptation support based on mechanisms that ensure effective fund delivery, with fiduciary requirements that build public trust and which ensure participation by civil society organizations and congressional oversight.

It's time to make adaptation to climate change the national imperative. It's time to ensure domestic policy measures are consistent with such a position, especially the pursuit of low carbon development, which will make our country stronger and more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

In his inaugural address, P-Noy said the people are his boss. He deserved the public's applause for speaking the truth. But because he forgot to mention even once the word "environment", he also failed to remind Filipinos who the boss of humankind is. Right now, God-given nature is hopping mad, and people who have contributed least to the climate crisis are paying for the sins of the rich.

The only Philippine vehicle that deserves blaring sirens is the ambulance called climate action. Its mission: protect at the soonest possible time communities most vulnerable to climate change impacts. The steering wheel awaits P-Noy's hands. #

No comments: