ELEVENTH HOUR: Building resilience amid the climate, environmental, and pollution crises

Executive Order No. 29 (s. 2017) declared July as National Disaster Resilience Month to raise awareness on disaster prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response, and rehabilitation and recovery.

For us in the Climate Reality Philippines, this is an opportune time to underscore the fact that disaster resilience will only be possible if we address the triple planetary emergency we face today as a nation—climate disruption, declining ecosystems, and escalating pollution.

This compels us to put in place the following proactive approaches to integrate disaster risk reduction and management, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and environmental management in households, communities, workplaces, and every facet of society:

First: Educating our people on the urgency and solvability of the climate crisis.

A research published by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in October 2020 revealed the low level of public awareness about climate change among Filipinos. According to the study, at the national average, only 12 percent of respondents had heard a lot or felt “extremely well informed” about climate change.

We cannot go on like this. We have the laws in place to integrate climate change education into our formal education system. These must be implemented and complemented by mass media organizations by putting more climate solutions in the news cycle.

We need to see information, education, and communication materials on climate change in public places, such as malls, museums, and parks.

Second: Ensuring an efficient social protection system.

Those who are part of the marginalized sectors of society and who have no access to basic services are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

For climate change adaptation strategies to be successful, we must ensure that nobody is left behind. This means that the government, with the assistance of the private sector, must provide sufficient basic services such as health care, housing, sanitation, financial services, and social protection to the poorest of the poor

Third: Enabling and supporting people, local leaders, and organizations to do their part.

The government, the private sector, and civil society must converge expertise and resources to help households; micro, small, and medium enterprises; and local governments overcome existing obstacles to take action. These obstacles include lack of support for innovation and lack of access to timely and actionable climate and disaster risk information, best technologies, and financial instruments available.

Fourth: Instituting sustainable urban planning and management.

The government’s urban planning system sets the direction to where private investments will go. It is therefore important for both the government and the private sector to ensure that investments trickle down to infrastructure assets that are climate-smart, sustainable, and resilient.

Fifth: Using the triple-bottom-line (people, planet, and profit) approach to doing business.

Integrating sustainability in value chain management has been compelling due to accumulating anecdotal evidence of greater long-term profitability.

Demand for products and services that meet the sustainability criteria will continue to increase. Getting ahead of the curve and building capability this early will be nothing but beneficial for businesses.

Sixth: Developing business continuity plans.

Climate change is here and it will continue to threaten the lives and livelihoods of our people. Government and business operations must have systems in place to respond to any unforeseen business continuity challenges brought by climate- and environment-related disasters.

Seventh: Reducing the carbon footprint of business operations.

There is no real adaptation without mitigation. Actively pursuing greenhouse gas emission reduction and avoidance efforts will enable us to reduce the cost of adaptation to physical and disruptive climate-related impacts. This includes integrating energy efficiency, using low-carbon technologies, and incorporating renewable energy solutions in day-to-day business operations.

Eighth: Forging collaborative and strategic partnerships.

We cannot work in silos. The need for the government, private business sector, and civil society to work together has never been this urgent.

We must create dynamic synergies in action so that we can build replicable, scalable, and sustainable projects, programs, and practices. Sustainability and climate-resilient development can no longer stay as buzzwords. They must be translated into actions now.

This article is based on The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ presentation during last month’s virtual townhall discussion entitled "Best Practices for a Proactive Approach to Climate Resiliency," which was facilitated by the international research organization Stratbase ADR Institute and the Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship.