ELEVENTH HOUR: PH scientists’ call for the next admin to prioritize climate emergency

Members of the Philippine scientific community are calling for the next administration to prioritize and take urgent action on the climate emergency. With the impacts of climate change affecting more Filipinos year on year, the group is hoping for the climate emergency agenda to be part of the next administration’s priority programs.

The call, first posted on April 24, 2022, two weeks ahead of this year’s Philippine National Election, makes a case for the integration of a climate emergency agenda alongside national plans and priorities in anticipation of how a harsher and less predictable climate will exacerbate existing problems in poverty, food security, economic recovery, and disaster mitigation, among others.

As of posting, six climate change experts, who have worked closely with decision-makers and key actors in the climate change space, have signed the statement. They are Carlos Primo C. David, PhD; Rodel D. Lasco, PhD; Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ, PhD; Rosa Perez, PhD; Rex Victor O. Cruz, PhD; and Leandro V. Buendia.

The Philippine Climate Change Assessment Reports synthesized scientific information from international and local literature in order to provide an assessment of climate change for the Philippines and identify gaps in the scientific literature. The reports are available here.

All six were previously members of the Philippine Climate Change Commission’s National Panel of Technical Experts (NPTE) and have been involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports and Philippine Climate Change Assessment Reports (PhilCCA).

These assessment reports synthesize scientific information from international and local literature in order to provide an assessment of climate change. Each assessment report has three working groups that look into the physical science basis; impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability; and mitigation of climate change.

Aside from providing a summary of why climate change should figure prominently and be regarded as a development priority in national agendas and plans, the statement outlines what prioritization entails. These are (1) integration of climate mitigation and climate adaptation actions in national and local plans or programs, (2) use of future climate change scenarios, and (3) ensuring that all climate-related policies and projects are based on data and scientific evidence.

An illustration of the impacts of increasing levels of warming to different ecosystems and associated risks in the Philippines. (OML Center project entitled 'A Study on the Implications of the IPCC 1.5oC Special Report to the Plans and Programs of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources').

Further, the statement highlights immediate strategies based on the findings in the PhilCCA, and as reinforced by recent IPCC reports, that may already be implemented to address specific issues, such as food security and farmers’ resilience; health and human security; forest ecosystem services; aquatic resources and the survival of coastal communities; and community resilience to climate and natural hazards.

On food security and farmers’ resilience, among the strategies suggested in the statement include developing accurate forecasting and early warning system, especially for agricultural production, and improving access, particularly of smallholder farmers, to market, post-harvest facilities, crop insurance, and financing.

Water resource management is put forward as a means to address health and human security by reducing the burden of diseases and improving health. Therefore, water conservation, efficiency, and storage are highlighted.

This figure illustrates priority areas for nature conservation, including the Philippines, because they contain a high number of endemic species that occur nowhere else. (Map from the Global to Regional Atlas of 'Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability,' the Working Group 2 contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report)

As one of the countries with the richest forest biodiversity in the world, the group recognizes how forest ecosystem services support livelihoods, industries, and a livable environment. “Honest-to-goodness” forest resources and accounting is highlighted, along with the integrated management of forests, rivers, lakes, coastal and marine ecosystems, along with agroecosystems and other managed ecosystems as a means of securing resilience.

With the majority of the population living along the coasts, aquatic resources, and the survival of coastal communities are also underscored. The vulnerability of these resources and communities to sea-level rise, increasing ocean temperatures, and coral bleaching can impact social and economic benefits. The group advocates for strengthening biodiversity conservation and ensuring more sustainable utilization and management of coastal resources.

The group also sees the strict implementation of the ridge-to-reef or watershed ecosystem management approach as a means of keeping communities safe and resilient. Emphasis is also placed on properly designed and strategically placed flood control infrastructure.

The full statement is available at https://bit.ly/PHClimateAgenda2022.

Additional signatories are expected to be added to the statement in the next few days and weeks.


About the author

Kato Sarmiento is a Pinoy Climate Reality Leader who is currently working with technical experts in communicating the relevance, risks, and impacts of the changing climate to Philippine communities at the Oscar M. Lopez Center for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management Foundation. Prior to her work at the Oscar M. Lopez Center, she managed and implemented communication programs at SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan, the Asian Institute of Management, and De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, among others.