OFFICIAL STATEMENT: On the latest IPCC report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability

On 28 February, Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the second part of its Sixth Assessment Report, highlighting the latest on the impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability associated with the climate crisis. 

This comes three months after the conclusion of the most recent climate negotiations last year in Glasgow, United Kingdom. World leaders made new collective commitments, including on adaptation finance and ecosystems conservation, to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which is one of the main goals under the Paris Agreement. However, these pledges would result in a world warmer by up to 2.4 degrees Celsius, placing billions of people at risk to irreversible loss and damage.

This newest report presents just how severe the numerous impacts of the climate crisis have been. The Philippines needs to anticipate and minimize impacts, such as higher damages on existing infrastructures, ecosystems decline and biodiversity loss, decline of coral reefs and coastal fisheries, and food and water insecurity. As everything is interconnected with one another, we must account for compounding risks that negatively affect entire communities and, ultimately, our pursuit of national sustainable development.

Among the report’s key findings is that short-term risks to natural and human systems depend more on their vulnerability and exposure than shifts in the intensity or frequency of climate-related hazards. This means that solutions from our governments, businesses, and other stakeholders are urgently needed to lower vulnerabilities of marginalized sectors and enable them to avoid potential calamities.

It is evident that higher temperature increases would result in even more loss and damage to our economy, environment, and society. For example, damages from extreme flooding at a warming of 3°C could be nearly four times as much as the costs at 1.5°C. By comparison, current global warming and all the disasters we have experienced so far such as Yolanda and Ulysses, is below or at 1°C of warming.

We express grave concern that many natural systems are close to their limits of their natural adaptive capacity; these include coral reefs, coastal wetlands, and rainforests. At higher temperatures, strategies involving ecosystems-based adaptation, sustainable agriculture, and water management would lose their effectiveness. This could only lead to even more losses, damages, and injustices for millions of Filipinos.

The troubling findings of this report must persuade leaders from the government, businesses, and other sectors in the Philippines to scale up their efforts to enhance adaptation measures and reduce vulnerabilities to climate change impacts. We emphasize that the Philippines has anchored its climate action strategy on adaptation, as it contributes less than 0.4% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, while being one of the countries at highest risk to this crisis. 

Our country needs now more than ever to strictly enforce its existing climate and environmental laws and policies. Adaptation-related legal instruments such as the Climate Change Act of 2009, the National Climate Change Action Plan, and the People’s Survival Fund must be properly implemented. Our ecosystems and biodiversity must be subjected to measures related to their protection, conservation, and restoration. 

We call for strengthening ecosystems-based adaptation policies and programs. Given our nation’s natural wealth and as a biodiversity hotspot, our ecosystems and biodiversity can play an important role in reducing vulnerabilities to extreme weather events, providing sustainable livelihoods to nearby communities, and other co-benefits aligned with sustainable development.

That said, our current and future leaders need to avoid implementing false solutions. The climate crisis is not an issue that can be fixed by short-term solutions, which has been a staple for politicians to maintain electoral support. No matter how beneficial a proposed solution is, improper implementation and a lack of accounting for the needs and well-being of all stakeholders, especially the most vulnerable peoples, only leads to even more losses, damages, and injustices.

It should be emphasized that adaptation alone cannot prevent the costs brought by the climate crisis. As important as they are to our national well-being, policymakers must not ignore this problem’s ultimate source: excessive greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, especially coal, and corporations funding and prolonging operations for dirty energy. 

We call for an effective implementation of adaptation measures, powered by political will across all levels of governance, and clear institutional frameworks, mandates, and mechanisms. Enforcing actors must possess adequate knowledge on climate risks and impacts, as well as the capacity to mobilize financial resources that can be readily accessed by sectors who need them the most. We also demand that climate-related decision-making processes must be inclusive, prioritizing equity and justice.

If the COVID-19 pandemic or the past decade of climate-related disasters have not taught us yet, we must learn quickly that the era of the old ways of development, marked by pollution, inequality, and destruction, must come to an end. We must adapt to survive and thrive against the gravest threat of our lifetime, for current and future generations. 

Image credit: A Borrowed Planet – Inherited from our ancestors. On loan from our children. by Alisa Singer. © 2022 All rights reserved. Source: IPCC.

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