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Climate Walks and Commitment: Are we close to saving the Philippines?

By May 4, 2015 No Comments

Climate activists urged world leaders to submit ambitious plans to tackle climate change, including steps to curb the amount of greenhouse gas emissions as the Paris talks in December nears.

Climate Activist Naderev Sano, a former Philippine Climate Change Commissioner, said nations need to put forward a bulk of pledges under the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) that includes plan to reduce emissions and adaptation that will form as the building blocks of the new international climate change agreement.

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INDCs, or simply a firmer concept of commitments of countries post-2020 to reduce carbon pollution, but are not legally binding. Climate experts said that anything above 2 degrees Celsius over the next century will mean catastrophic shifts in the global climate that can result in prolonged droughts that can impact water supply and agriculture, sea level rise that can cause flooding and submerged cities, and acidifying oceans that threaten marine life and global fish supply, among other consequences.

To date, only 30 percent of the 194 countries under the United nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have made public and submitted their climate plans for public analysis. October 1 is the deadline for all countries to submit their INDCs to the UNFCCC.

An interactive map monitoring the INDC commitments per country is available on the website of the World Resources Institute (WRI). At this writing, the data available on the WRI website includes that of the United States, the European Union, Russia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Mexico, and Gabon in the African continent.

“ The INDCs are pledges and non-binding; we need a firmer, legally binding deal to get the commitment of country leaders towards a climate-resilient future,” Sano said. “ Inaction to implement adaptation and mitigation can result to devastating scenarios, especially in Southeast Asia, which includes the Philippines.”

 

Climate change, a defining issue

At its very heart, climate change is the defining issue of this generation’s survival and that of the next, Sano stressed.

He cited that how climate change can impact food supply. Agriculture, which relies on climate elements, he said, can see shifts in productivity and stability in the face of a continuously warming world. This can mean higher food prices and loss of jobs, especially among marginalized sectors.

Farmers and Climate Change (Photo by Anna Valmero)

Farmers and Climate Change (Photo by Anna Valmero)

 

If not responded to adequately and urgently, climate change “can lead to most of Southeast Asia risking to lose up to 7 percent of its total GDP by the next century, which is more than twice the global average,” noted Sano, quoting global estimates.

In its latest report, the World Bank noted that climate change can reduce crop yiels by 15 to 20 percent in poorest regions.

“The problem of hunger will affect people in the next few decades. Unpredictable weather patterns due to climate change can cause chaos with food prices going up and food quality going down. For people, climate change poses serious challenges for those who toil the soil and fish the seas, and this means of us who rely on them will be hungry,” explained Sano.

He added that the use of cheap fossil fuel for energy remains the biggest hindrance to solving the issue at hand.

“What stands in the way for a global solution to climate change is gluttony for dirty energy,” Sano stressed.

Sano concluded: “No discussion on climate change can be in isolation. When we pursue inclusive and sustainable development, greed has no place in this world or paradigm.”

Bridging awareness Gaps

There is a need to build on education and awareness among the public to narrow the gap in terms of understanding the correlation of human activities and climate change. This is crucial to help put more public pressure on the commitment of their national leaders, as well as implementing climate-conscious choices as an individual and as part of their community.

Of the 33, 700 authors of peer-reviewed journals writing about climate change, only 37 reject the human cause of climate change, notes environmental economist Stelios Grafakos, of the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies at the University of Erasmus Rotterdam.

More specialist groups such as climatologists have expressed 98 percent confidence that climate change is human made, said Grafakos during one of his online classes on climate change and urban resilience.

“Global studies show a gap in terms of large discrepancy of understanding climate change among the public. This is something that should worry us on why there is this large discrepancy,” he said. “Addressing this issue is crucial because if human action drives climate change, such as the increased reliance on air-conditioning in cities during summer, then humans will be more conscious of the impact they are making at an individual level and thus, mitigate their impact on the warming of the planet.”

At a community level, he said, this needs to translate to the creation of climate-resilient cities wherein urban planning takes into account climate change mitigation and adaptation to limit carbon emission per capita while promoting quality of life, added the scientist.

More extreme changes due to climate change also pose risk in terms of storm surges and floods, especially among those living in low-elevation coastal towns and cities, Grafakos said.

At a global scale, the move towards climate resilience is done through international diplomatic talks annually which culminates in the Conference of Parties meeting, this year set in Paris. One of the mechanisms for carbon reduction is the submission of INDCs per country.

“Now this is an ongoing difficult process to decide on who will reduce the emission and to what extent; this is the first level of discussion. Developing nations should push as much as possible high -ncome countries to commit to high emission reduction to allow safe levels of increase in 2 deg C allowing GHG concerntaions below the 450ppm in the atmosphere,” explained Grafakos.

On one hand, he said, developing countries should push toward this direction and those responsible for high emissions have to take ambitious targets; and on the other hand, they need to raise the issue of compensation for climate change impacts as we saw how disproportionaltely climate change have hit most vulnerable, low-income countries, he added.

Renewed hope

Taking on his new role as Spiritual ambassador at Out Voices, Sano is tapped to lead the People’s Pilgrimage, which he defined as “a series of walks to places of climate variability, resilience, resistance and hope.”

This will include a symbolic takeoff from Tacloban hit by Haiyan in 2013, to travel to Vanuatu hit by Pam recently. Several other countries are included in the global pilgrimage which will culminate in the 1,500-km, 60-day walk from Rome to Paris in December.

With this series of climate walks, Sano aims to increase the awareness of the public and rally people into action in terms of holding accountability among themselves, their communities, and their global leaders to do urgent action on climate change by forming legally binding INDCs on the way to a better climate deal.

“The climate change challenge will make the world a better place. Simply because it is our only option,” Sano said.

Originally published in Environews

 

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