A matter of human survival

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November 8 marked the ninth year since supertyphoon Yolanda, the world’s strongest typhoon to hit land, slammed into the central Philippines, killing 6,300 people and causing 95.4 billion amount of damage.

But as catastrophic as Yolanda has been, it may just be a taste of the worst to come if governments don’t act together to ensure global temperatures don’t rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius. in order to avoid a ‘climate catastrophe’.

Yolanda’s painful memory further underscores the urgency of achieving the goals of the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) underway in Egypt, where heads of government gathered to address the “defining issue of our time and “the central challenge of our century”. as UN Secretary General António Guterres said.

Since its previous editions, the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27 has positioned itself as an “implementation COP”, intended to firmly tackle the devastating weather disturbances caused by climate change induced climate change. human activity. These include sea level rise, heat waves, cold waves and catastrophic floods that are becoming more frequent, prolonged and severe.

“We are in the fight of our lives. And we lose…” warned António Guterres during the high-level opening of COP27. “Our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.

The Philippine delegation led by Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga joined the global conversation with its urgent call for “bolder climate action” and increased aid to developing countries like the Philippines.

The Philippines has been identified as one of the most vulnerable, as it is in the most cyclone-prone region of the world and is visited by around 20 typhoons a year.

The World Bank also noted that with half of the country’s population of 111 million living in cities, many of them along coastal areas, the Philippines is vulnerable to sea level rise. changes in the frequency and intensity of rainfall, as well as rising temperatures, will also affect food security and the safety of the population. Annual losses from typhoons have been estimated at 1.2% of (gross domestic product), the World Bank said.

In fact, just a week before COP27, the severe tropical storm “Paeng” hit the Philippines, claiming more than a hundred lives amid devastation caused by landslides, floods and torrential rains.

Yulo-Loyzaga said the Philippines would claim its right to support and assistance as a nation highly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, as “the increasing intensity and frequency of climatic and weather hazards have severely affected life and livelihood”. of every Filipino and straining the efforts of the Philippine government towards poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth.

“While developing countries need resources to adapt to the climate, the Philippine delegation will continue to call on developed countries to meet these obligations and meet their commitments on climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building,” said Yulo-Loyzaga.

Fortunately, a growing number of wealthy countries responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions that warm the planet are responding to the call to shoulder some of the costs of climate change. Pledges have been made to help developing countries switch to renewable energy sources as part of efforts to address loss and damage caused by climate change.

These are welcome steps, but the Philippines must also do its part by strengthening its disaster risk reduction and management policies and holding accountable violators of environmental protection laws that must be properly implemented. .

It was heartening to hear President Marcos Jr. acknowledge before the 77th United Nations General Assembly in September that “there is no other problem so global in nature that it requires a united effort.”

With this in mind, he proposed placing the National Council for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management – ​​the lead agency tasked with coordinating the government’s response to disasters – directly under his office.

“I believe there are ways to streamline (disaster response),” the president said at the commemoration of Yolanda’s 9th birthday in the town of Tacloban, one of the hardest hit by the supertyphoon.

Any improvements in disaster response and changes in climate change policies must be pursued and implemented quickly, because there is no time to waste. As Guterres put it, “change is happening with catastrophic speed, devastating lives and livelihoods on every continent,” as the Philippines knows all too well.

It is therefore imperative that the Philippines join Guterres’ call to “respond to the planet’s distress signal with action – ambitious and credible climate action. COP27 must be the place, and now must be the time. »

Indeed, the very existence of humanity depends on it.

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