Climate change is the current crisis the world is experiencing today. It is an international issue that concerns all fields of research and expertise including politics and economics.
A number of conferences and negotiations have been organized globally concerning this anthropogenic phenomenon and one of its active supporters is the Philippines. As a contribution to its awareness campaign, the Institute of International and Legal Studies of the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Law conducted a whole-day “experts dialogue” entitled Philippine Climate Change Policy: Mitigation and Adaptation Measures last July 31, 2008.
Invited speakers were: Atty. Rommel J. Casis, Professorial Lecturer at the U.P. College of Law, and Program Director of the International Environmental Law Research Program; Atty. Antonio G.M. La Viña, Dean of the Ateneo School of Government, and Professorial Lecturer at the U.P. College of Law; Mr. Mark Richard Evidente, Master’s Candidate at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University; Ms. Ma. Gerarda Asuncion Merilo, Senior Environmental Management Specialist at the Environmental Management Bureau, Inter-Agency Committee on Climate Change; and Atty. Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, Dean of the U.P. College of Law.
Understanding Climate Change
Atty. Casis cited the definition of climate change by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to the natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.” A major evidence of climate change today is global warming. Global warming is the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHG)—carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides in the atmosphere; these trap the sun’s heat energy thus resulting in increases in the average global temperature. It is caused by GHG-emitting human activities such as excessive burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and growing waste dumps. Other effects of climate change are increase in sea levels, increase in temperature and acidity of oceans, melting of ice caps, spread of climate-related diseases such as malaria, higher incidence of hurricane and forest fires, and destruction of crops. In the Philippines, according to Atty. Casis, the most affected sectors of climate change are agriculture, food security, and health.
Global Actions Enforced
Mitigation and adaptation are the main objectives of UNFCCC and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). By limiting the GHG emissions, enhancing sinks or processes that remove greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and learning to adapt to changes in the environment, we can survive the negative effects of climate change.
The UNFCCC was established on March 21, 1994 to set an overall framework that will address issues on climate change. The convention aims to gather information on GHG emissions and national policies. It also intends to initiate strategies that will encourage GHG emission reduction and to contribute to the preparation for adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change. The UNFCCC classified countries into three categories: Annex I includes developing countries that are members of OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) and countries with economies in transition (EIT); Annex II includes member countries of OECD in Annex I only; and Non-Annex I mostly includes developing countries. Developed countries are considered the major contributors to the currently high level of GHG in the atmosphere due to excessive industrial activities. Thus, a number of nations approved the addition of a legally binding measure called the Kyoto Protocol.
The Kyoto protocol, which was put in force on February 16, 2005, is an international agreement that sets a target reduction of GHG emissions for 37 industrialized countries and European communities starting from 2008 to 2012. Specifically, it requires an average reduction of five percent from the GHG emission recorded in 1990. To aid the countries in achieving their targets, the Kyoto Protocol allows “emissions trading” or the selling of excess allowable emission of carbon dioxide of a country to another country that is still behind its target reduction of GHG emission. The protocol also offers the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) which allows Annex I countries to meet their targets by implementing emission-reduction projects in Non-Annex I countries. These projects can earn saleable credit emission reduction (CER) credits where each credit is equivalent to 1 ton of CO2 that can be accounted in attaining the Kyoto target. Through CDM, Annex I countries are able to not only meet their emission reduction target but also assist Non-Annex I countries in attaining sustainable development through partial profit from CER. Another mechanism implemented by the Kyoto Protocol is Joint Implementation where an Annex I country can earn emission reduction units (ERU), each unit equivalent to 1 ton of CO2, from emission reduction projects of another member country of Annex I. However, according to Atty. La Viña, the Kyoto Protocol is not a complete success because some of the member countries have failed to meet the agreed targets.
A number of negotiations addressing climate change are on-going. The most recent plan presented was the Bali Road Map, which consists of decisions and future measures against climate change. The Bali Road Map includes the creation of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action, the long-term goal of emission reduction, mitigation actions, and adaptation funding and cooperations.
The Philippines’ Response to the Problem of Climate Change
As a manifestation of the country’s commitment to engage in multilateral efforts aiming to address the global problem of climate change and achieve sustainable development, the Philippines has participated in the discussions and negotiations leading to the ratification of various international agreements. These international agreements are geared towards the mitigation of the effects of climate change and the strategic adaptation to the conditions. The most important outcomes of these negotiations include the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ratified on August 2, 1994 and the Kyoto Protocol, which was ratified on November 20, 2003. At the national level, the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan of 2004-2010 (MTDP) underscored the need to manage the environment more effectively in order for the country to address the problem of poverty particularly in the rural areas.
As one of the first countries to sign the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, the Philippines expressed adherence to the principles of sustainable development and environmental preservation based on the notion of equity and the unique capabilities of the participating countries. More specifically, Article 3 of the UNFCC states that countries who have aligned themselves with the mandates set forth by the Convention “should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”
In 2000, the Philippines forwarded to the UNFCCC its Initial National Communication, the milestones of the country insofar as accomplishing the objectives of the Convention are concerned. More specifically, this report presented the gains made in the fields of greenhouse gas abatement and inventory. Also noted were gains significantly achieved in strengthening institutions and processes in relation to the mitigation, prevention and adaptation initiatives in the country. A lot of work still needs to be done though. Recommendations of the report include the institutionalization of the process of greenhouse inventory, particularly among the government agencies concerned and greater involvement of the academe through related studies. More studies on adaptation and vulnerability under climate change conditions are also suggested.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, developing countries such as the Philippines are called to pass and implement national measures that shall advance the international community’s agenda pertaining to environmental preservation through the reduction of greenhouse emissions (GHGs) in the atmosphere. Pursuant to the provisions in this treaty, the Philippines passed national legislations to uphold the agreements embedded in the Kyoto Protocol. The Clean Air Act of 1999, otherwise known as Republic Act 8749, was enacted in order to arrive at an effective air quality management program that will mitigate the worsening problem of air pollution in the country. Reinforcing the country’s drive towards a healthier environment was the enactment of the Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 (RA 9003) that aimed at providing a comprehensive solution to the country’s garbage problem.
At the institutional level, the Philippines was one of the earliest countries to recognize the importance of a systematic institutional response to the problem of climate change. Prior to the signing and ratification of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the creation of the Inter-Agency Committee on Climate Change (IACC) in May 8, 1991 under the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was a concrete manifestation of the Philippines’ attempt to promptly address the issue of climate change. Composed of representatives from government agencies as well as NGO representatives, IACC was created by virtue of Presidential Order No. 220 with the secretary of the DENR sitting as chair and the secretary of the DOST as co-chair. The ultimate aim of the committee is to harness and synergize the various activities being undertaken by the national government and civil society in response to the crisis posed by growing problem on climate change.
The essential mandate of the IACC is to perform various coordinative, development and monitoring functions with respect to activities related to climate change in the county. As an organization that is at the forefront in advancing the government’s climate change agenda, the IACC likewise formulates policy actions and recommendations while at the same time assumes a very significant role in terms of shaping the Philippines’ national positions in the various international negotiations that aim to mitigate the effects of global climate change and prevent the worse possible consequences of this. The IACC therefore ensures the Philippines’ faithful compliance to the mandates and principles contained in the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol and sees to it that adequate public awareness campaign and initiatives are held to bring the issue to all the sectors of the country.
Casis, R. J. (2008, July). The Climate Change Crisis: Global Legal Framework, Policy Initiatives and the Philippine Response, Philippine Climate Change Policy: Mitigation and Adaptation Measures. Experts Dialogue, University of the Philippines Law Center, U.P. Diliman.
Evidente, M. (2008, July). A Philippine Response to Climate Change: Possible Strategies for Mitigation and Adaptation, Philippine Climate Change Policy: Mitigation and Adaptation Measures. Experts Dialogue, University of the Philippines Law Center, U.P. Diliman.
La Viña, A. (2008, July). Addressing Climate Change in the Philippines: An Integrated Adaptation-Mitigation Approach, Philippine Climate Change Policy: Mitigation and Adaptation Measures. Experts Dialogue, University of the Philippines Law Center, U.P. Diliman.
Leonen, M. V. F. (2008, July). The Limits of Law and Policy, Philippine Climate Change Policy: Mitigation and Adaptation Measures. Experts Dialogue, University of the Philippines Law Center, U.P. Diliman.
Merilo, M. G. A. (2008, July). Philippine Initiatives on Climate Change, Philippine Climate Change Policy: Mitigation and Adaptation Measures. Experts Dialogue, University of the Philippines Law Center, U.P. Diliman.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [Internet]. August 2008.
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