A matter of human survival | Inquirer Opinion

A matter of human survival

/ 05:07 AM November 10, 2022

Last Nov. 8 marked the ninth year since Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” the world’s strongest typhoon to hit land, barreled across central Philippines, claiming 6,300 lives and causing P95.4 billion in damage.

But as catastrophic as Yolanda was, it may be just a foretaste of the worse to come should governments fail to act together to ensure that global temperatures don’t heat up beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent a “climate catastrophe.”


Yolanda’s painful memory throws into greater focus the urgency of meeting the goals of the ongoing 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) in Egypt, where government leaders have come together to address the “defining issue of our age” and “the central challenge of our century,” as United Nations Secretary General António Guterres put it.

From its previous editions, the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27 is being positioned as an “implementation COP,” meant to firmly address the devastating weather disturbances caused by human activity-induced global warming. These include the rise in sea levels, heat waves, cold spells, and catastrophic flooding that are seen to become more frequent, prolonged, and severe.


“We are in the fight of our lives. And we are losing…” warned 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 has joined the global conversation with its urgent call for “bolder climate action” and increased assistance to developing countries like the Philippines.

The Philippines has been identified as one of the most vulnerable, as it lies in the world’s most cyclone-prone region and is visited by some 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 increased temperatures, will also affect the food security and safety of the population. Annual losses from typhoons have been estimated at 1.2 percent of (gross domestic product), the World Bank said.

In fact, just a week before COP27, Severe Tropical Storm “Paeng” hit the Philippines, leaving over a hundred dead amid the devastation wrought by landslides, floods and torrential rains.

Yulo-Loyzaga said the Philippines would assert its entitlement to support and assistance as a nation highly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, given that “the increasing intensity and frequency of climate and weather-related hazards have been severely impacting the lives and livelihood of every Filipino and putting a strain on the Philippine government’s efforts toward poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth.”

“As developing countries need resources for climate adaptation, the Philippine delegation will continue calling on developed countries to step up to these obligations and deliver without delay on their commitments on climate finance, technology transfer, and capacity building,” Yulo-Loyzaga said.


Fortunately, an increasing number of wealthy nations responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions heating up the planet are heeding the call to shoulder some of the costs of climate change. There have been pledges to help developing nations transition to renewable energy sources as part of efforts to address the 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 exacting accountability from violators of environmental protection laws that should be properly implemented.

It’s been 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.”

In line with that, he has proposed to put the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council—the lead agency tasked to coordinate government response to disasters—directly under his office.

“I believe that there are ways when we can make it (disaster response) more streamlined,” the President said during the commemoration of Yolanda’s 9th anniversary in Tacloban City, one of the hardest hit by the supertyphoon.

Any improvement in disaster response and changes to climate change policies should be pursued and implemented quickly, for there is no time to waste. As Guterres has said, “change is happening with catastrophic speed—devastating lives and livelihoods on every continent,” as the Philippines knows only too well.

It is thus imperative for the Philippines to join Guterres’ call to “answer the planet’s distress signal with action—ambitious, credible climate action. COP27 must be the place—and now must be the time.”

Indeed, humanity’s very existence depends on it.

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TAGS: Conference of Parties, Super Typhoon Yolanda
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