Business risks and climate change: New iteration | Inquirer Opinion

Business risks and climate change: New iteration

WE can’t spend the next 40 years repairing damage. There must be a way to avoid the repeated loss of lives, and sidestep annual economic dislocations.

Over the last year, WWF and BPI Foundation studied four Philippine cities—Baguio, Cebu, Iloilo and Davao. Our objective was to take adaptation thinking to the next level and better understand what economic risks and opportunities lay in store for each city in a climate-defined future.

This is a highly abridged glimpse into what we discovered.



Why focus on cities? Urbanization is here. In developing economies, as much as 60 percent of the population may live in cities by midcentury. Government forecasts that over the next four decades, our population will be close to 140 million. Unless we make the shifts now, Philippine cities may skid past the limits of what is manageable and become centers of concentrated risk.

This exercise was not simply a vulnerability assessment. We used three vectors of analysis covering data on climate exposure, socioeconomic sensitivity and adaptive capacity. This information was then “ground-truthed” through scenario-building exercises with local stakeholders who pinpointed primary development drivers. With this information in hand, we drew up a picture of each city, pinpointing city-specific scenarios, 30 years into the future.

Please e-mail [email protected] for a soft copy of the full report with city-specific assessments.



A number of patterns surfaced from the data gathered, as well as from the inputs of local stakeholders.

As urbanization advances, agriculture retreats. Supply chains, infrastructure and transport lifelines, between urban and rural areas, become critical to continued viability.


Good weather and land create migratory sinks. As populations leave high-risk zones, they fill up areas that offer refuge. This has begun.

Very often, the mismanagement of the human footprint aggravates climate impact. This is clearly manageable and avoidable.

Climate smart “interventions,” both natural and physical, remain in short supply. They need to be put in place.

Government cannot do this alone. The timeline for adaptation could run 20 to 30 years. In an inclusive process, government must establish the “platforms” now, but the formula for continuity clearly lies in the hands of the private sector.

Invest in human capital. We will need thinkers who can learn quickly, managers who can scale up rapidly and leaders who can get us to work together.

Water must be managed holistically.  Whether in excess or in short supply, solutions must look at both source and use.

Multicity “clusters,” defined by shared ecosystems and driven by local needs, are the new template for management and governance.

Energy mix must be managed, as well. Going beyond mere availability, questions linger about energy’s impact on community health, the cost of living, as well as the imperative that a city remains cost competitive.

Stakeholders want greater “security.” Not peace and order per se, but security defined as “having a good future within grasp.” There is an expressed desire for participation, in plan-driven rather than personality-driven processes, as well as political steadfastness, along multi-decade timelines.

Road ahead

Planning should be founded on future climate scenarios. Cities must embark on site stabilization, in an integrated but locally relevant fashion. In order to minimize socioeconomic sensitivity, cities should encourage pro-active reconfiguration and steer new investment toward climate-appropriate systems.

Good governance will be essential.  No one can define the scope and sequence of climate change with absolute certainty.  An investment in societal reserves, i.e., both human and financial capital, will be essential.

A lot of work needs to be done. Most of it should have been done over the past 50 years, but it wasn’t.  Will it get done this time? That’s for each of us to decide and act upon.

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(Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan is the CEO and vice chair of WWF Philippines.)

TAGS: agriculture, Climate, Urbanization

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