Moving forward: Seizing the opportunities of pursuing the 1.50C limit

MORE than a week has passed since survivors in Tacloban City and other affected areas in Eastern Visayas commemorated the third anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), the extreme weather event that left unforgettable images of tragedy and affliction while illustrating the need for combat the realities of climate change.

Aside from the usual candle lightings, discussions on resilience, housing, and settlement and tidal embankment issues among representatives from national government agencies, the academe, civil society organizations, and local government units took place left and right.

But be it in academic discussions or stakeholder dialogues, the elephant in the room that was inadequately factored in was this: how do affected communities and local government units move forward and pursuit their own development agendas given such climate change scenarios? What will Tacloban City or any other Haiyan-affected area look like in 2030 or 2050? Will women and men enjoy "magandang buhay" or "maupay nga kinabuhi" (good life) by then?

Today, United Nations Development Programme and Climate Analytics released "Pursuing the 1.50C Limit: Benefits and Opportunities," a report aiming to answer this question: Are efforts pursuing to limit temperature increase to 1.50C above pre-industrial levels economically and technologically feasible?

In a nutshell, the report reaffirmed what scientists are already saying -- Yes. However, the report was also explicit in its warning. It says that over the last two decades, global temperatures are at 0.850C and last year, temperature at some point have exceeded 10C above the pre-industrial levels. Present realities are putting current global ambitions to limit 1.50C futile.

Despite this, the report was optimistic in outlining the benefits and opportunities of still pursuing 1.50C especially for countries that are most likely to experience the brunt of climate change. Firstly, the report pointed out that "limiting warning to 1.50C will bring safety for people and environment, and an improved economic outlook of global GDP by 2050."

Much has already been written on how extreme weathers are fueled by changing climate. The report cited that Southeast Asia is projected to have a seven percent increase in extreme precipitation under a 1.50C scenario and a 10 percent increase in extreme precipitation under a 20C. Over the past eight years, Typhoons Frank (Fengshen), Ondoy (Ketsana), Sendong (Washi), Bopha (Pablo), Yolanda (Haiyan) and most recently, Lawin (Haima) can already attest of the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weathers, including what extreme precipitation implies especially for communities living in low-lying areas and coastal zones. Extreme precipitation also slows down the growth of our agriculture and fishing sector -- which currently employs 27 percent of the country's labor force.

Other benefits of why efforts must be geared at limiting global temperatures to 1.50C include the preservation of at least 10 percent of world's coral reefs, reduction of heat waves and limiting risks of reduction of crop yields. All these pose significant implications to the Philippine's ability to produce its own food and feed its growing population, and will most likely impact the lives and livelihood systems of women and men in the farming and fishing industries which are among the poorest economic sectors of the Philippine population.

With Tacloban City as the microcosm of coastal communities that are clearly vulnerable to climate change, addressing the challenges of unfinished reconstruction and rehabilitation with relocation of poor families to safer zones, and strengthening adaptation capacities of local communities must go hand-in-hand with ensuring that long-term development ambitions do not compromise the ability of affected communities and the future generations to enjoy and chart their own development.

Energizing mass housing and critical lifeline services such as water systems with affordable renewable energy systems, not only contributes to the global ambition of pursuing 1.50C limit. It also helps communities reduce their energy dependency and at the same time, provides a reliable back-up system should another destructive typhoon passes through. Likewise, the potential of renewable energy systems to not only provide green jobs especially for the youth, but open livelihood and enterprise opportunities in the marketing, retail sector have already opened up especially in geographically isolated and remote communities that are yet to be connected to the main grid.

Pursuing 1.50C ambition entails visioning the future of communities wherein the pursuit of "good life" is not just about a business-as-usual development track, where overarching concern is to address the present problems without looking at long-term consequences.

The global investment trend into renewable energy is contributing to slowing down global emissions and prices are going down as technologies are getting more efficient. This has to translate in the Philippines if we want to be more secure with our energy. Aggressive investment in renewable energy and a more enabling policy environment for renewable energy market players to thrive is needed. Pursuing a low-carbon and climate resilient development is actually plausible. (Golda Hilario)


(Golda Hilario is the project development consultant of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities.)