Villafuerte backs PBBM on speedy use of Loss & Damage funds

December 3, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 85 views

For developing states most vulnerable to climate impacts

CAMARINES Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte is backing President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr.’s proposal on the immediate implementation of the “loss and damage” (L&D) funds for developing economies and island nations like the Philippines that are reeling from the climate impacts of planet heating, hoping that the nitty-gritty of who pays for, and who avails of, this swiftly-approved financial reparation would get resolved by the end of the annual United Nations (UN) climate summit being held this year in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) city of Dubai.

Villafuerte, National Unity Party (NUP) president, likewise supported President Marcos’ overture for the Philippines to host this new L&D fund, which raised close to $424 million from voluntary country-contributions on Day 1 of the 28th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC (COP 28) held in Dubai from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12.

He hoped the two-week Dubai summit would end with a concrete plan on how to phase down the world’s use of carbon dioxide (CO2)-emitting coal, oil and gas whose burning are largely responsible for climate change.

“The Marcos administration deserves credit for consistently championing the cause of climate justice in Dubai and other forums on the global stage like COP27, on behalf of developing economies such as the Philippines, which, although contributing little to global warming, unfortunately take on the brunt of the catastrophic weather changes resulting from the large-scale GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions of the world’s most affluent countries that are also its biggest carbon polluters,” Villafuerte said.

The Camarines Sur congressman who has pushed green initiatives in the Congress at the same time acknowledged “the sustained efforts by President Marcos and his government to advance the cause of climate justice and finance in the annual COP event as well as in other international forums, for the benefit of our country and the rest of the world’s most vulnerable countries that suffer the most from the catastrophic weather changes induced by global heating.

“With the Philippines being one of the countries worst hit by climate impacts plus our heightened national efforts on mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction despite our limited resources, President Marcos and his government certainly have the moral ascendancy to seek the prompt operationalization of this L&D fund and propose that the Philippines host this financial reparation on behalf of the world’s developing and island-nation states most vulnerable to the unbridled heating of our planet,” Villafuerte said.

An advocate of a just energy transition to renewables, Villafuerte expressed the hope that, “The nuts and bolts of how much should be contributed annually by which rich country-polluters; which economies should be eligible for L&D funding and for what climate mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction programs and projects; and who will administer this fund, could be resolved affably by the end of COP28.”

He pointed out that before it ends on Dec. 12, “COP28 should be able to sort out the wherewithal and sustainability of this first-ever L&D fund, which was already taken up but left hanging in the same global climate talks held previously in Glasgow, Scotland in 2021 in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh in 2022.”

At this point, he said, there is no assurance of any guaranteed amount of L&D financing from 2024 and onwards, as the initial handouts were just voluntary contributions from a few donors.

As the summit opened last Thursday, host-country UAE handed out $100 million for the L&D fund; the United Kingdom (UK), $51 million; the United States (US), $17.5 million; Japan, $10 million; and the European Union (EU), $245.39 million, which included $100 million from Germany.

Villafuerte pointed out that, realistically, “the $423.89 million in initial L&D funding raised on Day 1 of COP28 is but a drop in the ocean, given that rich nations pledged at COP15 in Denmark in 2009—and have broken that promise up to now—to mobilize a combined $100 billion yearly for climate action in developing economies beginning 2020.”

He lauded President Marcos for lobbying for climate justice and financing in various international forums, including COP27 in Egypt, for substantial aid from the world’s most affluent states for the climate mitigation, adaptation and risk reduction programs of countries belonging to the country-members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which includes the Philippines.

CVF now has 58 member-economies with an aggregate population of 1.5 billion but which account only for a combined 5% of global emissions.

President Marcos was originally set to attend COP28 in Dubai to—in the words of our Chief Executive—“take the lead when it comes to the global move and the global aspiration that those most vulnerable communities around the world will somehow be assisted by the developing countries when it comes to these measures to mitigate and to adapt to climate change.”

However, on the date that the President was set to leave for Dubai, he said on Nov. 30 that he was no longer flying to the UAE that day to attend COP28 because he was staying home, in light of “important developments in the hostage situation” in the Red Sea that involved 17 Filipino seafarers.

In a statement read for him by Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Antonio Lagdameo Jr. during the inauguration of the COP28 Philippine Pavilion in Dubai, President Marcos sought the “prompt operationalization” of the L&D pool in order to support developing and vulnerable countries from climate impacts, and asked for support from global leaders for the Philippines’ bid to host this fund.

Villafuerte said the Philippines has the moral ascendancy to push climate justice and financing for countries that are of highest risk to erratic weather patterns, because “the wealthiest nations and heaviest GHG or carbon polluters like the US and China have yet to do their fair share to compensate CVF member-states, especially at this time when there is increasing pressure on the governments of these developing economies to spend more of their public funds on programs to deal with equally pressing and urgent concerns like the sticky elevated inflation resulting mainly from the global oil shock and food supply and price woes.”

Citing Asian Development Bank (ADB) findings, he said the Philippines, for example, is “doubly susceptible” to harsh climate impacts, because—according to an ADB report—“many Filipino families live and make their living along coastal areas and depend highly on the natural resources from the sea, the land, and the forests for their livelihood and survival.”

In the absence of adequate and effective adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures, he said, the ADB concluded that cyclones, flooding and landslides will intensify in the Philippines, leading to “slowed” poverty reduction as climate change likely aggravates existing high levels of income and wealth inequality.

Villafuerte cited President Marcos and his government for their steadfast commitment to advancing cooperative solutions from previously agreed-upon international accords on protecting the environment and reversing the climate crisis.

These international agreements include the UNFCCC of 1992 and the Paris Climate Accords (Paris Agreement) of 2015, which targeted to keep the rise of global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial or mid-19th century levels, by reducing emissions by 45% by 2030 to net zero by 2050.

Villafuerte said that on the Marcos watch, the Philippines is justified to be at the forefront of the CVF climate justice lobby because of the current administration’s concrete steps on decarbonization, specifically on weaning the country away from the use of fossil fuel for energy generation in favor of renewable energy (RE) sources like solar and wind power.

He pointed out that the Marcos administration has allotted P453.11 billion for climate change adaptation and mitigation for 2023 while P889.65 million in PSF funds had been granted to LGUs for climate change adaptation programs and projects.

Moreover, he said, it was logical for the Philippines to assume this pivotal role because our country accounts for just 0.3% of global GHG emissions, and yet has been battered each year by stronger and more destructive typhoons like Ondoy and Yolanda because of rising global temperatures and sea levels resulting from the worsening climate crisis.

“The Philippines is one of the developing economies most vulnerable to worsening climate change hazards like killer typhoons, flash floods and prolonged dry spells,” he said.

Villafuerte said the Philippines is certainly an ideal CVF member-state to assume a leadership role in the climate-action advocacy, “because rather than mope over the dismal failure of rich nations to come through on their 2009 pledge to extend $100 billion-worth of annual financial aid by 2020 to developing states, our country, under President Marcos’ leadership, has pursued a bold and ambitious agenda on climate action despite anemic financial support from the developed world to help the most vulnerable countries reduce their carbon footprint.”

He said the Marcos government has remained committed to the Philippines’ pledge in COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in 2021, to work on a projected greenhouse GHG emission reduction and avoidance of 75% over the 2020-2030 period for the agriculture, wastes, industry, transport and energy sectors.

However, two-thirds or about 72% of this pledge is contingent on securing financial and material support from developed economies.

President Marcos said in his Philippine Pavilion speech that the Philippines was pushing for just transition and L&D financing, and emphasized that “the Philippines will announce its intent to host the Loss and Damage Fund.”

In an earlier speech he had delivered before deciding to stay home and not leave for Dubai anymore, the President said at the turnover ceremony for the People’s Survival Fund (PSF) at Malacañan Palace that, “”We are once again poised to lead … We will use this platform (COP28) to rally the global community and call upon nations to honor their commitments particularly in climate financing.”

Villafuerte agreed with the President that the Philippines has become a “trailblazer in domestic climate finance for adaptation”—in keeping with our country’s commitment to global environmental responsibility—following the turnover at the Palace of P541 million-worth of PSF climate adaptation funds to five local government units (LGUs)—Bukidnon, Mountain Province, Quezon, Eastern Samar and Isabela

The NUP president reiterated his view that, “President Marcos and his government’s sustained advocacy of urgent climate action on the international stage has cast our Chief Executive and our country as the champions of high-risk developing economies long seeking financial and technical aid from wealthy nations responsible for heavy carbon pollution responsible for climate change.”

Villafuerte noted that from the 29th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM) in Bangkok, Thailand to COP 27, both in 2022, and now, COP 28 in Dubai, “President Marcos and his government have strongly pushed for collective action to ease the calamitous impact of climate change on the most vulnerable countries of the world.”

To get a rough idea of the enormous amount of money needed by CVF member-states for climate financing, Villafuerte said that, as reported by the Presidential Communications Office (PCO), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had set aside P453.11 billion for climate change adaptation and mitigation in the 2023 national budget plan, or about a half more than the 2022 outlay of P289.73 billion.

Citing a separate report, Villafuerte said the total yearly investment requirement of developing countries for climate financing is projected to reach $2.4 trillion by 2030.

Although experts believe that the world needs an even higher $3 trillion each year in climate-related financing by 2030 to keep COP’s climate goals on track, Villafuerte bewailed that the lack of sufficient funding support from the world’s biggest carbon polluters has prevented developing countries like the Philippines from accelerating their mitigation measures through decarbonization along with their adaptation initiatives through building resilience to the disastrous impacts of climate change.