Cimatu: ASEAN must take climate change ‘very seriously’

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said it is high-time the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) take climate change seriously as a threat to sustainable urban development.

“I would like to encourage everyone to take this threat very seriously. The fact that we are gathered here today is an acknowledgment that the problem is in critical proportion,” Cimatu said in a speech delivered last Wednesday at the ASEAN Forum on Urban Resilience to Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Management Strategies held in Laoag City.

The regional forum brought together over 150 research and development experts from across Southeast Asia to discuss plans on attaining urban resilience to climate change and disaster risks within the region.

Experts from ASEAN partners like Japan and India also attended the forum organized by the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in cooperation with the ASEAN National Organizing Council under the Office of the President, and the provincial government of Ilocos Norte.

Cimatu expressed his gratitude to the scientists and researchers across ASEAN and other partner countries for sharing their knowledge and expertise during the forum, which formed part of events celebrating ASEAN’s 50th founding anniversary being hosted by the Philippines.

“Your years of hard work in research about urban resilience and disaster risk reduction deserve recognition,” Cimatu told forum participants. “Our region needs these noble efforts to make our people and families more secure and resilient amidst the threats posed by the changing climate.”

The environment chief expressed hope the forum would lead to proposals and policies geared toward a more resilient ASEAN.

“For this day, we look forward to be more adept with new inventions and researches toward facing the challenge of climate change and reducing disaster risks,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu said he believed the awareness on the need to address climate change should not be confined on scientists and researchers alone, but also on all people from large cities to the smallest communities in the region.

“Let us handle climate change risks boldly, swiftly and collectively as one ASEAN,” he said.

During the forum, at least four renowned scientists gave lectures on climate change impact assessment tools, urban resilience and green growth strategies, institutional resiliency and management strategies.

A Japanese expert also shared his country’s initiatives and means to make urban communities resilient to climate change and reduce disaster risk.

In the past 10 years, ASEAN countries became highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change as they are now experiencing more frequent extreme weather events — floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

As early as 2009, the World Bank warned that the Philippines topped the list of countries most vulnerable to storms, with Vietnam the second most vulnerable to rising sea levels, and Thailand and Vietnam among those most threatened by flooding.

Last year, the Global Climate Risk Index of German Watch listed four out of 10 ASEAN countries — Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand — as among the 10 nations most affected by climate change from 1995 to 2014 based on annual averages.

Other ASEAN countries are also vulnerable to climate change at varying degrees with Brunei Darussalam suffering from heat-related stress, low coastal scopes in Indonesia likely to be affected by a small increase in sea level, and Malaysia’s Sabah frequently experiencing floods and drought. ### 

Cimatu cites role of ASEAN urban centers in fight vs climate change

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu on Tuesday urged member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to focus on building sustainable cities and urban areas which, he said, could play a vital role that is truly effective in the face of climate change.

Cimatu, in his message read by DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones during the ASEAN Forum on Urban Resilience to Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management Strategies held in Laoag City, said that achieving sustainable urbanization will be key to adapting to and mitigating climate change impacts.

“Recognizing the critical role that our cities play as the centers of innovation, we need to harness potentials for innovations in ways that will enable us to build our capacity to withstand shocks while sustaining the services that urban ecosystems provide us — more so in the face of uncertainties,” Cimatu said, quoting world-renowned urban ecologist Dr. Henrik Ernstson.

Cimatu noted that in the past 10 years, ASEAN countries became highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change as they are now experiencing more frequent extreme weather events — floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

As early as 2009, he said the World Bank warned that the Philippines topped the list of countries most vulnerable to storms, with Vietnam the second most vulnerable to rising sea levels, and Thailand and Vietnam among those most threatened by flooding.

Last year, the Global Climate Risk Index of GermanWatch listed four out of 10 ASEAN countries — Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand — as among the 10 nations most affected by climate change from 1995 to 2014 based on annual averages.

Cimatu said other ASEAN countries are also vulnerable to climate change at varying degrees with Brunei Darussalam suffering from heat-related stress, low coastal scopes in Indonesia likely to be affected by a small increase in sea level, and Malaysia’s Sabah frequently experiencing floods and drought.

Cimatu said that climate-induced natural disasters recently experienced by ASEAN countries, such as the 2013 Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that caused massive loss of lives and properties in central Philippines, underscores the need for proactive policy and action for urban resilience.

He said that pursuing urban resiliency has become an urgent agenda for all nation as the world’s urban population is expected to balloon to 2.5 billion by 2050.

“Urban areas, where half of our population lives, drive global warming and consequently climate change,” Cimatu said.

“The effects of our decisions and actions as part of an urban ecosystem transcend the boundaries of space, politics, ideology, economics, and even social strata,” he added.

Cimatu said the three-day regional forum, organized by the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, serves an important venue for discussing plans for attaining, building and reinforcing urban resiliency.

“We are here today because we all take urban resiliency seriously. We realize the need to holistically discuss the issues and challenges that make our cities vulnerable. And the time is now,” Cimatu stressed.

He then called on everyone — from the scientific community and urban planners to manufacturers and consumers — to enhance their participation toward solutions so that ASEAN policy and decision makers and resource managers can work together to achieve sustainable urbanization in the region.

Research and development experts gather in Laoag City on December 5-7 for the regional forum to discuss plans on attaining urban resilience to climate change and disaster risks in Southeast Asia.

The forum was part of the events celebrating the 50th founding anniversary of the ASEAN, which is being hosted by the Philippines. ###

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