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. ###

DENR ready to provide platform for climate actions

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is ready to provide a learning platform for cities that are committed to take action on climate change by reducing carbon emissions and promoting renewable energy.

The agency made this assurance at the local unveiling of Ambitious City Promises (ACP), a three-year regional project supporting cities in Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam in developing and implementing low emissions strategies.

The project emphasizes community engagement across all stages of this process and will help cities establish lasting mechanisms to share knowledge and use participatory, bottom-up models for climate action.

Three Philippine cities — Pasig, Parañaque and Marikina — have been chosen as project sites that will receive assistance from the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI)-Local Governments for Sustainability and the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG).

At the ACP launch held Tuesday at Ortigas Center in Pasig City, DENR Assistant Secretary Corazon Davis expressed the country’s gratitude to ICLEI and SMG for choosing the Philippines as one of the ACP country recipients.

Speaking on behalf of DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, Davis described the project as “very timely” as it came at a time when the country was reviewing its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to the landmark Paris agreement on climate change.

“As the country reviews its strengthened NDC, it will include cities at the forefront of implementing transformative low emission development projects,” Davis said.

“We at the DENR could provide a platform on how we could cascade the learnings of these three cities,” she added.

Davis expressed hope that more vulnerable and high-risk cities in the world will learn from the country’s “trailblazers to natural resources conservation and environment protection.”

According to Davis, the ACP project will “not reinvent, but rather continue the momentum” that the three cities have started in terms of fighting climate change.

Under the ACP project, Davis said there will be opportunities to “establish strong climate local action plans to concretize targets, and enhance multi-stakeholder strategies engagement and integrated strategies.” ### 

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