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Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said addressing climate change remains a top priority for the government even if it is currently preoccupied on controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Cimatu, who chairs the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction (CCAM-DRR), said climate change is a bigger crisis than COVID-19 as it potentially poses existential risks for future generations.

“The climate emergency remains as urgent as ever. It is like the COVID-19 emergency, just in slow motion and much graver,” Cimatu said during his presentation of the 2020 Pre-State of the Nation Address Report of the Cabinet Cluster on CCAM-DRR dubbed as “Pagkalinga Tungo sa Katatagan” on July 22.

Changes in climate have a multiplier effect, leading to other problems, from ecosystem stability to food production and human conflict. Ecosystem and biodiversity loss are threatening the planet’s ability to provide goods and services.

Deforestation disrupts weather patterns and the water cycle, contributes to climate change, and destroys the habitats of important species. Chemicals and waste are polluting the air, soil and water, killing millions each year.

As a strategy, Cimatu said the government will use the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to accelerate climate action by formulating “responses to the worst public health crisis of this generation through a climate lens.”

“The government—through the Cabinet Cluster on CCAM-DRR—will prioritize actions and investments that will reduce long-term health impacts and increase our resilience and adaptive capacity to both the coronavirus pandemic and climate change,” Cimatu said.

The Cabinet cluster, he said, will continue to respond to extreme weather events and disasters; increase adaptive capacities of vulnerable communities; ensure adequate supply of clean air, water and natural resources; and increase resilience of critical infrastructure.

Cimatu said major environmental protection programs like solid waste management, reforestation and biodiversity conservation, must be consistent with the overall response to COVID-19, future pandemics and climate crisis.

“High volumes of hazardous waste and the dramatic spread of zoonotic diseases account to the growing challenges that the government has to face to help alleviate problems in this deadly pandemic,” he added.

Created under Executive Order 24, Series of 2017, the Cabinet Cluster on CCAM-DRR is mandated to focus on the protection and conservation of the environment and natural resources, and serves as a venue for discussing inter-related concerns on climate change and disaster risk management.

The cluster also takes the lead in the effective integration of policies and programs on climate risk management, disaster risk reduction and sustainable development. #