UNEP Head Joins State Visit by French President to Philippines to Spotlight Need for Urgent Action on Climate Change

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner is joining a French delegation to the Philippines, led by President François Hollande, to highlight the fight against climate change and convene a forum intended to encourage faster and more determined action on the global challenge of climate change, ahead of the UNFCCC Climate Change talks in Paris later this year.

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The French President is accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Laurent Fabius, Minister of State for Development and Francophony, Annick Girardin, and Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Ségolène Royal.

Also accompanying Mr Hollande are high-level officials from various international organizations including the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Inger Andersen, and Director General of WWF International, Marco Lambertini.

A number of leading personalities well-known for their environmental activism are lending their support to the event, including Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Orthodox Church and Hollywood actors Jeremy Irons, Marion Cotillard, Mélanie Laurent. Business leaders and representatives from various French higher education institutions will also be travelling with the delegation.

A forum, themed ‘Towards COP21: Civil Society Mobilized for the Climate”, on Thursday will be opened by the President of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III and President Hollande, who are to sign the Manila Call to Action on Climate Change.

The call to action and the forum are both designed to encourage global support for the climate agreement set to be finalized at talks in Paris later this year.

Mr Steiner is to deliver an intervention during the forum, focusing on building resilience to climate change, the funding required for this purpose and the opportunities that a low-carbon Green Economy can offer.

“With this historic initiative, France — the host of the 2015 crucial UN Climate Change Conference— and the Philippines, which chairs the forum for countries most drastically affected by climate change, are demonstrating the leadership and solidarity that are required to deliver to the world a robust and ambitious climate change agreement in Paris later this year,” said Mr. Steiner.

“The visit to typhoon hit locations is a reminder that without further action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the cost of building resilience  will soar even further as wider and more expensive action will be needed to protect communities from the intensifying impacts of climate change, ” said Mr. Steiner.

According to a recent report by UNEP, even if global greenhouse gas emissions are cut to the level required to keep global temperature rise below 2°C this century, the cost of adapting to climate change in developing countries is likely to reach two to three times the previous estimates of US $70-100 billion per year by 2050.

Despite adaptation funding by public sources US $23-26 billion in 2012-2013, there will be a significant funding gap after 2020 unless new and additional finance for adaptation is made available.

Mr. Steiner added:

“The good news is that a global shift to green economies is already underway. Globally, more than 65 countries have embarked on national initiatives to green their economies, reframing economic policy around sustainability and committing to bringing the finance and investment needed to reshape and reconfigure their economies. Global investment in renewable power and fuels (excluding large hydro-electric projects) was US $279.2 billion and grew by nearly 17% in 2014 compared to 2013.”

“Debating the economics of our response to climate change and the concrete actions that must be reflected in the new climate agreement must become more honest. We owe it to ourselves but also to the next generation, as it is they who will have to foot the bill,” he said.

In recent years, UNEP has embarked on an Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System which is geared toward examining the contours of sustainable financial reforms and initiatives, that now have to be brought together to achieve transformational change, along the following lines:

  •        Building credible sustainable finance policy frameworks.
  •        Broadening responsibilities and deepening risk management.
  •        Re-balancing asset allocation and scaling up new markets.
  •        Improving accountability and transparency along the investment chain.
  •        Building financial cultures and competencies aligned to sustainability.

The Inquiry is currently working in upwards of 20 countries, including several in the region, such as Bangladesh, China, India, and Indonesia.   Mr. Steiner also said, “It is indeed becoming to have this influential gathering of leaders here in the Philippines to amplify the need for action on climate change. As well as being one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, the Philippines, under the leadership of President Aquino III, has become a prominent green economy and renewable energy pioneer, helping lead the way towards a cleaner and more resilient future in Asia and beyond.”

Today, the Philippines is the second largest geothermal producer in the world. Recent reports indicate its having the largest potential for wind power in South East Asia; the largest solar manufacturing hub in South East Asia; and good potential for both mini-hydro and biomass sources of energy. Such potential will provide opportunities for the country to shift from fossil fuel sources to clean, renewable energy forms.

Since 2008, on the introduction of the Renewable Energy Act, the Philippines has achieved a 59 % energy self-sufficiency and has signed 206 renewable energy contracts. In addition, the Philippines Government expects to further develop infrastructure to enable increased investment in renewable and alternative energy development Project.

According to UNEP’s Fifth Emissions Gap Report 2014:

In order to limit global temperature rise to 2°C and head off the worst impacts of climate change, global carbon neutrality should be attained by mid-to-late century. This would also keep in check the maximum amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that can be emitted into the atmosphere while staying within safe temperature limits beyond 2020.

Exceeding an estimated budget of just 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2) would increase the risk of severe, pervasive, and in some cases irreversible climate change impacts.

The report examines whether the pledges made by countries are on track to meet the internationally agreed under 2°C target. It is produced by 38 leading scientists from 22 research groups across 14 countries.

More at: http://www.unep.org/newscentre/default.aspx?DocumentID=2812&ArticleID=11082#sthash.DwPk0nY5.dpuf

  •        On the significance of the trip to the Philippines and UNEP’s work

The Philippines —  a country prone to multiple climate change-induced disasters from cyclones and floods to rising sea level – was one of the first signatories of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

A National Climate Change Action Plan for the Philippines was developed to address adaptation and mitigation measures, with focus on seven priority areas: food security, water sufficiency, environmental and ecological stability, human security, sustainable energy, climate-smart industries and services, knowledge and capacity-building.

UNEP, in cooperation with the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), provides support to the Climate Change Commission and partners to develop nationally appropriate Mitigation Action for the building sector in the Philippines in order to strengthen energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the sector.

Under the Southeast Asia Network of Climate Change Focal Points (SEAN-CC), UNEP has supported the Philippines in the training on mitigation assessment tools. UNEP is also a partner in a programme that aims to strengthen the country’s capacity to adapt to climate change.

It is significant that the Philippines currently chairs the Vulnerable Countries’ Forum, a grouping of some 20 countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America, that are said to be the most drastically affected by climate change.

Following the recent Typhoon Yolanda, the UNEP/OCHA joint unit deployed immediately and provided support on the oil spill and disaster waste management issues.

UNEP has also been engaging with the Philippines to initiate possible field interventions for ecosystem-based approaches to disaster risk reduction in the country.