By: Imelda V. Abano, InterAksyon
November 28, 2012
DOHA, Qatar — The Philippines placed fourth among more than 190 countries around the world that have suffered the most extreme weather events such as flooding and storms over the past 20 years, according to the 2013 Global Climate Risk Index.
The study, presented here at the United Nations climate summit by environment organization Germanwatch, shows that impoverished developing countries such as the Philippines continue to suffer the greatest impacts of climate change.
The Philippines has been featured several times in the list of the 15 most vulnerable countries over the past years.
It was ranked 14th at the last year’s report of countries most vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events.
In 2011 alone, the Philippines ranked 5th among countries most affected that was worst hit by extreme weather events.
The country endured a harsh typhoon season and was severely hit by tropical storm Washi, which caused more than $1 billion US dollars in direct losses and claimed over 1,600 lives in deadly flashfloods, topping the list for most human casualties of the year, the report said.
Topping the list of vulnerable countries is Thailand, followed by Cambodia, Pakistan and El Salvador.
“Losses and damages from extreme weather events are the reality today in particular in developing countries. Recent science results tell us that climate change is an increasing factor in the occurrence of very heavy events,” said Sven Harmeling, the lead on climate change policy at Germanwatch.
Citing the study, Harmeling told reporters here that globally, more than 530,000 people have died as a direct consequence from almost 15,000 extreme weather events over the past 20 years, which have also caused losses of more than US$2.5 trillion.
The devastating floods in Thailand, which killed 892 persons and affected over 13 million, accounted for the country’s rise to the top of this year’s climate risk index.
In Cambodia, extreme rainfall resulted in the worst flooding in decades, killing about 250 people.
Pakistan, which suffered the worst floods in the country’s history in 2010, was again struck by a rough monsoon season that killed killing over 500 people.
El Salvador experienced extensive floods and landslides and lost over US$1 billion in damages.
Harmeling hoped countries participating in the Doha climate talks “take a committed step forward towards establishing a consolidated international response” in terms of carbon emissions cuts, increasing support for adaptation and mechanism to address loss and damage.
Acknowledging the vulnerability of the Philippines to extreme weather events and disaster brought about by climate change, Climate Change Commission vice chairperson Mary Ann Lucille Sering said the country ” should now consciously consider the impacts in all government planning as a pro-active approach to development.”
“We have seen how these events have resulted to substantial losses in gross domestic product highlighting that previous land use planning are no longer in-tune with needs of the present and most especially of the future,” Sering, also the head of the Philippine delegation in the Doha climate talks, told InterAksyon.com.
Sering, however, said the newly released Climate Risk Index Report does not factor-in losses and damage from other disaster events.
She noted that the Global Assessment Report of Disaster Risk Reduction by the UN’s office for disaster risk reduction, which includes geological hazards like earthquake and volcanic eruption, places the Philippines as the third most vulnerable country in the world.
“The message is clear. Loss and damage can be reduced or avoided if we take to heart all these reports and plan accordingly,” she stressed. “Climate change adaptation and disaster risk management should not be just beautiful languages in the plans but should be translated in action.”
Red Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, said moving from 14th place to the top 5 in the global climate risk ranking for 2011 “is not just embarrassing but deeply troubling.”
“Issuing responsive policies that build and sustain resilience together with the flow of public finance in the scale and modality warranted by the climate change crisis, these are the tools that government needs to wield with urgency,” Constantino said. “Our current ranking need not be constant. We can improve and dramatically reduce our risks. We must. Inaction is clearly not an option.”
Constantino added that the passage by the Philippine government of the People’s Survival Fund a few months ago, which will support adaptation action from local governments and communities, “is a welcome, strategic move.”
“However, the ability of the Philippines to adapt to climate change comes will always be limited if drastic emissions reductions from developed countries do not take place. Absent concerted international mitigation action, we will all be in for a turbulent, perilous ride. This is why the Doha round is so critical to the negotiations,” he stressed.#
File photo of damage wrought by the flashfloods of storm Sendong (photo by Erwin Mascarinas, InterAksyon.com)