Haiyan underscores need for Philippine climate adaptation

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The devastation inflicted by super typhoon Haiyan on central Philippines has put into question the country's ability in coping and surviving the extreme weather events.

Analysts and advocates believe this is the wake up call for policy makers and other stakeholders to put in all the resources needed to adapt to increased storms and floods brought by climate change.

"The evidence linking climate change to the rise in extreme storms and floods is now compelling. This means that climate adaptation must become a crucial dimension in disaster prevention, including climate proofing of infrastructure and developing climate resilient crops," said Vinod Thomas, director general of independent evaluation at the Asian Development Bank.

The issue of climate adaptation is crucial, especially for countries like the Philippines. With or without climate change, the Philippines is vulnerable to such disasters as it is located in the typhoon belt.

Haiyan, the strongest typhoon in recent history, killed at least 2,357 people, displaced millions and flattened entire cities and towns. Such devastation has reaffirmed the urgent need for climate adaptation.

At the UN climate change conference in Warsaw, the Philippine chief climate negotiator Naderev Sano, citing how thousads of Filipinos are now suffering from Haiyan's devastation, made an emotional appeal to his fellow negotiators for a firm commitment to reduce carbon emmissions and financing for climate adaptation in the Philippines and other developing countries.

Indeed, while the government, private sector and international donors are helping typhoon survivors, relief efforts alone are not enough. What Sano's appeal underscored is the need for long-term solution such as adaptation funding.

"Shelter and succor must be provided to the suffering, here and now. But we must look ahead as well, " said Red Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities.

Constantino said that instead of putting a special calamity fund, policy makers need to be more forward-looking.

"Look to the future, invest in the adaptive capacity of local governments. The law calls for a billion pesos in the People's Survival Fund but it remains empty even though it's the first legislated climate resilience fund of the Philippines," he said.

The Philippine climate network Aksyon Kilima (AK) is urging Congress to allocate budget for climate financing.

"The national budget is our shield, our main line of defense against the rapidly changing global climate," AK Coordinator Voltaire Alferez said.

Alferez said the country is not lacking in funds, and that the problem lies in its priorities.

"The national budget as currently designed is completely out of step with the new climate change reality, " he said.

Alferez commended the passage of the People's Survival Fund. The Fund is the country's first climate resilience funding mechanism dedicated to supporting adaptive action by local governments. It was not included, however, in the list of programmed funds under the General Appropriations Act proposal for 2014 and thus remains without funds.

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