Key Findings and Recommendations to DENR Plans and Programs on Impact of Global Warming of 1.5 °C

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The Oscar M. Lopez Center for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management Foundation Inc. (OML Center) completed the “Study on the Implications of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C to Plans and Programs of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)”. The study, undertaken from July to October 2019,  and primarily intended for the use of the DENR, offers (1) policy and program recommendations based on the assessment of climate change impacts on ecosystems, (2) suggested output and outcome indicators, and (3) ratings on climate-responsiveness. 

Key impacts of climate change on ecosystems in PH

While 1.5 °C is a global target, temperature increase and associated impacts will vary locally. There are significant risks associated with 1.5 °C warming, including great impact on the poor and the most vulnerable, but risks associated with warming are substantially lower at 1.5 °C than 2 °C warming. Limiting warming to 1.5˚C, according to the IPCC, requires major and immediate transformation. 

Because of its unique geographical location, the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. As temperature rises, rainfall pattern shifts, sea level rises, and as more extreme weather events happen, this will further exacerbate the degraded condition of ecosystems and biodiversity in the country.

The warming climate leads to different risks to ecosystems and natural resources (forest, coastal and marine, urban, water resources, biodiversity, agriculture and food security, and many other sectors). Based on the review conducted by the Center, most of the Philippine ecosystems are already at risk from climate change (low to medium confidence). The Burning Embers (Philippine version) diagram explicitly illustrates the increasing risks to Philippine ecosystems as global mean temperatures increase. 

Systems such as coral reefs are exposed to increasing sea surface temperature, ocean acidification and damage from sedimentation, and have very limited adaptive capacity. They are therefore the most sensitive and are subject to very high risks with additional warming of 1°C to 4°C. This is followed by coastal systems which are highly exposed to inundation due to sea level rise and storm surges, aggravated by sedimentation from the upland and lowland. 

On the other hand, mangroves, with its high tolerance and adaptive capacity, are seen to be the least sensitive to the different levels of global mean temperature change.

The impacts of climate change to ecosystems in the Philippines were assessed by the project team based on the IPCC AR5, the Special Report on 1.5°C warming, Philippine Climate Change Assessment (PhilCCA), and other relevant literature. 

Assessing priorities

Using an ecosystems-based approach, the Center focused on the assessment of the DENR’s ten priority program, namely: (1) Clean Air; (2) Clean Water; (3) Solid Waste Management; (4) Enhanced National Greening Program; (5) Intensified Forest Protection and Anti-illegal Logging; (6) Geo-Hazards, Groundwater Assessment and Responsible Mining; (7) Enhanced Biodiversity Conservation; (8) Scaling Up of Coastal and Marine Ecosystems; (9) Improved Land Administration and Management; and (10) Manila Bay Clean Up. The study also reviewed international and national policies relevant to the programs and identified policy gaps and needs. 

Stakeholder engagement activities were conducted as part of the study, to validate the existing and proposed output and outcome indicators of the different DENR programs and policies, and to ensure that co-production practices characterize the identification of enhanced indicators. The study developed a set of criteria to ensure the climate-responsiveness of policies and programs. When policies and programs are climate-responsive, they are designed and implemented taking into account current and future climate risks together with their interaction to non-climatic factors. These key properties are as follows: (1) evidence-based; (2) integrative and holistic; (3) addresses interconnected risks and vulnerabilities; (4) addresses multiple objectives; (5) flexible; (6) long-term in scope; (7) stimulates migration to green-development pathways; (8) promotes public-private sector engagement; (9) highly acceptable to local and national government agencies; (10) promotes incremental and transformational adaptation; (11) has a clear governance structure; and (12) sufficiently funded.

Pathways to achieving climate responsiveness

The study highlights were presented to the DENR Executive Committee last November 25 and at the DENR nationwide convention/forum last February 4.

Given the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, it has become ever more urgent and critical to make sure that plans and programs, especially those for the environment and natural resources sector, are climate-responsive. Initial evidence suggests the need for a more systemic and ecosystems-based/landscape approach to address the impacts of climate change in a more efficient and effective manner. 

The study recommended the following interventions to the DENR Priority Programs:

  1. Establish ecosystems and watershed observation networks 
  2. Develop decision support systems
  3. Conduct empirical and modelling studies of climate change impacts
  4. Formulate clear and simple guidelines that outline the process of conducting multiple risks and vulnerability assessments
  5. Integrate and harmonize plans and programs through multi-agency/multi-stakeholder collaboration and use of landscape and seascape or other related approaches
  6. Institutionalize a robust system for developing climate-responsive policies and programs

To enhance the role of the environment and natural resources sector in achieving climate resilience and mitigation targets of the country and support sustainable management of the environment and natural resources, the following policies are recommended to be put in place:

  1. National Land Use Act, which will promote ecosystem-based adaptation and increased resilience of ecosystems to adverse impacts of climate change, as well as contribute to increased resilience of local communities
  2. Sustainable Forest Management Bill, which will enhance the role of the forestry sector in climate change adaptation and mitigation through the institutionalization of sustainable forest management principles
  3. Payment for Environmental Services, which can help improve resource accounting of essential environmental services managing, conserving and protecting the ecosystems
  4. Carbon Offset Law, which will enhance the role of forests in climate change mitigation and help the country achieve its emissions reduction goal

Moving forward and given the above recommendations, the following ways forward were suggested to DENR:

  • Review and institutionalize the proposed program outcome and output indicators and identify more quantifiable targets.
  • Self-assess climate-responsiveness of the programs using the developed criteria and initial ratings. 
  • Conduct baseline studies and comprehensive impact assessments on the impacts of climate change on ecosystems.  
  • Assess and build internal capacity to ensure that appropriate knowledge and skills are in place to make the programs more climate-responsive. 
  • Given the need for stronger institutional coordination among national and local stakeholders, it is also necessary to identify the key actors and institutions at the national and local scales. 

The four-month initiative was funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and managed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) under the Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans (NAP-Ag) Project.

For more information on Philippine climate change and its impacts, visit the Philippine Climate Change Assessment Reports page.