Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Like other developing nations, the Philippines does not have to sacrifice growth to save the planet, according to the World Bank's special envoy on climate change.
Andrew Steer, who was on a two-day visit here earlier this week, said the Philippines, a relatively low emitter of greenhouse gases, was not obliged to enact climate-change policies if this would mean the loss of jobs and income.
"It's very important that [developing nations] are able to generate jobs and income. Our view is they should not have to sacrifice growth or jobs for climate change issues," he said at a briefing in Pasig City on Wednesday.
Fortunately for the Philippines, according to Steer, it doesn't need to.
"The good news is that we now have quite a lot of evidence that you can enjoy what we call green growth," he said.
"There's growing evidence that if you're really smart, and put in place clever policies, you can use environmental policies to generate new technologies, higher investment, higher jobs, better growth. That's the good news. You have to do that cleverly," Steer said.
The WB executive was on a two-day visit to discuss climate change policies with Philippine business and government leaders.
He noted that the Philippines has a "very modest level of emission, about 1.8 tons of greenhouse gases per person."
By contrast, industrial countries have on average 13 tons per person, with the United States registering 20, and China about 5.5 tons per person.
Steer said the reason the Philippines has very low emission is because it already has a very high share of renewable total energy of about 40 percent as compared to conventional fossil fuel sources.
"That doesn't in and on itself mean the Philippines doesn't want to play its role. That's why this climate change action plan is important and why the Climate Change Commission is doing such important work," he said.
Steer said there is increasing shift in focus from climate change mitigation to adaptation.
The Philippines, he said, is among the world's most vulnerable despite emitting only modest levels of greenhouse gases. Most at risk are low-lying coastal communities, he said.
Should a storm surge occur, where high winds push the ocean's surface, he said it could result in serious flooding, and Filipinos need to be prepared, Steer said.
The World Bank has made available $250 million to the Philippines to be divvied up to support various projects, particularly in the adoption of green technology.
Steer met with representatives of the private sector and government secretaries to discuss how they are going to flesh the agreements made in Cancun last year in preparation for the "challenging year" ahead.
Bert Hoffman, the WB country director, said the WB is looking into a financial mechanism that will allow towns and cities, especially low-lying ones vulnerable to climate change, to pool resources together to provide easily accessible cash in times like tropical storm Ondoy.
"We're working at a facility that, basically it's a line of credit that would be available for government immediately after a disaster strikes, and we hope to bring that to our board somewhat later this year before the next rainy season," he said. "So that if there were to be another disaster of sufficient scale, the government would immediately have financing for its contingency fund that can therefore spend the money."
He said the WB was looking at a "considerable amount, somewhere between $250 and $400 million," although it is up to the government to say the final amount.
Hoffman said the WB is also currently supporting the government in developing and updating a "Flood Control Map" of Metro Manila.
"Metro Manila was of course hit very hard by Ondoy. It's 4-5 percent of GDP, very large economic losses because of Ondoy. And I think it made us all reconsider what can be done to mitigate impacts of any future disaster of that scale," he said.
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