The most powerful storm to make landfall, in 2013. Two of the three most devastating typhoons since 2011, hitting storm-free Mindanao. A zero-casualty program with zero casualties since 2006. The INQUIRER tracks the potentially historic climate change conference in PARIS with three special reports about the consequences of global warming on climate-vulnerable PiliPINAS, and draws lessons on disaster risk reduction that can actually, urgently, save lives.
When world leaders gather in Paris to begin the final stage of negotiations for a binding treaty limiting greenhouse gas emissions, they will draw attention to one of the proven effects of climate change: extreme weather. Supertyphoon Haiyan, or Yolanda, is now global shorthand for the stronger, more destructive storms a warmer Pacific Ocean generates, even in non-El Nino years.
And yet, despite Yolanda’s high death toll, the Philippines also offers lessons in how to survive extreme weather. In particular, typhoon-prone Albay province is internationally famous for its zero-casualty program. No lives have been lost to natural calamities since 2006; if the tragedy of Reming and its mudslide deaths in 2006 is excepted, the zero record goes all the way back to 1995.
The province has mastered that difficult operation known as “preemptive evacuation”—residents living in danger zones are evacuated to safety even before the national weather bureau hoists storm signals over the province. The work of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (or Apsemo) is crucial; but equally impressive are the residents themselves, who initiate the evacuation when they know a storm is already heading their way.
“The residents of Albay, through continuous prodding, have made [preparedness] a part of their system. It is already inculcated in them that when there are anticipated calamities, they should all move,” Apsemo chief Cedric Daep said, during an INQUIRER.net visit to two towns in the danger zone earlier this year.
The now historic climate change negotiations held in this city gathered not only leaders and representatives of different countries but also groups looking to promote their own causes.
The fight for climate justice is far from over for the thousands of environmental activists who painted Paris red in protest of the lack of action against climate change.
The Philippine delegation to the climate negotiations will still have a number of things to do when they return to the country to deliver the good news.
Moments after a historic agreement to curb global carbon emissions was adopted on December 12, 2015, at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), civil society was quick to remind the 195 countries involved that the real work in combating climate change is only beginning.
The “face of vulnerability” once again spoke of the fate of the vulnerable, to explain why the Paris Agreement on climate change was a universal and binding compact worth adopting, by the Philippines and by other countries.
Philippine statement on Paris Agreement at the 21st Conference of Parties, delivered by Secretary Emmanuel M. de Guzman, vice chair of the Climate Change Commission and head of the Philippine delegation to COP21, at the COP21 closing plenary, December 12, 2015, in Le Bourget, France