The Philippines: We need a perfect storm of support to combat climate change

Residents of Tacloban in the Philippines clear up after Typhoon Haiyan.

Residents of Tacloban in the Philippines clear up after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013

The Philippines: We need a perfect storm of support to combat climate change


By Philippine Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima

Climate change is real; so are its costs. Its impact on countries and on the lives of millions of people is real and already being felt. But in some corners of the world, its effects are more real than in others. The Philippines is more than ready to share in the task of climate action in the global stage.

We have much to say. After all, the Philippines is no stranger to climate change. The country has fallen victim to numerous severe weather events, including Typhoon Haiyan – known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda – which was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, devastating our country and killing more than 6,000 people whilst leaving millions homeless in November 2013.

The Costs of Inaction

According to the World Bank, the cost of climate and weather-related disasters around the world has increased nearly five-fold in the past forty years to more than US$850 billion in the last decade.

Countries from the ‘Vulnerable Twenty’ (V20) – a group of Finance Ministers from countries most vulnerable to climate change, established in October 2015 in Lima, Peru – already face an average of more than 50,000 deaths per year since 2010; a number expected to increase exponentially by 2030. Meanwhile, annual losses of at least 2.5 per cent of our GDP potential per year – estimated at US$45 billion since 2010 – strongly undermine our respective economic growths.

While initial disaster response is key, we need to prepare upstream for future catastrophes in bolstering our climate resilience and reducing our vulnerabilities. New ways of preparing our economies—especially the more vulnerable ones—to face an increasingly hostile and unpredictable environment thus need more focus.


A shipwreck is washed up on land during Typhoon Haiyan

Developing Climate Finance

Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. We are facing a new normal where it is our duty and responsibility to manage the effects of climate change. We cannot wait any longer to address a century of human-induced environmental changes through better collaboration.

The Philippines served as chair for the inaugural meeting of the V20 economies in Lima, Peru where we aimed to create an innovative and open platform where vulnerable countries around the globe can work together to foster investments in climate resiliency as our economies grow.

The V20 members have united to protect people, act quickly, and prepare for the very real consequences that impact our economies. This is being done through innovation and new economic models, understanding the economic challenges of climate-related abnormalities, and driving resilience and preparedness.

Recognising the power and potential of finance as an integral tool in alleviating climatic vulnerability, we decided on the creation of a new sovereign, trans-regional public-private V20 Climate Risk Pooling Mechanism to distribute economic and financial risks, improve recovery after climate-induced extreme weather events and disasters, and enhance security of jobs, livelihoods, businesses, and investors.

Combined with upscale adaptation measures, spatial and temporal risk distribution will enhance our ability to cope with extreme climatic stresses through mitigation action.

We appreciate the considerable progress achieved with developed countries ahead of COP21 (the annual Conference of Parties taking place in 2015 in Paris which reviews the  implementation of the UN Framework on Climate Change ) which continues until 11 December in delivering on the joint 2020 mobilisation commitment of US $100 billion per year. Although according to a recent OECD report, 2014 mobilisation levels were still US$38 billion short of this figure—underscoring just how much remains to be accomplished in the next five years.


A boat is washed up on land during Typhoon Haiyan

Closing the outstanding gap to US $100 billion should not only be achievable. It should even be possible to surpass this scale of financial mobilisation globally and to do so prior to 2020 in order to secure fast-tracked climate protection and benefits for all.

We appeal to our partners in both the developing and developed worlds to recognise a unifying threat to our survival. Climate change does not discriminate in its effects; vulnerable countries merely feel its most devastating effects a little sooner than the others. Ambitious climate action now is the only way we can live to rebuild a better world tomorrow.

The APEC  (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Cebu Action Plan: Resiliency in Focus

Under the President of the Philippines Aquino’s administration’s leadership, the Philippines has focused on strengthening our own country’s resilience to natural disasters through various government programs and initiatives. This includes our ‘Build Back Better’ policy, which has allowed us to implement infrastructure projects that are stronger and more resilient to natural disasters, increasing our capacity to respond to typhoons and various calamities. These are the types of initiatives we shared with other economies.


Pictured is the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban in the Philippines, in November 2013. It was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded

We have thus led during our hosting of this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings to advance climate resiliency as one of its key pillars. This led to the adoption of the Cebu Action Plan, consisting in a set of measures introduced by the Philippines designed to improve disaster resiliency and risk mitigation, including a highly effective micro insurance scheme.

Through such initiatives aiming to mitigate the impact of anthropogenic climate disruptions (environmental pollution caused by man) while developing coordinated disaster risk management strategies, we continue to enhance our adaptive capacities towards a climate resilient future. Not doing so would be both unreasonable and dangerous.

The Philippines continues to participate in high-level international forums—from APEC to COP21—where we commit to speak up and step up in the global march for survival. We hope our friends in more developed parts of the world will do the same. We owe future generations a good fight to secure them another chance to live in a sustainable world.

Cesar Purisima, Philippine Finance Secretary at a private invitation only lunch at Asia House, July 2014

Cesar V Purisima is Chair of both the APEC 2015 Finance Ministers’ Process and the Vulnerable 20 Summit. He served in the Government of the Republic of the Philippines as Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry in 2004 and Secretary of the Department of Finance in 2005. On 1 July 2010 he was reappointed as Secretary of Finance. He has also served as Chair and Member of the Board of several government institutions including the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) and Land Bank of the Philippines.

Philippine Finance Secretary Cesar V Purisima visited Asia House in July 2014 for a private lunch briefing held exclusively for Asia House corporate members. To read about that click here.

To read more about the topics covered in our The Philippines: Asia’s Bright Spot conference earlier this year click here.