Webinar on “Philippines and the Climate Crisis”

In this webinar, Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda from the House of Representatives in the Philippines discussed the growing imperative for climate action both in the Philippines and globally, as well as the role of legislation and grassroots initiatives in climate change mitigation and adaptation.


Monday, 12 July 2021 – Three-time senator and District Representative of Antique, Lone District, Ms Loren Legarda spoke on the urgency of the climate crisis and the climate vulnerability of the Philippines, as well as highlighted vital solutions and stakeholders in climate action. The session was moderated by Ms Sharon Seah, Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Climate Change in Southeast Asia Programme.

Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda
Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda of the House of Representatives, the Philippines, detailed the role of the Philippines as a pioneer in climate and environmental legislation. Ms Sharon Seah moderated the webinar. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Ms Legarda began by describing the alarming impacts of the climate crisis, especially those already felt in the Philippines, which is particularly vulnerable as an archipelagic nation on the Pacific typhoon belt. Globally, the period of 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record. Nationally, rising ocean temperatures lead to increasingly intense extreme weather events, flooding and drought, whose effects are compounded by ageing infrastructure and a historical lack of planning. Already, 5.4 million Filipinos are living at elevations below the annual flood level. Citing the State of Southeast Asia Survey 2020, she added that over half of Southeast Asians view climate change as a serious and immediate threat. Ms Legarda compared the climate crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasising that pandemic resilience and climate resilience are both inextricable from economic growth.

She went on to detail the role of the Philippines as a pioneer in climate and environmental legislation. Its achievements include the Clean Air Act, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, the Renewable Energy Act and the Climate Change Act, which she contributed to during her time in the Senate. In addition, pending legislation may introduce the inclusion of natural capital in national accounting systems, an environmental enforcement bureau and a national ban on single-use plastic. The Philippines’ updated Nationally Determined Contribution has pledged a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 up from 70%, of which 72.29% is conditional on international support.

Ms Legarda also pointed out the indispensable role of local changemakers who work on issues including green job creation, urban mobility, regenerative agriculture and ecosystem-based solutions – from netizens like Lee Ann Silayan and Roy Solero who promote the value of native trees and plants, to Chef Jam Melchor, Datu Shariff Pendatun and Chef Waya Wijangco who advocate for sustainability in the kitchen.

She called for more science and evidence-based decision-making at the local level, which will allow authorities to implement and monitor climate change solutions, especially when it comes to mainstreaming biodiversity conservation and nature-based solutions. These actions should be complemented by government plans at all levels.

We are now in a decisive decade, with less than nine years remaining to meet the 2030 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, as well as put ourselves on track to limit 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase. Staying within this threshold is vital for vulnerable developing countries like the Philippines. 2021 is also the first year of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. A radical change in our understanding of progress and development is needed. Ms Legarda urged the audience to look to leaders who embrace the challenges posed by climate crisis. She stressed that the only option for pandemic recovery is a climate-aligned pathway.

During the Q&A session, Ms Legarda addressed questions relating to grassroots climate action, the role of non-governmental stakeholders such as youths and a just energy transition. The online audience had almost 150 persons in attendance from across the Asia-Pacific region.

This webinar was supported by the Embassy of the Philippines, Singapore.

The webinar was well attended with about 150 participants. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)