Climate change science and Philippine governance

By Danica Marie Supnet

Last week, I presented our report on slow onset events, or the creeping impacts of climate change, at the international conference of the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA). The conference, held in Davao City this year, focused on multilevel governance in the 21st century.

Most participants in the conference hailed from the academe; in fact, I was the lone presenter in the panel on Climate Change and Environmental Governance who was a practitioner and who did not represent a university. I was very proud, however, to state that we did our report in collaboration with scientific and social science professors from three local state universities: Benguet State University (BSU), Visayas State University (VSU), and University of Southeastern Philippines (USEP).

There was a sense in our panel discussion that climate discussions, particularly on the international levels, remain unreachable to policymakers. Climate policies are also being continually overshadowed by disaster and environment-related policies. But as our paper shows, slow onset events such as sea level rise and ocean acidification are threats to our food, water, and even our very existence.

Our panel also agreed that academic institutions are in the best position to help local policymakers with scientific research and advice. And as I explained through the concept of an ideal climate policy ecosystem, local policymaking, in collaboration with local academic institutions and organizations, is central in ensuring climate actions are relevant and responsive to people’s needs.

Furthermore, most of the questions to me after my presentation were on climate finance, which is still a relatively new concept in Philippine discourse on policymaking. It is perceived as a separate policy agenda synonymous to philanthropic or foreign aid finance mechanism. But as we noted in our report briefer, sound local climate action plans, grounded on climate trends and risk and vulnerability assessments, can attract funding from the People’s Survival Fund (PSF), and other national and international funding mechanisms.

In fact, just last month, I witnessed Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez sign the disbursement papers of almost P200 million in PSF funds to four local governments with innovative climate action plans for their communities.

However, although financing opportunities for local adaptation initiatives already exist, they must be further developed and made more accessible to address the risks of slow onset events and the adverse impacts of climate change. Our findings with BSU, VSU and USEP highlight the need to improve the science and policy interface - to incorporate scientific knowledge and action in the local scale to at least minimize vulnerabilities to climate change impacts.

We first previewed our research during the UN climate conference in Germany last November. Now, I am glad to have had the opportunity to present our research in national conferences like PPSA’s in the hope that more national and local academic experts and practitioners would discuss and help solve the work that is cut out for us.

Danica Marie Supnet is the research coordinator of ICSC. She led the slow onset events research work of ICSC with Lourdes Tibig and the climate policy team.