ACCELERATING RESILIENCE AND CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION: Strengthening the Philippines’ Contribution to the Global Decarbonization Agenda

Toby Melissa C. Monsod
University of the Philippines

Sara Jane Ahmed
Financial Futures Center

Golda P. Hilario
Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities

July 2022

The message of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5˚C (IPCC 2018) is clear.¹ Climate change is here and the difference between warming to 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees engenders a dangerous tipping point that can change the world as we know it. But limiting warming to 1.5 degrees will only prevent some of the worst-case scenarios. It will not and cannot eliminate the urgent need to cope with climate change impacts which will be dire in any case, especially for countries like the Philippines whose populations are disproportionately at risk. It is thus critical for the Philippines to implement measures to adapt and protect itself and, at the same time, strengthen its contribution to global efforts under the Paris Agreement.

In this paper, we discuss the state of play of climate action in the Philippines – what the country has done to advance climate-risk resilience and climate-aligned development and where it is as regards the international effort to limit global warming to 1.5˚C – and how its ‘ambition’ on the latter squares with its efforts on the former. We propose a resetting of that ambition, suggesting that it reconnects to its anchor (adaptation/resilience) and context (sustainable development), away from a GHG inventory-centric approach, so that both national adaptation/resilience and global mitigation goals are better served. This is not the standard decarbonization path but one that may be more suitable to a highly vulnerable country with a relatively tiny carbon footprint per capita like the Philippines. In the Philippines, climate actions that prioritize adaptation and the building of resilient systems are likely to do more, at the margin, for global efforts to reduce the extent of climate change and cope with its impacts than disparate measures to reduce GHG emissions per se – for two reasons. First, robust community ownership of climate action, a necessary condition for any successful pursuit of climate-smart low-carbon development, will follow more easily from dedicated investments and targeted market interventions to build local resilience; the same cannot be said for campaigns to reduce GHG emissions. Second, and perhaps of greater strategic importance, prioritizing resilience can open up previously missed opportunities to significantly contribute to global efforts based on the country’s comparative advantage – for instance, the biodiversity of its seas.

¹An earlier version of this paper appeared as Monsod et al. (2021), hence the reference to IPCC (2018). However, our analysis is consistent with IPCC’s most recent 6th Assessment Report Working Group III (April 2022) which shows that adaptation must remain the climate response anchor of vulnerable countries. The sooner vulnerable countries reach their resilience objectives, the more they get to contribute to the global decarbonization agenda.