Climate Change is the New Normal
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
The Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) convened on 10-14 February 2012 in Manila, Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon Philippines to continue its discussions about the "new normal" brought about by climate change. With the theme, "Addressing Vulnerability, Fostering Adaptation", the workshop looked at the impact of erratic weather patterns caused by climate change on the health, safety and livelihoods of people – particularly the poor. Moreover, it highlighted the importance of different adaptation strategies to decrease the vulnerability to climate change and increase resilience to future impacts.

The workshop began with an opening conference organized in cooperation with Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan. The main speaker for the event was Philippine Presidential Assistant on Climate Change Elisea "Bebet" Gozun, who gave a presentation on the devastation incurred by Cagayan de Oro in the aftermath of typhoon Sendong, the issues and problems that arose in the relief and rehabilitation efforts, and the strategies being pursued by the Philippine government to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Secretary Gozun also identified in her speech practical steps which every individual could take in order to lessen global warming. Another resource person of the conference was Xavier University's Engr. Dexter Lo, who provided a stimulating presentation on the scientific information gathered pre- and post- Sendong, and how such information could have been used to increase the resilience of Cagayan de Oro residents.

In the formal workshop sessions the following day, CALD Chair Rajiva Wijesinha reiterated in his welcome remarks the importance of disseminating information on how climate is changing and its possible impacts. He observed that this phenomenon presents not only threats but also opportunities, and he affirmed "the need for maximizing economic opportunities for the worst off in the interventions we propose to mitigate the effects of climate change." Speaking for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), Philippine Office Country Director Jules Maaten drew attention to the difficulties in making ordinary people act on the issue of climate change. "As liberals", he said, "we should be in a better position to inspire people to action because of our more nuanced understanding of human nature."

In his presentation, Philippine Climate Change Commissioner Naderev "Yeb" Sano discussed the progress (or lack of it), in international climate change negotiations, highlighting in particular his experience in UNFCC in Durban, South Africa. He lamented, "negotiators in Durban essentially agree to do nothing about climate change until 2020." CALD Secretary General J.R. Nereus "Neric" Acosta, on the other hand, tackled the threats brought about by erratic weather patterns, and how good governance can address these risks. He said, "As liberals, we have to be sensitive to the vulnerabilities and risks we all face... and we have to be aware of the adaptation strategies and policy directions we must take."

Guided by these inputs, the last workshop session tackled specific CALD policy positions on three policy areas namely: 1) land use and demographic settlement; 2) water-related issues and marine and coastal resource management; and 3) renewable energy, investment and economic opportunities. The participants agreed to press for the following:

1) Collation and active dissemination of relevant information with regard to the sources of risk;

2) Coherent policies with regard to land use, and mechanisms for enforcing such policies at all levels of government;

3) Exploration of alternatives on the basis of pro-poor policies that stress the need to ensure equitable opportunities for all;

4) Community based preparation and early warning systems;

5) Community involvement in mechanisms to preserve and maximize resources, including reforestation;

6) Recognition of the importance of water conservation and management at all levels (rain-water harvesting, ground water retention, development of small reservoirs and local distribution systems);

7) The development of alternative energy sources with encouragement of investment in bio-energy plants, as well as solar and wind energy; and

8) The development of partnerships and cooperatives for diversification of agriculture with support for bio-energy sources in tandem with food crops.

The second day was capped by a tour of Kampo Juan to showcase an eco-farm based on the principle of climate-smart tourism, and a sumptuous dinner hosted by Secretary Acosta in his residence.

On the last day of the workshop, the participants had site visits of areas of devastation in order to show the extent of devastation incurred by Cagayan de Oro City in the aftermath of Sendong. They also visited rehabilitation/relocation areas to demonstrate the rehabilitation efforts undertaken by governments, civil society organizations, and private individuals, particularly in providing temporary shelter and sustenance to the displaced.

This workshop, together with the previous one held in Bangkok in November 2011, would guide CALD as it prepares for an International Climate Change Conference scheduled in Manila and Palawan, The Philippines on 23-28 March 2012.
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Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats
Unit 410, 4/F La Fuerza Plaza 2,
2241 Don Chino Roces Ave. cor. Sabio St.,
1231 Makati City, Philippines
Telephone: +632-8196071; 4961388