The CALD Climate Change Conference in Palawan, The Philippines concluded with the adoption of a statement on climate change. The statement, described as both "practical" and "policy-relevant", addresses broad issues such as policies and mechanisms for building adaptation and resilience, as well as specific concerns such as water-related issues and marine/coastal resource management, land use and demographic settlement, and renewable energy, investment and economic opportunities. These topics had been discussed in great detail in two previous workshops held in Bangkok, Thailand (November 2011) and Cagayan de Oro/Bukidnon, The Philippines (February 2012).
As the culminating event in the first phase of CALD climate change initiatives, the two-day Palawan Conference brought together representatives from CALD member-parties and civil society organizations to craft a regional climate change agenda that reflects the positions and aspirations of Asian liberals and democrats on the issue. The conference was officially opened by the keynote address of Palawan Governor Baham Mitra, who emphasized the need for multi-lateral, inter-agency, and multi-sectoral collaboration to address climate change. "For us Asian liberals, Asian leaders, let us be decisive – may 'one Asia' direct our future moves and actions, may it inspire our governing strategies, may it guide our vision as leaders in making this planet an even better world and home to live in for mankind", he said.
Governor Mitra's address was followed by a plenary session facilitated by CALD Secretary General and Philippine Presidential Adviser Dr. Neric Acosta, with Philippine Presidential Assistant Bebet Gozun, WWF President and CEO Lory Tan, and Sri Lankan MP Dr. Rajiva Wijesinha serving as speakers. In her speech, Secretary Gozun drew attention to the vulnerability of the Philippines to climate change impacts, noting that unless action is taken now, decades of growth will be wiped out, poverty will be exacerbated and human's very survival will be at great risk. Mr. Tan, on the other hand, cited a study on what policy interventions can be done to build a climate-adaptive and climate-resilient society. He asked, however, "Whether policy change alone will bring solutions?" Answering in the negative, he said that policies are just like the "tip of the iceberg", but much more remains hidden, much more remains to be done in terms of implementation. Dr. Wijesinha, in his speech, raised a couple of controversial issues which go to the very core of liberal stance on climate change such as: that liberalism should not be construed as essentially pro-capitalist, that naked power of market forces is destructive, and that government intervention in certain areas like social policy and climate change is beneficial. The day was capped by a video message from Sweden's Environment Minister Lena Ek, where she drew attention to the importance of the upcoming Rio+ Conference in June 2012.
In the second day of the conference, a panel discussion facilitated by Dr. Wijesinha took place, with Philippine Climate Change Commissioner Yeb Sano, PGRM's Ng Lip Yong, and El Nido Foundation Executive Director Irma Rose Marcelo serving as panelists. "From a liberal standpoint, sustainable development can be viewed in terms of 'timeless freedom'", says Commissioner Sano. "By building climate-resilient society and economy, countries can ensure that the needs of the present generation are met, without compromising the right of the future generations to meet their own needs." Mr. Ng's presentation also touched on sustainable development, by highlighting in particular renewable energy and economic opportunities in a green economy. In her presentation, Ms. Marcelo described the major programs and projects of her foundation, focusing on key issues and challenges in planning and implementation which could be of interest to policy-makers.
Guided by these inputs, the participants then divided themselves into three working groups based on the following policy areas: 1) water-related issues and marine and coastal resource management; 2) land use and demographic settlement; and 3) renewable energy, investment and economic opportunities . A working draft, containing policy statements culled from CALD's two previous climate change workshops were provided to each group for discussion, which was conducted through three rounds of world cafe.
Commissioner Sano facilitated the session on the working group results, which commenced with the presentations of the three table hosts followed by an open forum. The session ended with the unanimous adoption of the Statement on Climate Change, signed on behalf of CALD by the members of the CALD Climate Change Committee namely Dr. Acosta, Dr. Wijesinha, and Mr. Ng. The said statement can be found here
The other highlights of the event are the dinners and cultural shows hosted by Governor Mitra (March 24) and Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn (March 25) and the tour of Puerto Princesa Underground River (March 26). The participants also attended the conference "Changing the Climate Towards Good Governance" organized by FNF Philippines on March 27.