Regional NGOs calls for unified, vigorous ASEAN stance in climate talks following Haiyan devastation

“The scene is one of utter devastation.”

This is how Oxfam staff Tata Abella Bolo described Daanbantayan, a town in the northern most part of Cebu devastated by Super typhoon Yolanda (International name Haiyan) though she is practically describing Tacloban, Palo, Leyte and all the other towns that have been devastated by the typhoon last November 8, Friday. (download the pdf file)

Typhoon Yolanda, dubbed as the most powerful storm in the world so far, hit the Philippines last Friday affecting almost 2,095,262 families or 9.6 million persons in 51 cities and 41 provinces, most of which are agricultural areas, according to the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Monday, November 11. NDRRMC reports currently put the death toll at 255 persons, 71 injured and 38 missing. Estimates however from media and local government representatives’ reports put the possible death toll at more than 10,000 individuals. Estimated damage to infrastructure and agriculture has already reached PhP 296 million (almost USD 8 million) but only covers Regions IV-B, V, VI and CARAGA, and does not yet include the damages in Regions VII and VIII which were also severely affected based on news reports.

The super typhoon comes just three weeks after a powerful earthquake which caused massive damage in Bohol and a storm that wiped out rice harvests worth millions of pesos mid-October this year. Haiyan or Yolanda is the 24th typhoon to hit the country, and Tropical Depression (Zoraida) has now entered the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) giving credence to scientists predictions that there will be at least four (4) more typhoons to hit the Philippines before the year ends.

After leaving the Philippines, Haiyan made landfall in North Vietnam on Monday bringing rains although its strength appears to have decreased substantially. This area of Vietnam has already been hit by two typhoons recently.

The spate of disastrous climate events which wrought destruction in the region has only confirmed what a number of studies have already warned that the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region is highly vulnerable to climate-related events and hot spots for climate change impacts.

According to the ASEAN for a Fair, Ambitious and Binding Global Climate Deal (AFAB), a partnership[ between Oxfam’s East Asia Grow Campaign and Greenpeace Southeast Asia, ASEAN needs to help take a more active and unified stance in the UNFCCC climate talks. This is the UN body where the world’s governments negotiate how to address the climate crisis at the global level. The UNFCCC 19th Conference of Parties (COP19) meeting started yesterday in Warsaw, Poland.

“ASEAN leaders must push for ambitious and binding reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, before and after 2020 ‘, says Oxfam Grow’s East Asia Campaign Coordinator Norly Mercado. “It must intensify efforts to call on develop countries to start providing resources for the Green Climate Fund,”  added Mercado.

A-FAB also called for a region-wide response to climate change. Norly Grace Mercado called on “ASEAN leaders to include and adopt regional policies aimed at building people’s resilience, especially that of the agricultural communities, to changing climate patterns. She stressed the importance of a united ASEAN in pushing for a fair, ambitious and legally binding global clamate deal.

Atty. Zelda Soriano of Greenpeace Southeast Asia also called on ASEAN leaders to ensure a low-carbon, climate resilient economic trajectory and to establish monitoring tools for a trans-boundary environmental impact in the region. She said that ASEAN should encourage its Members to shift towards low carbon development paths through the promotion of renewable energy, as the regional bloc moves towards its goal of building a common regional economic community by 2015.

Scientific studies show that without drastic reduction in carbon emissions, the global temperature will rise and could lead to irreversible catastrophic events. According to experts, the phenomenon of warming oceans in the past decades are likely due to climate change, and warmer oceans give more energy for storms, which can result to more intense storms such as Yolanda (Haiyan).

Carmina Flores-Obanil
Oxfam GROW Campaign

Amalie Obusan
Greenpeace Southeast Asia

One Comment on “Regional NGOs calls for unified, vigorous ASEAN stance in climate talks following Haiyan devastation

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