Sustainable Development and Agenda 21

Article excerpt


In this time of global financial crisis affecting countries in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, there is a real risk that the new found awareness and concern for worsening climate change may be eclipsed by the issues related to investments and financial flows. Prior to the current financial crisis, world opinion had been coming to terms with the urgency of the mitigation and adaptation agenda. Our challenge today lies in sustaining this strong focus on climate change, even as the world and country leaders tackle the financial crisis in the months and years ahead.

Two decades ago, the UN Commission on Environment and Development (UNCED) released the Brundtland Report and we agreed to pursue sustainable development in order "to ensure that humanity meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Since Rio, sustainable development has sharply drawn attention to environmental problems and the global search for new approaches that minimize threats to dwindling resources and human welfare.

Protection of the global climate to ensure the optimal functioning of its life support systems is a critical aspect of sustainable development and the reason for the adoption of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. We recognized the urgency of identifying specific measures to arrest climate change when we adopted the Kyoto Protocol. More recently, we agreed to accelerate implementation of Rio and Kyoto commitments when we adopted the Bali Plan of Action.

Protection of the planet's climate is premised on the principles of "equity" and "common but differentiated responsibilities." The convention itself sets the three essential parameters by which we ought to achieve the ultimate objective of addressing climate change: First, by ensuring that adaptation is undertaken; second, that food production is not threatened; and third, that economic development proceeds in a sustainable manner.

Accelerated implementation under the Bali Plan of Action, including the promised new and additional financing and technology transfer to the developing countries, is premised on inviolable principles agreed on in Rio. We should not lose sight of the fact that this is an integral part of the "shared vision" that we are defining under the Bali Action Plan, together with the need for much deeper emission reduction targets of developed country parties for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

As a developing country party to the convention, the Philippines has always taken active part in shaping the convention's implementation. We continue to do so, guided by the above principles and the balance of commitments under the convention. The Philippines fully subscribes to the provision on the balance of commitments under the convention that "the extent to which developing countries will implement their commitments will depend on the effective implementation by developed countries of their commitments on financial resources and transfer of technology."

Mindful of this fact, the Philippines, together with the G77 and China, has submitted proposals for more responsive financing and technology transfer mechanisms under the Bali Action Plan process. So far, most, if not all, of the climate change funds have been provided through voluntary donor funding and institutions outside the financial mechanism of the convention. This has rendered the funding unpredictable and inadequate, as well as, inconsistent with the commitments under the convention. This situation has to be rectified as resources are extremely important for developing country parties, especially for adaptation.

As the Philippines is an archipelagic country made up of more than a thousand islands prone to natural disasters, adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change is a key priority. Increasing threats from natural hazards, including from climate change, have spawned initiatives in adaptation in affected communities, despite budgetary and technological constraints. …