Legarda urges gov’t to act on ‘biggest global health threat’
Climate change is threatening to affect not only the environment but also the health of the public as the government faces “conundrums” that include the spreading of deadly diseases and viruses, Senator Loren Legarda warned on Wednesday.
“Climate change is not an overnight problem, and it has taken us supertyphoons and tsunamis, sinking islands, arid, unusable land, and staggering numbers of lives displaced and perished to visualize what scientists and environmental activists have been warning us for decades – that among other effects, “climate change will be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century,” Legarda said in her opening remarks during “The Necessary Alternatives: Balancing Energy, Health and the Climate Challenge Forum” at the Senate.
“As climate change alters rainfall patterns and brings deadly, intensified and frequent calamities, it will affect public health. Governments, organizations, businesses and the private sector will face conundrums that include the spreading of deadly diseases and viruses, decrease in well-being of citizens, not to mention medical relief needed with each catastrophe,” she said.
Legarda noted a study conducted by the World Bank, which showed that the average global cost of adaptation in the health sector for the prevention and treatment of diarrhea and malaria alone would reach $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion per year (in 2005 dollars) over the period 2010–2050.
Another study of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), she said, estimates the adaptation cost in the health sector to range from $2 billion and $14 billion over the period 2010–2030.
“For a more relatable scenario, in the Philippines, the rising cases of dengue and malaria are related to climate change. In 1998, when the Philippines experienced El Niño, almost 40,000 dengue cases, 1,200 cholera cases and nearly 1,000 typhoid fever cases nationwide were recorded,” she said.
“The state of our health as human beings is under threat but it is not a death sentence—yet. We are alive and able to address the crisis of climate change, which is related to how we access and use fossil energy.”
Legarda said there was strong scientific consensus that climate change was largely the consequence of greenhouse gas emissions.
These emissions, she said, largely come from human activities, including burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, transportation and agriculture.
The senator then urged the world’s governments, movers and shakers “to urgently, and with conscience, examine how we use energy and how to use innovation and new technologies to provide for the energy it needs in a sustainable and inclusive manner.”
“Growth is difficult to imagine without energy; and energy that does not take into consideration the needs of future generations can only destroy and not build,” she said.
Legarda said necessary laws are already in place to help the country towards “building a healthy, resilient, sustainable and climate-adaptive nation.”
She then cited the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law, Renewable Energy Act, Rainwater Catchment Law, Climate Change Act, People’s Survival Fund Law, and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Law, among many others.
“We just have to take that first crucial step of actually taking action,” the senator added.
The forum gathered key personalities to talk about how climate change, health and energy are interconnected.
It allowed for policy makers and the public to look into the efforts of the Climate Change Commission, other involved agencies, and non-state actors in identifying areas of possible policy intervention that will help achieve the Philippines’ Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) target of 70% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and explore areas to increase the country‘s level of mitigation.
Noted speakers were Professor Paul Wilkinson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who discussed the implications of energy policies on health; British Ambassador Asif Ahmad who gave the keynote message; Secretary Zenaida Monsada of the Department of Energy; Undersecretary Vicente Belizario, Jr. of the Department of Health; and Cong. Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Climate Change.
Experts from the Climate Change Commission, Energy Regulatory Commission, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, environmental and health activists as well as representatives of nongovernment organizations also shared data and insight on the topic. IDL
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