THE complexity of our world’s development problems has long been the subject of intense scrutiny to better understand approaches and solutions. The problems, however, persisted and the tasks for all of us became even more daunting. The latest climate science warns that we have barely until 2030 before the window of opportunity to meet the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius closes.
For vulnerable developing countries like the Philippines, 1.5 C is a threshold of luck and hope. If we breach this temperature limit, we are doomed to lose countless lives and immeasurable suffering, especially among the vulnerable and the poor, will occur. Crossing the threshold will disrupt basic social and economic activities and transform life as we know it.
The world continues to warm and with it comes lasting climate change. Climate change, along with the Covid-19 pandemic, are among today’s greatest humanitarian challenges. Climate and pandemic resilience are closely linked to global economic growth. If the world becomes an inhospitable place, the concept of economy will disintegrate and we will find ourselves in an abyss where it will be difficult to survive.
We have recently seen how many of our communities have been submerged by flooding due to Typhoon “Odette”. In this era of climate crisis, made more difficult by Covid-19, more lives are at stake. Our decisions and actions will impact communities and the nation. There is no longer an appropriate time to say that responding to these crises has become a moral imperative for governments and a social responsibility for all – when having less in life means losing a life.
We actually have many laws and policies focused on addressing climate change issues, climate risk management, and environmental protection. These include the Climate Change Act to strengthen climate governance; People’s Survival Fund Act to finance adaptation projects by local governments and community organizations; Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act to build disaster resilience; Environmental Education and Awareness Act to instill a love of nature in our youth; and the Green Jobs Act to support a just transition to a green economy.
However, laws are only part of the equation and their implementation through good governance could make all the difference. The world needs to change the way it thinks and acts to effectively tackle today’s complex problems of urban poverty, weak governance, declining ecosystems and vulnerable rural livelihoods in to achieve human development goals.
Our actions should enable us to revisit and rethink current socio-economic development frameworks and strategies. Over the centuries, our development approaches and practices have allowed vulnerabilities to grow, spread and spread. We need to take an innovative, out-of-the-box approach to effectively tackle this complex development problem.
Our actions should allow us to reset – the kind that has genuine regard for human development and a forceful vision for the future of humanity; the kind that ushers in proactive laws and policies and reforms the way we think and do.
Our actions should allow us to institutionalize a new brand of governance – one that ensures that laws and regulations are adopted and implemented and creates an enabling environment to translate sustainable development strategies into practical and measurable gains; gender which translates the commitment into concrete actions and results for the population.
Our actions should have a more integrated, holistic and proactive approach to reducing vulnerabilities and building the resilience of nations and communities; an approach that engages all key stakeholders and sectors and builds on partnerships, collaboration, coordination and cooperation, particularly in the process of mainstreaming climate action into the national development agenda.
Our actions must take into account our social, cultural and natural capital, which is based on the protection of ecosystems and cultural resilience. They should also be able to promote community awareness and increase national commitment and investment in climate and Covid-19 recovery for a safer and more sustainable future.
Recovering from the pandemic requires rapid and massive investments that must not only realize the short-term gains of job creation and reviving industries, but also meet long-term resilience goals. Stimulus packages should channel massive investment into climate-smart infrastructure, such as smart grids, that can accommodate renewable energy sources; early warning systems against natural hazards; sustainable transport systems that allow public transport, walking and cycling as the main modes of travel; rainwater harvesting systems; nature-based solutions to floods, droughts and typhoons; and green infrastructure in parks and public spaces.
We need the support of the private sector. Companies need to develop sustainability-focused plans in business models and corporate governance with the general population in mind. This will not only benefit communities, but also businesses, as it will give them a sustainable competitive advantage. It is therefore in the interest of the private sector to put climate resilience at the heart of their business strategies and promote green policies by building support for climate action and disaster risk reduction initiatives, supporting that help build assets and build community resilience and help finance mitigation activities and strengthen adaptation actions to avoid significant business losses and economic development setbacks resulting from disasters.
The greatest value of a company is not in the monetary profit it brings nor in the wealth it creates, but in the nobility of its purpose – to improve the quality of life and build a sustainable and resilient society. What could be more gratifying than knowing that your business, big or small, has made a difference in making a village community or the country as a whole a safer and happier place to live? Isn’t this the essence of environmental, social and governance concepts?
The road promises to be strewn with pitfalls. But instead of slowing us down, the challenges should bring consensus, an agreement that the country should redouble, if not triple, its efforts to achieve its goals. We rebuild and continue to rebuild after every disaster. Now is the time to not only build better, but to build stronger, using the best standards in light of the crises we face today.
The author is executive director of the Young Environmental Forum and a non-resident fellow of the Stratbase ADR Institute. He completed his Climate Change and Development course at the University of East Anglia and an Executive Program in Sustainability Leadership at Yale University. You can email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @WiggyFederigan.