Cimatu: ASEAN must take climate change ‘very seriously’

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said it is high-time the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) take climate change seriously as a threat to sustainable urban development.

“I would like to encourage everyone to take this threat very seriously. The fact that we are gathered here today is an acknowledgment that the problem is in critical proportion,” Cimatu said in a speech delivered last Wednesday at the ASEAN Forum on Urban Resilience to Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Management Strategies held in Laoag City.

The regional forum brought together over 150 research and development experts from across Southeast Asia to discuss plans on attaining urban resilience to climate change and disaster risks within the region. 

Experts from ASEAN partners like Japan and India also attended the forum organized by the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in cooperation with the ASEAN National Organizing Council under the Office of the President, and the provincial government of Ilocos Norte.

Cimatu expressed his gratitude to the scientists and researchers across ASEAN and other partner countries for sharing their knowledge and expertise during the forum, which formed part of events celebrating ASEAN’s 50th founding anniversary being hosted by the Philippines.

“Your years of hard work in research about urban resilience and disaster risk reduction deserve recognition,” Cimatu told forum participants. “Our region needs these noble efforts to make our people and families more secure and resilient amidst the threats posed by the changing climate.”

The environment chief expressed hope the forum would lead to proposals and policies geared toward a more resilient ASEAN.

“For this day, we look forward to be more adept with new inventions and researches toward facing the challenge of climate change and reducing disaster risks,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu said he believed the awareness on the need to address climate change should not be confined on scientists and researchers alone, but also on all people from large cities to the smallest communities in the region.

“Let us handle climate change risks boldly, swiftly and collectively as one ASEAN,” he said.

During the forum, at least four renowned scientists gave lectures on climate change impact assessment tools, urban resilience and green growth strategies, institutional resiliency and management strategies.

A Japanese expert also shared his country’s initiatives and means to make urban communities resilient to climate change and reduce disaster risk. 

In the past 10 years, ASEAN countries became highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change as they are now experiencing more frequent extreme weather events — floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

As early as 2009, the World Bank warned that the Philippines topped the list of countries most vulnerable to storms, with Vietnam the second most vulnerable to rising sea levels, and Thailand and Vietnam among those most threatened by flooding. 

Last year,  the Global Climate Risk Index of German Watch listed four out of 10 ASEAN countries — Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand — as among the 10 nations most affected by climate change from 1995 to 2014 based on annual averages.

Other ASEAN countries are also vulnerable to climate change at varying degrees with Brunei Darussalam suffering from heat-related stress, low coastal scopes in Indonesia likely to be affected by a small increase in sea level, and Malaysia’s Sabah frequently experiencing floods and drought. ###

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