MANILA, Philippines - Economic damage and other losses amounted to at least $18.6 billion or P799 billion, while around 10,000 people who were killed due to Typhoons Yolanda, Ondoy, Pepeng and Sendong, according to the World Bank (WB).
“Climate change is one of the greatest threats to economic growth, not to mentions lives,” Rachel Kyte, WB vice president, said in a press briefing yesterday.
Kyte represented the WB at the recently concluded World Economic Forum (WEF), which was attended by representatives of various governments, multilateral agencies, funding institutions, corporations and conglomerates.
She said climate change would hold back the growth of many economies in the region.
Government leaders and chief executive officers should not view climate change as an environmental issue, but rather a fundamental and central issue for economic development, she added.
“Climate change has intensified. Cost of disasters is now four times greater than it was 30 years ago,” Kyte said. “Last year, the estimated loss in the US alone reached $200 billion.”
She said the problem in the Philippines and the rest of the Asia Pacific region is that the most affected sector are the poor, who also have limited resources.
“If we do not confront climate change, we won’t end poverty,” she said.
WB country director for the Philippines Motoo Konishi said disasters also push people, who previously were not poor, into poverty.
“That is why the World Bank is supporting measures, programs and projects that strengthen the country’s capability to deal with natural and man-made disasters,” Konishi said.
Dealing with climate change is not only developing capabilities of dealing with natural disasters, but countries must be prepared and develop the resiliency in dealing with it, said Konishi.
Kyte and Konishi said resiliency means not only understanding climate change on a global scale, but it must be understood in a localized and even in a production scale.
They said the Philippines, being an agricultural country, can study different crop varieties such as rice or coconut that can adapt to existing weather conditions or conditions that are changing.
The cost of not acting on climate change is more expensive than the cost of preparing and responding to expected damage and destruction, they said.
Meanwhile, Kyte praised the Philippine government’s efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change through integrated planning of various public institutions.
She said both environmental and economic managers should tackle disaster resilience.
“[We have to] bring the climate conversation outside the ministry of environment exclusively right on the table of the ministry of finance, planning and budget and in that case the Philippines is a leader,” Kyte said during a plenary session on Climate Smart Growth at the WEF.
In the Philippines, she said, everybody is focused on climate as an “essential government challenge” and not only a concern of the environment department.
Kyte said the Philippine government has increased its funding for disaster-resilient infrastructure by 25 to 30 percent.
Earlier, she said the WB is mobilizing the international community and the private sector to put together a special fund to enable the Philippines to deal with climate change and natural catastrophes. –With Helen Flores