Philippines had most disaster deaths in 2011

by Jojo Malig,

Posted at Nov 29 2012 01:32 AM | Updated as of Nov 29 2012 09:56 AM

Philippines places 5th on 2012 Global Climate Risk Index

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines had the highest death toll caused by weather-related disasters last year, a new study said Wednesday.

A total of 1,659 people died from typhoons, floods, landslides, and heavy rains in 2011, according to the Global Climate Risk Index released Wednesday by Germanwatch on the sidelines of a major UN climate change conference being held in Doha, Qatar.

Extreme weather-related events also caused more than $1 billion in damages across the Philippines, the study said.

The country also placed top 5 on the list of the 10 most affected countries on the index. Thailand topped the list, followed by Cambodia, Pakistan, and El Salvador.

"In 2011, the Philippines endured a harsh typhoon season and were  severely hit by tropical storm Washi which claimed over 1,600 flood victims, topping the list for most human casualties of the year," said the report authored by Sven Harmeling and David Eckstein.

The study, citing new scientific data, directly attributed extreme weather events to climate change.

"While a couple of years ago there was hardly any event where science experts made a clear link to climate change, the research community has progressed," it said.

The study warned that developing developed countries are generally more affected than industrialized countries.

"With regard to future climate change, the Climate Risk Index can serve as a warning signal indicating past vulnerability which may further increase in regions where extreme events will become more frequent or more severe through climate change," it added.

The study's authors urged participants at the ongoing COP 18 conference in Qatar to act decisively in scaling-up international response to address climate change.

"The time window for putting the world on a track to stay below 2°C is closing rapidly, and Doha should insert new dynamics," they said.

Philippines leads call to preserve Kyoto Protocol

The Philippines, which is taking part in the Qatar conference, spearheaded a call to "preserve the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding, rules-based international climate change instrument with quantitative emissions reduction targets."

More than 20 countries supported the Philippines' stand that was delivered in plenary on the opening day of the global climate treaty talks Monday by Philippine Climate Change Commissioner Naderev Saño.

Saño said the Philippine position is being supported by countries representing Africa, Asia and Latin America, including Algeria, Argentina, Malaysia, India, and China that have a combined population of close to  3.5 billion.

The Philippine position was directed at developed countries, who have long been criticized for timid action on climate change, according to Saño.

More than 17,000 delegates representing 192 countries are attending the Qatar conference, which will end on December 6.

"The country's voice resonates in this global meeting," said Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who is attending the talks to observe the proceedings. "We clearly have a leadership role to play in Doha."

Conference participants will decide on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period concludes at the end of the year.

Countries that signed the Protocol are required to reduce their emissions by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2012.

However, greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 50 percent since 1992 when the climate change treaty was first agreed, according to Saño.

"Without ambitious action, the great majority of the world's population is doomed. Inaction is simply unacceptable," he said.