Typhoons, of course, are nothing new to the Philippines. This country, with its fast growing population (currently 100 million) and endless coastline sees an average of eight to nine tropical storms every year. But, what was different about Typhoon Haiyan was its intensity and, this super storm had been preceded by other unusual weather events across the country. Heavy rainfalls at the wrong time of year, for example, and Typhoon Bopha, which devastated many lives on the island of Mindano, was the furthest south a typhoon had ever come.
"Even though the Philippines is not a major CO2 emitter, we are committed to taking action because we understand the threat climate change poses to our country," says Sandee Recabar at the Climate Change Commission.
In 2009, the Philippines government adopted the landmark Climate Change Act, allowing the Climate Change Commission to be established. The Commission is tasked with recommending legislation, policies and strategies on adaptation and mitigation. Most critically, though, Ms. Recabar explains, the Commission has proven to be an important means for coordinating the implementation of the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change (2010 – 2022) and its related Action Plan.
A key part of that plan is carving out a sustainable development pathway for the country. This involves finding ways, for example, of using energy more efficiently and setting up more environmentally-friendly transport systems as well as waste management systems. And, a vital waypoint on the road to sustainable development is establishing a national GHG inventory system that can provide regularly updated information on sectorial trends.
"Before, we only carried out the GHG inventory as part of the national communication on climate change, and we would hire external consultants to come in and do it for us," Ms. Recabar said. "Now there is a push for the government to do the inventory itself because, after all, this is official data."
With the capacity to conduct their own inventories, the government will be better placed to make policy decisions for reducing emissions and also pursuing other development goals. For example, explains Ms Recabar: "if we can identify how much CO2 is emitted by the transport sector, this would give us an idea of the impact on people's health and we could provide policy recommendations to the transport sector".
Setting up the Philippines' inventory system requires the involvement of key ministries working in the areas of transport, agriculture, waste and industry (with UNDP LECB support) as well as energy and forestry (with USAID support). Establishing the national inventory system will involve setting out the rules of procedure and institutional arrangements, as well as training relevant officials, and ultimately improving the GHG inventories over time as they are reported to the UNFCCCC.
In this context, a key result under the LECB project was supporting the development of an Executive Order on Climate Change, "Institutionalising the Philippine Greenhouse Gas Inventory System", which will be issued by the President. While an Order does not have the same authority as legislation/regulation or a Presidential decree, it nonetheless provides a clear signal to agencies of the Government's intentions.
The focus now is on training relevant ministry officials on climate change and undertaking emissions estimates, as well as the kind of data that is needed and how to access this information.
A best practice revealed during this 'training' stage has been to ensure that the majority of trainings could be conducted by the Commission staff themselves, explains Ms Recabar. "We are a new institution and having the ability to conduct the trainings ourselves allowed us not only to project credibility, but also meant that our staff were constantly updating themselves on the latest developments in the field."
Another important aspect of this effort is putting in place clear systems and procedures, as well as documenting the inventory process. In this way, the knowledge of how to carry out the inventory is not only held by individuals, but also by the relevant institutions. To this end, the LECB project is supporting the Philippines to develop a national measurement, reporting and verification database system to support the implementation and evaluation of sectorial NAMAs.
For a society like the Philippines, where most people are dependent on climate-sensitive agriculture, and where many live in areas highly vulnerable to increasingly intense weather events, taking action on climate change is critical.
The Climate Change Commission is coordinating the set-up of the national GHG inventory system and this is important for synergizing international support and ensuring linkages to other efforts aimed at tackling