Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Who's going to pay for saving your brown ass from climate change?

Or more pointedly, who's going to bag the loot?
Yesterday, I found that Senator Juan Ponce Enrile delivered a privilege speech on international climate change funding and was rather taken by what he had said, posting it liberally on my Facebook Account's wall.

I was rather overly enthusiastic only because I had been writing about links between plastic pollution and flooding in Metro Manila, and thought, that perhaps what the Senator said in his privilege speech would have something to do with my current crusade.

I have to admit, most of what the 80 year old Senator said was news to me and I quickly pointed at it as a privilege speech on anomalies in the administration of foreign climate change funding.  However, there was actually more to that than the usual melodramatic expose that the Senate had become so popular for last year.

Any way, after overcoming my excitement and after re-reading the whole speech, I realized that it mostly dwells upon how the Philippine government ought to finance climate change adaptation measures.

With the fact that climate change is here and we ought to do something about it being fairly established, I think Enrile actually launched into a discussion that goes beyond collecting recyclables, tree planting, river runs, concerts, and what-have-you to save the environment.

In his speech, Enrile makes a case for charging the cost of climate change adaptation to developed countries.

There is no doubt that rich countries are largely to blame for the climate crisis. Wealthy nations bear the historical responsibility for this problem. Great and powerful as they are, it is a fact that just as great is the responsibility they must bear for the global damage they have caused in the name of their own "development", "industrialization" and economic advancement.  They need to cut their greenhouse gas emissions drastically and dramatically, as has been the call from small countries.
But more importantly, we must challenge their financial might and power by pressing for the  rapid dispatch and channeling of funds to developing countries, whose ability to cope with threats not of their making are severely impaired by their economic condition.
While we lay the blame squarely at the doorstep of developed nations and remind them of their responsibilities, we must not spare ourselves from criticism.
Then Enrile describes the flawed way in which the country has accessed international funding for climate change.
Currently, governance chaos reigns over the administration of climate finance that has already entered the national coffers, and of funds we expect in the future as they are projected or programmed to come from abroad.  More international climate finance has gone to mitigation efforts instead of adaptation activities. Worse, it appears that most of the resources allocated for adaptation programs and projects have come in the form of loans. This is contrary to the position championed by the Philippines abroad, which calls for climate finance to be channeled neither as aid nor charity, but in context and by design as compensatory funding.
He charges the recently created Climate Change Commission (a creature conjured up by Senator Loren Legarda) with "misbehaviour".
I have received numerous reports and documents pointing to climate-related funds that our government has accepted in the wrong form and manner and which appear to have been misused or disbursed questionably. I have also received reports that the agency which Congress created and tasked with the responsibility of exercising leadership in handling the issue and the problem—none other than the Climate Change Commission -- has been performing badly, with one commissioner unilaterally usurping the powers and dispensing the duties that the Commission should be exercising as a collegial body.
And further on.
This afternoon, allow me to raise some very serious concerns about a climate finance-related arrangement that was reported to have been consummated between some government agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways and the World Bank, and which, on face value, appears to be extremely disadvantageous to our people's interest.
A unique feature of the Adaptation Fund is to provide developing countries direct access to the Fund without having to pass through multilateral development banks such as the World Bank.  Vulnerable developing countries can nominate local institutions for accreditation as National Implementing Entities (NIEs), which will be responsible for endorsing project and program proposals from their countries, and will be direct recipients of the funding.  These NIEs must meet certain standards set by the Adaptation Fund Board to ensure sound fiduciary management and oversight over the use of the funds.  Money which is provided bilaterally by donor countries to the Adaptation Fund ceases to become bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) once it enters the Adaptation Fund.
Unfortunately, documents and related information recently acquired by non-government organizations seem to contradict such position taken by the Philippine government, such that the World Bank allegedly is poised to deny the Philippine government the option to directly access resources from the Fund. Instead, it appears that the World Bank is reportedly ready to act as a conduit that will access the Fund on our behalf. There are now allegations that officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and PAG-ASA have either wittingly colluded with World Bank or unwittingly succumbed to it, for a prospective US$15M Adaptation Fund "grant" which could burden our country with even more loans. 
Then comes what appears to be the crux of the matter, the bottom line:
The total project cost of the World Bank proposal amounts to  US$13.85 million and allocates for the World Bank almost US$2.0 million representing management costs, which brings the total financing proposal to US$15 million. Is this really the rate? Even if the government allows a 10 percent "corruption" cost, which is an absurd proposition, it will still be cheaper than paying a 15 percent World Bank management fee. Mr. President, I posit this question, will management costs be lower if a Philippine government agency be assigned instead to undertake the Direct Access modality route as prescribed by UN Adaptation Fund Board?
 And here, JPE takes a swipe at Senator Loren Legarda:
I urge the proper committees of the Senate to urgently look into these complex issues, especially those which bear on the public finance aspect of addressing the reality of climate change. Let us show our people that we, their elected representatives, can do much more and much better than planting or hugging trees. In addressing this global phenomenon and in proposing more effective remedies and means to protect our people, we are called upon to offer more than just the usual pro-environment rhetoric.
Facebook buddy and fellow blogger Ben Kritz registered his view on Enrile's speech:

On the Adaptation Fund's character as compensatory funding:
When the Philippines decides to clean up its own act and enforce what environmental/anti-pollution laws it already has on the books, it will then be in a position to dare talk about "compensatory funding." This was one of my biggest beefs with GMA last year -- the environmental harm that causes direct human harm in this country does NOT come from across the seas.
Her position, which is what JPE seems to be agreeing with, was that global environmental effects -- of which Ondoy would be an individual example -- are made worse by the countries that are responsible for the greatest amount of pollution that contributes to global warming, and that the countries who do not contribute significantly to that problem should be compensated proportionally in order to withstand the effects.
Okay, so on principle, that is not completely off-base. But what aggravates the effects of a typhoon (or even an ordinary heavy rainstorm) here? It is the LOCAL pollution, poor infrastructure planning and design, poor land management, etc. If all else was equal, i.e., if the Philippines was rationally managing its own environment, then yes, the idea of 'balance in mitigation' might well come into play. But singing the sad song about "we suffer from the effects caused by the rest of the world" just doesn't wash at this point. 

1 comment:

Noemi Tirona said...

Dear Mr. Paul(I hope this is the correct recipient),

Thanks for blogging about these relevant concerns. Glad to know even more friends in the environment.
May I repost this in our Green Convergence yahoogroup along with the text of Sen. Enrile's speech?
I think our colleagues in the advocacy will appreciate being able to read it too.

Hoping for your favorable reply,
Noemi N. Tirona

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