By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

AN ASIA-PACIFIC regional conference on disaster risk management in the Philippines next year should push the country to adopt more environmental protection-based solutions including harnessing renewable energy, environmental groups said at the weekend. 

Gerry Arances, executive director of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED), said the conference should look at the environmental impacts, not just the “metrics of economic planning targets” of projects such as the construction of gas and fossil fuel plants.

“Only when fossil fuel projects are officially identified as the biggest source of increasing disaster risk and halted for this reason can we say that the world has truly embraced a holistic disaster risk reduction and management strategy,” he said in a Viber message. 

“Disaster risk reduction and management resilience are mainly focused on infrastructure instead of reducing the root cause of violent weather phenomena’s increasing frequency and intensity,” he added.

The Philippines is set to host the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction on Oct. 14 to 17, 2024. Asian delegates will share experiences and innovations to mitigate climate and disaster risks in the region.

“The conference will provide an important opportunity to review ongoing disaster risk reduction efforts, share innovative solutions and make new commitments to accelerate risk reduction in the world’s most disaster-prone region,” Mami Mizutori, special representative of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, said at a news briefing last week announcing the Manila conference. 

Convened by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the conference will refer to the midterm review of the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 at the regional level, Ms. Mizutori said.

The review has raised concerns about climate financing, as well as enhancing a more gender-inclusive and localized disaster risk response.

“The challenges we face are complex and they do not affect everyone equally,” Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said in a statement on Friday. “They require a convergence of efforts, synergies from across sectors so that we are able to respond to each of the different exposures and vulnerabilities.”

Nationwide private sector partnership entails on-the-ground visibility to help raise awareness on disaster preventive measures, according to Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President George T. Barcelon.

“The private sector especially organizations like the PCCI have a broad range throughout the country so we have more ground visibility,” he told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of the briefing. “What are the areas that are prone to disaster?” he asked, adding that the government needs preventive action.

Solutions like harnessing clean and renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower, as well minimizing single-use plastics to manage pollution should be discussed in the conference, Gregg Yan, founder and executive director of environmental group Best Alternatives, said.

Mr. Yan also said the illegal wildlife trade in Asia needs urgent discussion. “For decades, it has been depleting Asia’s endangered animals including pangolins, sea turtles and tigers,” he said in an e-mail. “Stronger intergovernmental cooperation to stamp out this silent trade is needed to save our region’s wildlife from forever disappearing from our forests, rivers and seas.”

“If we cannot achieve the 1.5°C goal, we predict that by 2030, the number of disasters will advance,” Ms. Mizutori told last week’s briefing, referring to the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C by cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030.

“The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration forecast would show the number of typhoons will not increase but will intensify,” Science and Technology Secretary Renato U. Solidum, Jr. told the same briefing.

Climate change could cut the Philippines’ economic output by 13.6% by 2040, the World Bank said in a report last year.