GLS 74: Climate Change and Conflict Dynamics

Adapting Peace-building and Development Strategies to the Reality of Climate Change



In the global battle against climate change, the Philippines is not an exemption.

The Asian Institute of Management Policy Center in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung conducted the 74th edition of its Globalization Lecture Series on “Climate Change and Conflict Dynamics: Adapting Peace-building and Development Strategies to the Reality of Climate Change” on April 29 at the Asian Institute of Management, Makati City.

The publicized report on November 2007 entitled, “A Climate of Conflict” of the London-based International Alert identified the Philippines among the 46 countries with high risk of violent conflict as a consequence of climate change. In response to this, the lecture/dialogue aims to raise public awareness and recommendations to address the issue.

The timely and relevant lecture was attended by the members of the Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR), academe, media, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), business sector and the international community.

Mr. Klaus Preschle, the Country Representative of KAS, formally launched the program. In his opening remarks, he laid the ground for the discussions sharing that climate change alters the accessibility for resources which could be a potential source of conflict. After which, the guest speakers began their talks.

Former Bukidnon representative and current Convenor of the Philippine Climate Change Imperative, Dr. Juan Romeo Nereus Acosta laid the scientific bases for climate change discussing the unfolding physical effects of climate change in the Philippines such as droughts, floods, land infertility, extreme changes to crop seasons and output, rise in sea levels, famine, spread of disease and pestilence. Moreover, he added that these consequences are expected to result to serious socio-political implications such as heightened social tension, livelihood and food insecurity, deficiencies in trade and declines in human health.

Since the impact of climate change will have the greatest blow on the poorest countries, a lot of these impoverished nations face a double-headed problem: that of climate change and armed conflict. Elaborating on the Peace-building approaches to the said twin challenge, Professor Edmundo Garcia, Senior Political Advisor of International Alert, highlighted that the upsurge in poverty, economic inequality and migration in relation to climate change has a large effect and is likely to promote the politics of resentment between those responsible and those affected by climate change. This could in turn lead to violent conflict.

Hence, Garcia stressed that “While climate change is best viewed as a “threat multiplier” which exacerbates existing trends, tensions and instability, the core challenge is that it threatens to overburden states and regions which are already fragile and conflict-prone.”

Despite the high risk of suffering from violent conflict resulting from climate change and its interaction with prevailing economic, social and political concerns, Garcia exclaimed of the country’s “adaptive capacity.” Hence, he puts particular emphasis on adaptation as the primary solution to address these concerns downplaying that of mitigation. He expounded saying, “I think, it may sometimes be too late for mitigation – although mitigation is important, our country’s priority must be on long-term strategic responses like adaptation, while also respecting mitigation measures.”

Still as cited in the United Nations, Framework Convention on Climate Change, the country’s capacity for adaptation is limited by a number of factors such as poor resource bases, inequalities of income; weak institutions and limited technology.

Karen Rebecca Tañada, Executive Director of Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute (GZOPI) shared the perspectives of environmentalists and peacebuilders on climate change. She expressed that there are areas of armed conflict which are also areas experiencing adverse weather. These places have to face new patterns linked to human-caused destruction of the environment such as unusual flooding, landslides and violent storms.

Moreover, she cited that logging, mining and illegal fishing have perpetuated environmental degradation as well as conflict leading to the division of communities and tribes.

Tañada went on in explaining the impact of environmental disasters saying, “Among the major effects of environmental disasters are incidents of killings of soldiers allegedly on relief mission, continued armed conflicts and extrajudicial killings of left-associated persons in affected areas.”

Representing the church, Mr. Joyce O. Palacol, Ecology Program Coordinator of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA) shared the programs being undertaken by the organization in relation to the environment including climate change. Palacol’s largely visual presentation explored the status of the Philippine environment, with particular emphasis on the mining industry and its adverse effects.

He outlined a summation of human intervention activities such as mining, which contributes to climate change. He also emphasized that NASSA is formulating a climate change model for the Philippines to try to aid in addressing the problem by analyzing all contributory factors.

As such, Joyce believes the inevitability of climate change and the reality of adaptation. He stressed that, “We cannot stop climate change. What we can do is adaptation because that is the name of the game.”

Professor Nieves R. Confesor, Chairperson of the GRP Negotiating Panel for Talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army (CPP-NDF-NPA), spoke about climate change and conflict in the context of the negotiations with the CPP-NDF-NPA. She started with the issue of reaching an agreement as part of the insurgency problem in the country.

She emphasized that climate change, more than being a technical issue, is also a political one. Hence, we must embrace its political dimension to transform communities. With this, the possibility of reaching an agreement between the CPP-NDF-NPA and the government is largely within the decision making pathways of the country. While, it is advocated to use peace-building strategies to eventually reach an agreement, Confesor revealed that it would not work just yet until “we redo our pathways of decision-making.”

Prof. Confesor then discussed the role of climate change in being the “mutually hurting stalemate” that would lead to pragmatic unity. According to her, the military as the traditional “mutually hurting stalemate” used in conflict and processes negotiations will not work anymore. Because of the breakdown in long-standing negotiations involving the military, climate change may present a better option as this will exacerbate trust to achieve a consensus building strategy thereby transforming the threats of climate change to pragmatic unity. To realize this, dialogue is essential and conversations must be informed and taken to the national level to reflect national agenda.

Meanwhile, Dr. Michael Clancy, Chairman and CEO of the Philippine Business Leaders Forum, represented the business sector in sharing perspectives on climate change. Highlighting the importance of business in facing such prerogative, Clancy noted that business has to be there in the forefront. He then remarked his strong opposition to the idea that we cannot stop climate change instead we can only adapt to it. He justified this by citing that we are not yet in the tipping point and hence we still have 20 years to address this problem.

Looking into the economics of going green, Clancy pointed out the costs of compliance to “ecologically sound business practices” saying it will reduce global growth to about 3.9 %.

Moreover, he noted that despite a meager contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, the Philippines remains one of the most affected by climate change.

He also hinted that cessation of mining offers the threat for everyone to go back to the ice age and hence what must be advocated is the responsible use of resources or responsible mining.

Given this, Clancy posted the challenge for the Philippines to identify what it should do about this looming predicament. He suggested two vital things: “First, we have to sensitize the political class to the issue.” He then added that the second thing we must look into is where the Philippines can play a role. From here, he handed over the suggestion for the country, being a manufacturer to take the lead in getting international standards for the production of the more eco-friendly CFL bulbs and become a world supplier. Finally, he challenged everyone to be evangelists for the cause.

An open forum was held with various representatives belonging to different groups in the political, business and social landscapes asking thought-provoking questions as well as signifying their own opinions to the lecture.

To end the program, Dr. Federico M. Macaranas, Executive Director of the AIM Policy Center provided a synthesis of the topics and points discussed.

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Asian Institute of Management


Klaus Preschle


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