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Official statement of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas on the 10th anniversary of super-typhoon Yolanda

In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of super-typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines.
November 8 2023

On 8 November 2013, category-5 storm Yolanda (international name ‘Haiyan’) made landfall on eastern Visayas in the Philippines. It unleashed a combination of strong winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surges that is almost unprecedented in history. In a matter of hours, it left in its wake severe loss and damage, most notably the deaths of at least 6300 people and destruction of PHP95.5 million across multiple sectors. To this day, some communities in the areas hardest hit by this super-typhoon still struggle to fully rebuild and/or recover from its impacts.

Yet the legacy of Yolanda goes beyond its trail of destruction. It changed how the Philippines viewed climate change, from being just another environmental issue to being a crisis, an emergency that impacts every aspect of development. It exemplified the urgency and importance of the calls of civil society and community representatives in the Philippines and elsewhere for climate justice, for holding big polluters accountable for causing this crisis, and for the victims of climate-related disasters to be given reparations from developed countries and ecologically-destructive corporations.

At the global level, the wrath of Yolanda directly led to loss and damage (L&D) becoming a true focal issue in the climate negotiations. After the intervention of then-Philippine negotiator Naderev Saño, the world agreed to establish the Warsaw International Mechanism on L&D, in recognition that climate-related risks and impacts are becoming too much for developing countries, the most vulnerable communities and ecosystems to adapt to or mitigate. By 2022, the negotiations on L&D have finally led to an agreement to set up funding arrangements to address this climate issue.

Nonetheless, there is so much that still needs to be done. In the decade that has gone by, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase worldwide. The adaptation needs of developing nations are now up to 18 times higher than the financing currently provided by developed countries. While Yolanda to this day remains the most destructive storm in Philippine history, six of the next nine most damaging tropical cyclones actually came after it.

We from Aksyon Klima Pilipinas will continue to honor the lives lost and the communities affected by Yolanda and other climate-related disasters by advancing our advocacy for urgent, effective, inclusive, just, and sustainable climate action for our collective future. On the 10th anniversary of the landfall of Yolanda, we make the following calls:

Developing countries must continue pressuring developed nations to actually live up to their commitment under Article 4 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change: to provide sufficient finance, technologies, and capacity-building for implementing sufficient, cost-effective, fair, inclusive, and transformative adaptation and mitigation measures. Without this pressure, more incidents like Yolanda will happen in the future, which no individual or community deserves to experience.

At COP28 and beyond, the Philippine government must not shy away from reminding the Global North of our existing vulnerabilities and the L&D that we have experienced, including through the first-ever Philippine Pavilion at the climate negotiations. This is not to perpetuate the image of a nation of victims and reactors; this is to show its true commitment to uphold climate justice for current and future generations by holding developed nations and big corporations accountable for their pollution and other actions that dealt us immense L&D.

Parties at the 2023 UN climate negotiations in Dubai, United Arab Emirates must set up a L&D Fund and associated funding arrangements that is aligned with the imperative of preventing even more peoples and ecosystems from experiencing extreme climate change impacts. Such a mechanism must consist of new, additional, and predictable funding for addressing L&D in the form of grants. It must be based on the principles of equity, polluters pay, and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

The Climate Accountability (KLIMA) Bill must be enacted as soon as possible by the Philippine Congress. Doing so would establish stricter measures for holding corporations accountable for their actions respective to human rights, especially the recently-recognized right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. It would also establish a national fund to address the needs of victims of climate-related disasters, which is aligned with the government’s position of changing the Philippines’s narrative into more of a country of initiators of action.