Since the 1950s, the Philippines’ average temperature has increased by approximately 0.6°C, and temperatures are projected to continue to increase through the century. According to the World Bank, under all emission scenarios, projected maximum and minimum temperature increases will be greater than increases in the average temperature. In recent years, the Philippines has also experienced a sharp increase in the amount and intensity of rainfall, as a result of climate change. Despite high uncertainty around precipitation projections, it is likely that the country will experience an increase in precipitation .
The Philippines faces some of the highest disaster risk levels in the world, which are projected to intensify as the climate changes . In fact, the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 by the Germanwatch ranked the Philippines as the fourth most affected country by weather-related events between 2000 and 2019 . The country is especially exposed to tropical cyclones, flooding, and landslides. In the Philippines, it is estimated that some 60% of land area and 74% of the population are exposed to numerous hazards .
Natural hazards cause significant damage to the Philippines. Since 1990, the country has faced 565 such disasters, killing 70,000 people and costing $23 billion in damages. The country is particularly prone to cyclones due to its location in the Northwestern Pacific Basin, the most active tropical cyclone basin in the world. The country experiences an average of 20 cyclones per year within its Area of Responsibility, with approximately 8 making landfall. The number of tropical cyclones making landfall is steadily increasing, and cyclones also appear to be becoming more intense. The strongest recorded typhoon happened in recent years, Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 killed 6,000 people, devastated nine regions and resulted in 1.1 million homes damaged, and agricultural and infrastructure damages of $802 million . The successive typhoons in October and November 2020 alone resulted in approximately USD 852 million in losses and damages in agriculture and infrastructure .
The agricultural sector is especially vulnerable to climate change impacts. Just over a third of the Philippines population is employed by the agriculture sector which contributes, when including fisheries, to 15% of the country’s GDP. The dependency of large amounts of the population on the agriculture sector makes the country particularly vulnerable to climatic shocks, such as flooding and drought, which can impact agricultural land and contribute towards decreased agricultural productivity. For example, between 1970–1990, typhoons, floods and droughts were responsible for 84.2% of Philippine rice losses .
In addition, as an archipelagic state with numerous low-lying coastal areas and communities, the Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to sea-level rise and its effects . Sea-level rise is happening at an above-average rate for some parts of the Philippines, exposing up to one million people to flooding from rising sea levels by 2070–2100 .
Many of the projected climate changes are likely to disproportionately affect the poorest groups in society. For instance, heavy manual labor jobs are commonly among the lowest paid whilst also being most at risk of productivity losses due to heat stress. Additionally, in the Philippines, it is often the poor who are most exposed to its numerous natural hazards, and are therefore, at greater risk of losing their livelihoods and their homes, especially with an increase in heavy rainfall, floods and mudflow exacerbated by climate change .
The country’s susceptibility to hydrometeorological hazards is primarily attributable to its geographic location; located in the Tropical Cyclone belt and the Pacific Ring of Fire .
The Philippines contributes less than 0.5% of global GHG emissions, and less than 1% of the regional share. However, according to the World Resources Institute Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (WRI CAIT), between 1990 and 2012, GHG emissions increased in the Philippines at an average annual rate of 2.1%. The Philippines’ GHG emissions in 2012 were dominated by the energy sector (54%), followed by agriculture (33%), industrial processes (IP) (8%), and waste (7%).
Energy sector GHG emissions increased at an average annual rate of 3.4% between 1990 and 2012, with electricity and heat production driving this increase, followed by transportation. Between 1990 and 2012, total electricity generation almost tripled. Despite a 66% reduction in the share of power generation from oil, the share of coal-fired power generation grew from 7% to 39% and the share of natural gas increased from 0% to 27%. Hydroelectric, geothermal, waste, wind, and solar photovoltaic power generation almost doubled during this period.
Agriculture GHG emissions in this period increased at an average annual rate of 1.5%, driven by rice cultivation. From 1990 to 2012, the rice paddy harvested area grew 41% while rice production increased 82%. Although the Philippines’ economy has been transitioning to services and manufacturing due to accelerated industrialization, agricultural GHG emissions remain significant .
Key policies and governance approach
In 2009, the Philippines enacted the Climate Change Act and consequently, established the Climate Change Commission (CCC) as the lead policymaking body in the country tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change. The Climate Change Act was amended by R.A. No. 10174 (2012) to establish the People’s Survival Fund, which provides a long-term finance stream to address climate change adaptation in the country , .
The CCC has developed two strategy documents to guide the implementation of their mandate, the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change 2010-2022 (NFSCC) and the National Climate Change Action Plan 2011-2028. The NFSCC provides a roadmap for the development of action plans at national and local levels and identifies the key areas/sectors most sensitive to climate change as agriculture, biodiversity, infrastructure, energy, population, health, and demography . The National Climate Change Action Plan 2011-2028 identifies seven thematic areas for government action to address climate change, which are food security, water sufficiency, ecosystem and environmental stability, human security, climate-smart industries and services, sustainable energy, and knowledge and capacity development. These are pursued in coherence with the SDGs and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction .
The Philippines ratified the Paris Agreement on March 23, 2017, and submitted its first Nationally Determined Contribution to the UNFCCC in 2016 . In 2021, the Philippines updated its NDC, which commits to a projected GHG emissions reduction and avoidance of 75% referenced against a projected business as-usual (BAU) cumulative emission of 3,340.3 MtCO2e . This represents the country’s ambition for GHG mitigation for the period 2020 to 2030 for the sectors of agriculture, waste, industry, transport, and energy. Of the 75% target, 2.71% is unconditional and can be undertaken using nationally mobilized resources, while 72.29% is conditional and will require support from the international community .
Through the implementation of the country’s NDC, mitigation actions shall strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of the country, including through enhanced access to climate finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity building, especially on the implementation of the policies and measures on and the uptake of circular economy and sustainable consumption and production practices .
The country’s adaptation measures will be undertaken across, but not limited to, the sectors of agriculture, forestry, coastal and marine ecosystems and biodiversity, health, and human security, to pre-empt, reduce and address residual loss and damage. Under adaptation, the Philippines will pursue forest protection, forest restoration and reforestation, and access to results-based finance in forest conservation .
Successes and remaining challenges
The impending change of administration in the country poses a threat to the continuity and/or prioritization of pre-existing climate policies, especially considering how late into its term the current administration submitted its NDC. After receiving criticisms for its initial draft lacking in ambition or strong commitments, government leaders decided to not submit the NDC by the end of 2020 to recalculate the country’s targets for reducing emissions, among other inclusions .
Additionally, although the current target in the NDC is more ambitious than the country’s original draft, the commitment has been criticised for being unrealistic given past trends in GHG emissions and projections under the Clean Energy Scenario of the Department of Energy .
One of the biggest issues with the NDC development process in the Philippines has been identified as the lack of consistent transparency regarding the policies and measures to be implemented, covering the sectors of agriculture, waste, industry, transport, and energy. This is not aligned with the intent of the Paris Agreement in promoting transparency in the processes leading to the submissions and reports of countries, including the NDC . Although this information is not presented in the NDC, the country has developed a National Information Database on Climate Change - NICCDIES, which includes information from the implementation oversight division and sectoral agencies .
The lack of focus on the forestry sector in the country’s mitigation target is also considered as problematic, due to the sectors importance in national efforts to achieve a more carbon-neutral development pathway, as well as in biodiversity conservation, local livelihoods, resilience to climate-related hazards, and other aspects . Including the forestry sector in the calculation of net GHG emissions would demonstrate the sectors role as a ‘net sink’ and could encourage investment in forest protection and conservation programmes . Further, without its inclusion, the Philippines’ NDC falls short of truly becoming an economy-wide plan . Despite this, it should be noted, that the importance of the forestry sector in climate change mitigation has always been recognised by the government, as evidenced for instance, in the country’s REDD+ Strategy .
Initiatives and Development Plans
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is implementing the ‘Ecosystem-based Adaptation in River Basins’ project in the Philippines, through a partnership with German-commissioned Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The project supports national policies and contributes to improving the coordination and integration of sectors through an ecosystem-based approach. Key outputs will be the reduction of hazard prone households, improved water availability and quality, and biodiversity conservation in the Ilog-Hilabangan River Basin in the Visayas Region and the Tagum-Libuganan River Basin in Mindanao. The project will provide impetus for improving the fragmented water governance regime and aims at using the values of ecosystem services as a basis for the private sector buy-in, to contribute to the financing of conservation and protection measures that help to maintain ecosystem services and protected areas and thereby reducing vulnerability to disasters and climate change .
There are several opportunities for improving the resilience and adaptive capacity of the country’s key sectors, including :
- Developing flood and drought monitoring systems to respond to hazard events.
- Improving coordination among local government and national flood management agencies.
- Improving management of soil and water resources to mitigate drought conditions and ensure water availability.
- Improving sub-national information on the impacts of climate change on agricultural production, particularly rice production, the staple food for most of the Philippines’ population.
- Assessing climate change impacts and risks across a variety of sectors to develop sound response strategies, in particular focusing on food security, water resources, and coastal resources.
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 Food and Fertilizer Technology Center for the Asian and Pacific Region (2019). [Online]. Available: https://ap.fftc.org.tw/article/649.
 Climate Change Commission, National Framework Strategy on Climate Change 2010-2022 (2021). [Online]. Available: https://www.preventionweb.net/files/24305_nfsccsgd.pdf.
 T. Yap, Josef, Evaluating the Philippine Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in 2021 (May 3, 2021). ASOG Working Paper Series 21-017, Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3838679.
 John Algo (2021). Opinion - The Philippines' consistently inconsistent climate plans, Rappler.com. [Online]. Available: https://www.rappler.com/voices/imho/opinion-philippines-consistently-inconsistent-climate-plans.
 GIZ (2021). Ecosystem-based Adaptation in River Basins. [Online]. Available: https://www.giz.de/en/worldwide/79964.html.
 Climate Change Knowledge Portal, World Bank (2021). [Online]. Available: https://climateknowledgeportal.worldbank.org/country/philippines/adaptation.