Advocacy Department

The Climate Change agreement and roots to a solution


According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) human influences have “more likely than not increased risk of heat waves, area affected by drought since the 1970s and frequency of heavy precipitation events…” (IPCC, 2007). Photo from NASA.

By Albert Balbutin, Haribon Foundation

At around 2:30 am last December 13 more than 190 countries on the other side of the globe approved “The Paris Agreement”, a document indicating how these countries would accelerate “the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions… emphasizing the need for urgency in addressing climate change.”

Almost half the battle in addressing climate change lies in our roots: bringing back forests that were once lush and full of sequestered carbon and oxygen-giving floral biodiversity.

Firstly, what exactly did the more than 190 countries agree to? 4 measures in the agreement include (From the BBC):

  1. Achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.
  2. To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C.
  3. To review progress every five years.
  4. $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.

Bringing back forest and transitioning to non-combusting energy according to Stanford University Professor Mark Jacobson in an interview with CNN, can help solve many problems associated with climate change. Jacobson says that carbon dioxide or CO2 makes up 42% of the warming problem alone, and the simple fact that trees help abate this by taking in CO2 and releasing oxygen or O2 makes tree-planting activities all the more important.


Philippine forests, like this one in Madalag, Aklan in Panay, contain 663 million mectric tons of carbon in living forest biomass (FAO, 2005 & 2010), preventing additional carbon from heating up the planet. Photo from Haribon Archives.

By growing and protecting “greenhouse sinks” such as forests and reducing and abating “greenhouse sources” such as oil and coal we can bring ourselves closer to a world with less air pollution and reduced conflicts due to scarcity of resources.

But the journey to bringing back our forests and tackling the challenge of oil and coal dependence has just begun. In 2005 the ROAD to 2020 (Rainforestation Organizations and Advocates) movement in the Philippines started, bringing together individuals, governments, and companies to bring back forests in the country using rainforestation technology, or the use of native tree species in reforestation projects.

Haribon Chief Operating Officer Maria Belinda de la Paz notes that “we need 54% forest cover to maintain ecological processes in the country. Aside from energy conservation, there is an urgent need to bring back our forests in order to minimize the effects of climate change.”

Meanwhile Leody de Guzman of the Power for People Coalition (P4P) cites that current Philippine energy policy unveils an “approval of 59 coal power plants and 118 mining permits under the Aquino administration.”

Much indeed has yet to be done, but before we can enjoy lush green forests, solar-powered transport and harmony between humanity and climate, we must protect and expand today the army of floral biodiversity that has always fed and protected human civilizations since its dawn through the following ways:

  1. Continue the on-going effort to bring back our forests – our natural sinks of the greenhouse gas carbon. According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Management in 2008, if 1 million hectares of forest are brought back, these areas have the potential to sequester almost 15% of annual carbon emissions of the Philippines.
  2. Continue working with local governments using Community-based Resource Management (CBRM) to empower people to restore and protect their forests. Rainforestation work in Sitio Palbong in Mindoro for example has not only brought back 12 hectares of native tree species, but has also transformed a once extractive community into one that has led the rehabilitation and protection of its own forest domain. This has been repeated in more than 60 communities in the country, restoring more than 1,500 hectares so far via the ROAD to 2020 movement.
  3. Pass the Forest Resources Bill to protect all existing original forest that we have left and bring back our rainforests. To date only 24% of our original forest remain (DENR, 2010).
  4. Protect and maintain the remaining coastal and marine habitats through the establishment and expansion of marine protected areas and marine protected area networks. These include the mangroves, seagrass beds, coral reefs and soft bottom communities. These ‘blue carbon’ habitats absorb and store 50 to 71% carbon and other greenhouse gases. Covering only 0.5% of the seafloor, they play a very big role in world’s climate and mitigating the effects of climate change. According to a 2013 study by Gevana et al. the total carbon stock of the current seagrass cover in the Philippines of 27,282 hectares may contain an estimated 161 metric tons of carbon. For mangrove forests in the Philippines 115.45 t C ha-1 to as high as 1306. 9 t C ha-1 (Gevaña and Pampolina 2009, Camacho et al. 2011; Abino et al. 2014).Starting with the pioneering efforts of the Siliman University in establishing the Apo Island Marine Reserve in Dumaguete, the number of MPAs has been steadily increasing, 455 in 1995, 688 in 2000 and 1785 as of December 2015. This has been made possible through the efforts of various institutions and organizations from the government, non-government organizations, academe and the numerous peoples organizations.
  5. Support conservation research initiatives to learn more about our biodiversity and the impacts of climate change.

The knowledge, resources, abilities and even the technologies are available today to curb the adverse affects of human-induced climate change by the deadlines set by the entire world.

Conservation efforts, rainforestation technology, and community-building strategies conducted in the Philippines within the last four decades alone might just be enough to create the change needed on this side of the Pacific. The ROAD to 2020 movement, backed by sound science from the Haribon Foundation and the Rain Forest Restoration Initiative (RFRI), has long developed strategies such as community-based native tree nurseries, and has advocated that a forest is more than just a collection of trees: it is an ecosystem that requires requires protection from national government. The roots to a safe world have long been laid. The question is, can we finally move together to grow toward a safer climate.

The goal of ROAD to 2020 is to bring back 1 million hectares of forest, enroll your rainforestation project or Adopt-A-Seedling, Nurture-A-Seedling or plant trees with the Haribon Foundation. For more information contact Haribon Partnerships and Development Officer Bianca Osorio at or call (02) 911-6088. You can also visit today.


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