Philippines Gets Serious About Climate Talks After Third Typhoon in Three Years

The country vows to curb its carbon emissions and calls on other countries to do the same.

A fallen electric pylon after Typhoon Hagupit in Eastern Samar, Philippines, on Dec. 9. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/Getty Images)

Dec 9, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Marc Herman is the author of The Wizard and the Volcano, The Shores of Tripoli, and Searching for El Dorado and a cofounder of Deca, a longform journalists' co-op. He lives in Barcelona.

The arrival of a third destructive typhoon in three years has the Philippines emerging as a focus of climate talks in Lima, Peru, this week.

The predicted landfall of Typhoon Hagupit over the weekend initially brought fears of a repeat of 2013’s devastating Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 people. Last week, more than a million people were evacuated before the storm arrived, according to figures from the local Red Cross, and the plan seemed to effectively help the country avoid the mass casualties of Haiyan—though Hagupit's death toll stood at 21 as of this morning, it's a fraction of the thousands killed last year.

The climate change summit in Lima is the latest in a series of preliminary meetings leading up to a world climate conference scheduled for Paris in December 2015. Dean Tony La Viña, a member of the Philippines delegation, wrote in Manila's Standard Today on Monday that the country would be highlighting the typhoon cycle in the talks. “In the simplest of words, [storms] Sendong, Pablo, Yolanda, and now Ruby are the new normal," he said.

The country plans to cut back on its carbon emissions and is calling on other developing nations to do the same, according to The New York Times.

Aid organizations such as Oxfam also claim that the recent storms hitting the Philippines are climate-related and particularly dangerous in the Pacific. “In 2013, 78 percent of people killed by disasters lived in Asia, even though only 43 percent of global disasters occurred there,” the group claimed, citing its own research.

There's no scientific link between the storms and climate change, however. Writing at Discover, Tom Yulsman points out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which develops climate policy recommendations, has found “no evidence for a significant trend in the activity and destructive potential of tropical cyclones globally over the past 40 years.”

Last year's Haiyan inspired similar talks at Warsaw's climate change conference in November, and a member of the Philippine delegation made international headlines with an emotional speech describing his brother’s survival of the storm.