Groups to Duterte: Demand Climate Justice at COP 22

QUEZON CITY – Environment and climate advocates challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to demand accountability from developed countries, in light of the president’s recent tirade against these countries’ huge contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that caused the current climate challenges the global community faces today less than two weeks before the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP) in Morocco. The international gathering of country-parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) serves as a forum to tackle climate change and addressing its impacts.

In last year’s COP, governments worldwide agreed to cap global warming within an aspirational limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius as embodied under the Paris Agreement. The Philippines has yet to ratify the Paris Agreement.

Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa stated that Duterte’s indignation against these industrialized countries could be channeled to demand from them climate justice.

“The Philippines, being one of the countries who have suffered the most from climate-induced catastrophes, must be at the forefront of the call for industrialized countries to account for their harmful environmental practices by bearing most of the burdens of decreasing emissions and paying reparations for the loss and damages suffered by vulnerable countries from climate-induced catastrophes. The question is not whether or not we ratify the Paris Agreement but will the Duterte Administration demand for more ambitious targets and just agreements that would benefit countries like the Philippines?,” Pedrosa said.

Pedrosa cited the disasters brought by typhoons Yolanda, and recently, Lawin, along with strong episodes of El Nino, as manifestations of climate injustices which developed countries ought to account for.

Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) Convenor Gerry Arances adds that Duterte must also challenge these developed countries, in their efforts to account for the climate injustices they have perpetrated, to be proactive in combating climate change.

“It is not enough that we demand from these countries bare minimum compliance with the climate deal, such as leading the international effort to keep the global temperature well below 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said Arances.

“Along with their individual efforts towards climate change mitigation through reducing their GHG emissions, we must obligate these countries to also fully uphold their commitment in equipping developing countries with the means to mitigate and adapt to climate change,” he said.

Resources of developed countries — from finance to technologies — far outweigh those of developing countries. Arances said that engaging in undertakings such as climate financing and technology transfer — which developed countries have committed to in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — are ways by which developed countries can empower developing countries in better dealing with the realities of climate change.

“Although these undertakings, particularly climate financing, have been agreed upon in the international climate pact, developed countries have a history of not living up to aid promises,” explained Arances.

According to him, despite industrialised countries committing back in 2009 to give developing countries $100 billion a year in additional climate finance from 2020 onwards, no binding and measurable targets leading towards the completion of this goal has been laid down since the latest Paris climate conference.

“This makes the finance pledges by developed countries a mere vague promise,” said Arances. “Our president must demand for donor countries to take concrete action in meeting their climate finance goals.”

In addition to this, Arances also brought to attention the critical role of technology transfer among developed and developing countries.

“Duterte must also call for industrialized countries to comply with their commitment to technology transfer,” added Arances. “This provides much opportunities for developing countries to adopt measures and technologies that help them in becoming self-sufficient in terms of dealing with climate change.”

According to Arances, such kinds of opportunities are manifested in the friendly relations between the Philippines and China.

“China — a country that has ratified the Paris Agreement, initiated a massive phase out operation for coal, and which now rises as a leader in RE development by having the highest installed RE capacity in the world (785 GW) — is ripe with technologies and know-how and equipped with legal and regulatory means that encourage the proliferation of its climate-friendly technologies and practices,” Arances explained.

“Its good relations with the Philippines, bolstered by China’s compliance with its pledge on technology transfer, provides an ample opportunity for the Philippines to learn and benefit from the ongoing renewable energy (RE) development of the latter,” he said.

In addition to addressing industrialized countries, Pedrosa also challenged Duterte to mobilize fellow developing and climate vulnerable countries in seeking climate justice–within the international and domestic setting.

“While developed nations hold most of the responsibility in mitigating and addressing the impacts of the long history of their negative environmental practices, developing nations still share in the duty of realizing a world without dirty and destructive energy, Hence, while we support Duterte’s adamant stand to exact greater accountability from rich countries like the US, we disagree in making this a pretext to resort to the use of the very same technology that has spawned the climate crisis” Pedrosa said.

“President Duterte in refusing to refer the Paris Agreement to the Senate for ratification argues that the deal would stifle the country’s development. While It is laudable to call out rich countries for pursuing a development track that has caused excessive concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it is mistaken to argue that it is the Philippines’ right to tread the same development path. Development need not be dirty,’, Pedrosa concluded.