Editor's note: With the recent spate of interest in climate change brought forth by President Rodrigo Duterte's intended reversal of the Philippines' consent to the Paris Agreement, the author points out the significance of being part of the agreement - solely in the hopes that the president would reconsider - which does not necessarily reflect Kami.com.ph‘s views.
Last Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said in his speech that the Philippines would not honor their commitments made in the Paris climate change deal. On behalf of the concerned Filipino citizens and the world, we hope that the President would reconsider his statement.
“You are trying to stifle us,” Duterte said “That’s stupid, I will not honor that. You signed … That was not my signature.”
The historic Paris Agreement, signed by the Philippines and 194 other countries, requires its signatories to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (36F).
The Philippines, which was integral to the ambitious Paris Agreement, hoped to do away with the old argument – that economic development takes precedence over environmental protection. The question that this argument posed was, why should developing nations handicap their economic growth much sooner than developed nations did?
The old argument, which was one made by economic giants China and India, is now being argued by Duterte. In a conversation with an ambassador, Duterte said, “[Your country] has reached the apex [of industrialization] and along the way put a lot of contaminants and emissions, and went ahead in destroying the climate. We have not reached the age of industrialization. We’re now going into it. But you are trying to stymie [us] with an agreement that says you can only go up to here.”
The new argument, which is integral to the Paris Agreement, dictates that every country is at risk and every country has a responsibility to combat climate change.
It is true that fighting climate change takes a massive effort, and sometimes it would seem impossible. But climate change is real. China is experiencing coal-driven pollution, Europe experiences extraordinary flooding, and devastating storms have been hitting the Philippines. Climate change must be fought in order for the future generations to have a livable world.
The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to global warming. The archipelago has this reality that our world is in danger, which is why countries like China, India, and oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia – who are large contributors to industrial pollution – have agreed to sign the Paris Agreement. They agreed, climate change is real and causes life-threatening consequences.
The Philippines has already been hit by two massive storms, wreaking havoc in Mindanao and taking thousands of lives. But this is only the beginning, with scientists claiming that the storms are only going to become more frequent and much more powerful. A warmer ocean creates stronger storms and therefore the Philippines is at risk.
Not only is Duterte’s statement violating the country’s commitment to an international agreement, it is a promise to put millions of lives at risk. The reality is that it doesn’t matter if a country is developing or developed, each one is at risk and the world is running out of time.
The old argument says that the developing countries are vulnerable and therefore is unfair for them to be capped through the Paris Agreement. But it must be noted that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change respects the difference in the economic levels of each country. There are things being done to cater to this problem.
The Philippines herself has submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to receive assistance from developed economies. The Philippine delegation, at the end of the Paris conference, stated its gratitude for the developed economies’ commitment of “support in finance, technology, and capacity building for all adaptation and mitigation efforts”.
There are many other mechanisms that exist to help developing countries. National Scientist Angel Alcala said that “Industrialization can continue as planned if there are provisions for sequestering the carbon dioxide produced through activities like planting more areas with forest trees, and protecting our existing tropical rainforests.”
The Philippines can still industrialize. But the President should not ignore climate change and deviate from the country’s responsibilities as stated within the Paris Agreement.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Kami.com.ph, its editors, or other contributors.