he 23rd Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change concluded last Friday, Nov. 17.
With Fiji at its helm, being this year’s COP President, Parties to the climate convention agreed to launch the “Talanoa dialogue,” a process based on traditional Pacific ways of arriving at consensus.
As described by our Fijian colleagues: “The purpose of Talanoa is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions, which are for the collective good. The process of Talanoa involves the sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling.” In Fiji, Talanoa has been used to resolve political tensions. In the climate process, it offers an opportunity to do assess where the world is on climate action and what else could be done to address the problem more decisively and effectively.
In Bonn, governments also agreed on pre-2020 ambition and how to move early, even while awaiting the rules for the Paris Agreement. Some progress was achieved on the drafting of these rules but it will take hard work to meet the 2018 deadline. In any case, in my view, it might be best to wait for the results of the 2018 midterm elections in the US before finalizing those rules. There is a big possibility of a significant change in US climate politics after 2018; it might be prudent to allow that to unfold and get the US back into the process.
Finally, this COP saw some breakthroughs on climate issues related to gender, oceans and indigenous peoples. My hope is that this progress will be sustained in 2018 and beyond.
As for the Philippines, our delegation did very well and was influential in several issues. Secretary Manny De Guzman made sure that the senior and technical officials from the Climate Change Commission, Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Agrarian Reform, Agriculture, Energy, National Economic and Development Authority, Pagasa, Commission on the Urban Poor, and Office of the Cabinet Secretary represented our country’s interests effectively in all the issues that mattered for us. Colleagues from citizen organizations as usual served as advisers to the delegation. These included my own team from the Manila Observatory, Forest Foundation Philippines, and Parabukas.
The delegation was joined also by legislators from both Houses of Congress who made sure to support us, witnessing the 20 hour days the country’s negotiators put in during those two weeks of meetings. I was particularly happy that Rep. Christopher Co, Chair of the House Committee on Climate Change, and Rep. Rodel Batocabe joined the delegation as their support is needed as we move forward on climate change. As party list representatives of Ako Bicol, they represent constituencies that are already suffering from climate change. Co and Batocabe were ably supported by the brilliant and hardworking Rommel Reyes, the House Committee on Climate Change secretary. Rommel happens to be a former student and one of my legal assistants when I was DENR Undersecretary.
As it has been for many years now, it was Senator Loren Legarda that was our strongest voice in Bonn. She delivered a short but stirring speech. It is only right to end this column by reproducing in full what Senator Loren said on behalf of all of us:
“We come to COP23 with a strong call for climate justice: that those who are most vulnerable, who suffer the most from the adverse effects of climate change and who have contributed the least to climate change are empowered and enabled, in terms of capacity and finance, to fight back.
This necessitates not just enhanced ambition, but the steely resolve to act now. The window of opportunity on achieving the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement is fast closing and any delay will result in the irreversible.
We in the Philippines are doing our part. Despite all odds, we ratified and became party to the Paris Agreement. We have mainstreamed climate and geo-tagging into our budget processes. We have set up a People’s Survival Fund, which provides over a billion pesos each year for local government and community initiatives to fight climate change. We have enacted a Renewable Energy law and a Green Jobs Act.
And we will do more. We are developing policies on carbon pricing and green banking. We intend to impose a tax on coal. And we are greening our hospitals.
Indeed, we are pursuing not just a transition to a green economy, but a transformation of the way we do government and business. We do so, with full awareness that the buy-in of the private sector and partnerships with them is crucial. This is what the sustainable development goals mandate.
We are tasked here at COP23 to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement. To this end, we welcome the Talanoa Dialogue and urge completion of work on the residuals of the basic minimums of the Paris Agreement. Loss and damage need to be addressed. And commitments on climate finance must be fulfilled and scaled up.
We must also not forget the fulfillment of the pre-2020 targets and its inclusion in the agenda of the COP. The Philippines ratified the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol in 2016 and we call on others who have not done so to do so.
In implementing the Paris Agreement, adaptation is key. It is a pathway to resilience and survival. As a National Adaptation Champion, I commit that I will personally mandate national agencies and local government units to integrate adaptation measures into their plans and programs. We will also pursue adaptation endeavors, including on the role of marine resources. I specify local government units because they are at the frontlines of the battle on climate change and because at the core of it, adaptation is local.
In our capacity as current chair of the Association of Southeast Nations, the Philippines wishes to highlight the Asean Joint Statement on Climate Change to COP23 which among others, calls on the operationalization of the Adaptation Fund and urges the GCF to facilitate and promote direct access of the fund by Asean and other developing country parties.
In closing, Mr. President,
We have all heard the saying that what is “difficult is done at once” but that “the impossible takes a little longer.” But we are running out of time. We have to do both the difficult and the impossible at once. Only then can we truly say that we have fulfilled our obligations to future generations, because only then can we leave a world where life can continue to exist.”
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