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A lot of hot air

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin says the Philippines will no longer participate in international conferences on climate change, after President Rodrigo Duterte again criticized the United Nations for not being able to solve the crisis even as it issued a yet stronger position to mitigate the global menace.

Locsin says the Philippines will just vote without talking, and that our participation in such conferences will be limited to going online and doing video calls.

A lot of hot air

Every year, the United Nations gathers representatives of countries—both developed and developing ones—to hammer out ways on how global warming can be managed. The conferences deal with how each country can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and how advanced economies, who have historically contributed more to the current levels of GHGs, can help vulnerable countries adapt to the effects of climate change and achieve economic development through “cleaner” means.

But using air travel to talk about climate change, Locsin also said on social media, actually worsens climate change.

Environment groups say the decision to stop sending representatives to the talks is arrogant, self-righteous, myopic and misplaced.

In 2015, more than 190 countries committed to slash their emissions to keep the rise of global temperatures at bay. The Philippines is a party to this agreement.

Mr. Duterte is right to point out that there is no way any entity can ensure all parties keep their end of the deal. The Paris Agreement is not legally binding, and any country reneging on its commitment cannot be held accountable for its violation.

The talks, too, reveal many flaws in the system, not the least of which are myopia, double talk and power-tripping by some countries.

But it does not mean we should stop participating in talks. On the contrary, this is why the talks have to continue.

The Philippines has had some of the most knowledgeable, most persuasive and most articulate representatives to these talks. They have been able to tell real and compelling stories about how Filipinos have struggled to deal with the effects of climate change. They have had the ear of their foreign counterparts.

By all means, limit the number of government-funded participants to these negotiations. Financial prudence on all trips is a policy that will serve us well. Apply a common standard, turn down the hypocrisy and stop bringing hordes on official trips, especially if their presence is justified only by their loyalty to the powers-that-be.

Absence from these talks will tell the world that we have given up on the process—imperfect, yes, but essential to global action. It will tell bigger economies that the solidarity of vulnerable developing countries is cracking, and may embolden some of them to be more duplicitous than they already are. It will dishearten smaller countries, especially those whose island sink just a little more every day, because Filipino negotiators have been perceived as leaders and unifiers. Defeatism is a characteristic never quite attached to them.

The Climate Change Commission, which issued a statement on the issue without directly addressing it, simply reiterated its call for countries to ramp up climate action and deliver more ambitious commitments. Then again, if the Palace were serious about its pronouncement, we will not even know the difference, will we?

Topics: Editorial , A lot of hot air , Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin , climate change , President Rodrigo Duterte , United Nations
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