This year’s Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change begins this week in Madrid, Spain. This is not the first time for the summit to happen while a typhoon batters our country.
The Madrid meetings are the 25th to be held under the 1992 treaty, which bound countries of the world to avoid “dangerous climate change” and find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an equitable way.
That’s easier on paper to assert, of course. For instance, how is “equitable” determined? How does the global good trump the individual ambitions and accountabilities of individual countries? Can justice be achieved by making richer nations pay for their historical contributions to the warming of the planet? Will the most vulnerable countries, if they acted in concert, persuade developed nations to cut back on their emissions aside from playing a big role in climate finance?
In 2015, in Paris, the parties came the closest to forging a global pact to curb emissions. 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. However, there remains to be no way to make the agreement legally binding. And then, the United States, under the leadership of President Donald Trump, has pulled out of the agreement.
The talks are not without its critics. Travelling by air to talk about climate change, many have pointed out, merely contributes to the problem. Flying thousands of delegates in and out of the host country in itself means considerable carbon emissions—the very thing that has caused the planet’s warming. This is also why Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg chose to sail the Atlantic in September, rather than fly, to go to the UN.
As these contentious issues are debated, meanwhile, countries most vulnerable to disasters—such as stronger and more frequent weather patterns like Typhoon “Tisoy”—continue to suffer. Help comes in the form of local government units that have taken disaster risk reduction and management to heart so that communities become resilient, and to the outpouring of aid in the aftermath of the rain.
The Philippines has front-row seats to the climate issue because even as our experts attend the high-level conference in the global attempt at climate justice, our people in coastal and low-lying areas get to experience the dangers that others only theoretically imagine. This should all the more make those who speak not for themselves, but for the rest of us, do better at representing the interest of our nation and others in a similar situation.