"Here’s what the Philippines is telling the rest of the world."
Ongoing in Glasgow, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, is what is called COP26. COP stands for Conference of Parties—nations engaged in talks to reduce carbon emissions to prevent warming of the earth and its catastrophic consequences. These countries are having their 26th meeting in one of Scotland’s cultural capitals. So COP26.
Any decisions, or lack of decision, by the leaders of countries in the CP26 will most likely affect how we lead our lives from here on. Don’t worry.
My view is that nothing dramatic nor significant will be decided in Glasgow.
I say this for two reasons.
One, the world is reeling from a pandemic which has killed more than five million people and sickened 247 million.
The Philippines has had 2.8 million cases and some 43,270 deaths. The pandemic has made nations insular and in no mood to talk about helping other peoples in other nations and talking about reducing gas emissions. Rich countries are hoarding vital vaccines that could contain the pandemic, at double, triple, quadruple their population size, even as some countries in Africa have vaccinated less than three percent of their population.
It seems more people are being killed and badly affected by COVID-19 in much shorter time than all the catastrophes blamed on global warming combined –like rising seas, droughts, melting ice mountains, and more violent and frequent typhoons– could inflict on us.
Two, the rich countries, notably the so-called Group of 20 which account for 80 percent of the world’s pollution, have reneged on their promise to provide at least $100 billion annually in assistance to the poor countries to meet their commitments to cut emissions dramatically, by 2°C (1.5°C preferably). This is under the Paris Agreement of 195 countries during COP 21 in 2015, to help them shift away from fossil fuels and protect them from the impact of climate change.
Such annual assistance should be $175 billion, not $100 billion, recent estimates show. If the rich cannot part away with their $100 billion, how much more with their $175 billion, each year?
Global warming above 2°C, it is believed, will sink many cities of the world, including perhaps, Manila, Shanghai, and Alexandra in Egypt. In May 2021, carbon dioxide measurement hit 420 parts per million, the highest in three million years, leading the world irreversibly into a warmer future.
The 420 ppm CO2 level is 50 percent higher than the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm. To get back to the 280-ppm level, the world must stop emitting carbon immediately today—an impossibility, in less than 100 years.
The Philippines has in Glasgow a high-level delegation headed by the two most important cabinet ministers in the land—Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Foreign Secretary Teddyboy Locsin, in lieu of our own President Duterte who believes that the best way to improve the environment is eliminate drug lords and drug addicts, with extreme prejudice.
At the G-20 summit in Rome on Oct. 30, 2021, the curtain raiser to the Climate Summit (COP26) in Glasgow, the leaders of the world’s richest countries renewed commitment to the Paris Agreement goal to hold the global average temperature increase well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and acknowledged that “keeping 1.5°C within reach will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries.”
The Philippines has submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change a paper detailing its commitments to comply with the Paris Agreement.
As polluters, Filipinos emit 1.98 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person—half the world’s average pollution per capita of four metric tons.
The Philippines commits to reduce its carbon emissions by 75 percent by 2030. Of that, 2.71 percent is unconditional and 72.29 percent is conditional. This reduction assumes a business-as-usual total emissions of 3,340.3 million metric tons of carbon over the next ten years. The 3,340 million tons is only 0.24 percent of total CO2 pollution of 1.5 trillion tons produced by the world. About 80 percent of that pollution is produced by the G20 countries.
Unconditional policies and measures are those undertaken by the Philippines on its own. Conditional policies and measures are those for which we need help from other countries, specifically, the rich nations who are the world’s biggest polluters — China, the US, and Europe.
It costs more money to stop pollution than to use the benefits that cause such pollution. You will have to ban diesel, which fuels most of our vehicles. You will have to ban coal, the source of 60 percent of our electricity. You will have to install solar panels and windmills which are very expensive to run. You may need to blend ethanol from corn to make gasoline emission free. But corn is a basic feeds for animals. Diverting it for other uses will trigger a food shortage, hunger, malnutrition. How did Tesla succeed? By getting billions of US tax money as a subsidy.
The Philippines’ 75-percent reduction target assumes a business-as-usual total emissions of 3,340.3 million metric tons of carbon over the next ten years.
The Economist sneers at the Philippine offer: “The Philippines takes the logic to its furthest extreme, saying that it will cut emissions by 75 percent by 2030 if it is showered with cash. If it pays its own way the cut will be just three percent.”
In effect, the Philippine government is telling the world: “we cannot cut our emissions because: one, we need to take care of the lives and livelihood of our people; two, we cannot afford it; and three, we are not causing the world’s pollution.”