Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pres. Aquino pushes for collaborative ways to address climate change

President Benigno S. Aquino III urged world leaders to arrive at a "fair consensus" that would help developing countries like the Philippines squarely confront the ruinous impact of climate change especially on their economies.
The Chief Executive made the appeal during his three-minute ‘national statement’ at the leaders’ event of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) held Monday afternoon (late evening in Manila) in Paris-Le Bourget.

He asked his fellow heads of state and government, especially those coming from highly industrialized nations, to consider increasing their financial assistance for this cause in aid of those countries that are barely getting by.

“As President of a nation increasingly affected by the new normal, I believe the real challenge begins with an accounting of capacities: How do we ask everyone to contribute, and how do we ask those with more to help out those with less?” he said.

President Aquino cited specifically the case of Grenada, a developing island state, which sustained damages that amounted to more than 200 percent of its gross domestic product in 2004.

“If they lose so much, then their capacity to contribute in our efforts is also dramatically diminished,” he said, adding that the economic costs of climate change amount to $44.9 billion annually for the Vulnerable 20 (V20) countries alone.

Inaction to this problem will cost all affected nations even more, the Philippine leader noted, as this number is set to grow almost 10-fold by 2030, bringing the total estimated amount up to $400 billion.

“We are also told that, since 2010, on an annual basis, climate injustice has claimed more than 50,000 lives from V20 countries—and this number will increase exponentially in the near future,” he added.

President Aquino also brought to the attention of the world the danger faced by other island-nations such as Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Maldives, which are currently threatened by rising water levels.

He said the extinction of these islands would be a certain, “unless we pursue realizable goals that acknowledge that, for some nations, the fight against climate change is a matter of survival.”

In the case of the Philippines, President Aquino said they are still in the process of breaking the ‘vicious cycle of destruction and reconstruction,’ where those living in coastal communities are forced to go back to poverty whenever a calamity strikes.

“The primary challenge has been to move our countrymen to less vulnerable areas, on the assumption that such exist, or to make interventions that mitigate the impacts of climate change. We are indeed hard pressed to build back better, especially in the aftermath of Haiyan, and I must submit: We cannot do this in isolation,” he said.

President Aquino pointed out that despite its fiscal limitations, and the fact that it has one of the smallest carbon footprints in the world, the Philippines continues to pursue vital reforms to address climate change.

“And I say that we are willing to share our experiences, knowledge, and best practices,” said the Philippine head of state, citing the expanded massive re-greening program as one example.

Launched in 2011, the program aimed to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares by 2016, which would translate to an absorption capacity of 30 million tons of carbon annually upon its completion.

“To this end, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, in its Global Forest Resources Assessment for 2015, has named our country as one of the top five nations with the greatest annual forest area gain,” President Aquino said.

He also mentioned the government’s intensified anti-illegal logging campaign that helped reduce by 88 percent the number of municipalities and cities considered to be illegal logging hotspots in the Philippines.

The Philippines likewise increased the share of renewables in its energy mix, which now accounts 33 percent. It has also enacted policies and legislation, as well as allocated funds to address climate change.
“This year alone, about five percent of our total budget was allocated for climate change. Furthermore, just this October, the Philippines submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDC, committing our country to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions conditionally by 70 percent by 2030,” he said.

President Aquino told his counterparts that the Philippines, as well as the rest of the V20 countries, are ready to do its fair share, “if other nations demonstrate support in terms of finance, technology development, and capacity building.”

“Today, the Philippines, with the rest of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a group that will soon grow to represent at least one billion people, makes our case. In the name of all our citizens, we ask you to give our proposal for more climate financing for developing countries the consideration it deserves,” he appealed.

President Aquino likewise sought the support of his fellow leaders, as the CVF finalizes the Manila-Paris Declaration, which presents “our aspirations for a world that is resilient and just, one where no one is left behind.”

“Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, what our nations failed to do in Copenhagen in 2009, we must achieve here in Paris in 2015. It is time for a fair consensus to finally be reached. Our collective security depends on our ability to act,” he said.

“We must therefore move beyond recrimination, learn from the past, and work hand in hand to safeguard the welfare of our citizens and of the many generations to come. In this effort, no one is exempt; all must contribute,” President Aquino concluded.

President Aquino was the 11th head of state among the second batch of speakers to deliver his national statement in the climate summit after President Sauli Niinistö of Finland and ahead of President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine.

The national statement also served as President Aquino’s follow up to the Manila Call to Action on Climate Change, which he and French President François Hollande launched back in February during the latter’s visit to Malacañang. (PCOO News Release)

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