Pnoy Struck the Right Tone, but Sent the Wrong Message, in his NY Climate Speech

Elpidio V. Peria
28 September 2014

Philippines President Benigno Simeon Aquino III went to New York last 23 September 2014 to attend UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s Climate Summit to deliver what appears in the video as a rushed speech, perhaps he was trying to say too many things all at once, on a limited 4-minute time frame.

He tried to present a country trying to do many things to address the problems on its own, and based on the transcript of the speech provided by RAPPLER, prefaced this by saying around  the beginning of his speech that :

It would be wrong however to engage in another protracted debate over the individual commitments of countries. To my mind, that would be adopting the wrong framework. Instead, everyone here has to do everything they can to address climate change without first waiting for their neighbors to engage in action. Doing anything less leaves the problem unattended to thereby increasing the problem we all face.

While this part of the speech may have presented the right tone in this summit of world leaders and show that in spite of difficulties the Philippines is doing its utmost to cope with the challenges of rebuilding from severe typhoons such as Yolanda and undertaking climate change adaptation and mitigation, to say however that “to engage in another protracted debate over the individual commitments of countries” is “the wrong framework” and that “everyone here has to do everything they can to address climate change”, Pnoy has completely undermined what Philippines  and other developing countries are calling for in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), negotiations, which invoked the principles of historical responsibility and the common-but-differentiated-responsibility to guide the 2015 Paris climate deal.

With historical responsibility, those who have started out early in their industrialization path, namely the US, the EU, Japan and a handful of developed countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, are tasked to undertake significant greenhouse gas emissions. The common-but-differentiated-responsibility means that those who have more resources and capacity, including technology, will have to do more, to address the challenges of climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Pnoy should have been reminded that even if developing countries undertake their own efforts to deal with climate change, like what the Philippines has been doing, he should have cited what the UNFCCC has already placed in its article 4.7 where it is said in binding language:

7. The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country Parties of their commitments under the Convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology and will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.

This is what the Philippines and other developing countries have been insisting in the negotiations and Pnoy’s statement is a complete trashing of this key provision, since what he said is that developing countries will exert their utmost on their own and will not wait for other countries, developed countries more particularly, to do their fair and equitable share in cutting their greenhouse gas emissions.

What will happen is a free-wheeling-do-your-best efforts at curbing climate change which gets developed countries off the hook in terms of their treaty obligations but will not deliver the necessary reductions in GHG emissions that will avert the 2 degrees centigrade warming that is projected to happen within this century.

Perhaps Pnoy should attend the next Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Lima, Peru this December so he will get a first-hand sense of the nuances of the negotiations and adjust his pronouncements to what the Philippines needs to do on this issue.

This, however, may be far-fetched, since due to his lack of interest on issues relating to climate change and his lack of appreciation for the work done by the Climate Change Commission, he has not even convened the Climate Change Commission on a regular basis, nor has he signed the implementing rules and regulations of the Peoples Survival Fund Act, which would have activated the meager Php1 billion peso fund that will enable local government units and local organizations to do climate change adaptation work.

Filipinos may just have to do things on their own when it comes to coping with climate change and not wait for Pnoy to do anything substantial on this issue.

And this is a disaster waiting to happen, not only in the immediate term, but also in the long-term.


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