01 December 2015

President Aquino pushes for collaborative ways to address climate change
(PARIS, France) 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. PND (hdc)

President Aquino calls for global unity to address climate change
(PARIS, France) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday called for global solidarity in addressing climate change saying every country must commit to reduce green house gas emissions and build resilient communities.

In his keynote address during the Climate Vulnerable Forum High-Level Event, President Aquino said current debates focus on the question on who among the countries should be doing what but now it must shift to the contributions of individual countries.

President Aquino attended on Monday the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) here in Paris.

“It is imperative that all countries do everything, and maximize what can be done to address climate change. Either we all strive and sacrifice, or we all lose to the cycle of destruction and reconstruction,” he said.

Vulnerable countries like the Philippines bear the brunt of destruction caused by devastating effects of changing weather conditions, he said.

For instance in 2012, when typhoon Bopha hit the Philippines, the government was compelled to find alternative livelihood for coconut farmers whose farms were destroyed by the typhoon.

The current thrust is building back better after devastating storms, moving entire communities away from hazardous areas, he said.

“But building back better has become less and less of a guarantee, given that the new normal might still be replaced by an even newer normal if we fail to act in concert,” he told the members of the forum.

“Positive national development trajectories, especially of emerging economies such as the Philippines’, can be broken due to the disruption caused by disaster. After all, what if we could channel the resources used for building back better towards other development interventions?”

But he said no amount of effort, however gargantuan, by a single nation can ever be enough to address climate change in its entirety and it must be concerted efforts by all countries.

In the Philippines, the government has been implementing the national greening program, and have cracked down heavily on illegal logging and other unsustainable environmental practices, according to the President.

It is also working to diversify the country’s energy resources, and has been tapping into renewables such as solar, wind, biomass, hydro, and geothermal power.

Government scientists have been conducting research towards more disaster-resilient crops, and the national administration has been continuously upgrading weather forecasting capabilities.

The government is also calling for communal action to lift up every Filipino during every storm that has made landfall within the country, he said.

The President also told the members of the CVF that the Philippines is willing and ready to share all the knowledge and best practices that it has learned from its own experiences.

Countries that are members of the CVF are losing at least 2.5 percent of GDP each year because of climate change despite their collective contribution of less than 2 percent of the current greenhouse gas emissions.

Since 2010, in the CVF member countries, an average of more than 50,000 deaths have occurred every year due to climate shocks, the President said.

Up to 40 million people may potentially be displaced due to rising sea levels, which threaten to engulf entire nations in the Pacific, he added.

And as many CVF members take pioneering action, particularly on climate finance, the President said they must also fully leverage their solidarity in ensuring that the remaining barriers towards concerted action and knowledge sharing are broken down.

The CVF is a global partnership of countries, which are disproportionately affected by the consequences of global warming.

It addresses the negative effects of global warming as a result of heightened socioeconomic and environmental vulnerabilities. PND (as)

Philippines hopeful on sea row case against China
The Philippines has expressed optimism that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague would hand down a “truly just solution” to its case against China over disputed waters.According to a bulletin issued by Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte from The Hague on Monday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario summarized the salient points of the arguments presented to the Tribunal over the course of the First and Second Rounds of Argument.

“We recognize that the Tribunal’s mission is judicial. The Tribunal must decide the claims on the basis of the facts and the law, in this case UNCLOS. We submit that on that basis alone, the Tribunal must sustain all of the Philippines’ claims, especially in regard to the maritime entitlements of the Parties, and the exclusive sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines within 200 M of its coasts, except for the 12 M territorial seas around the disputed insular features,” Secretary del Rosario said in his speech before the Tribunal on Monday.

“Your mandate to achieve justice is not carried out in a vacuum. Judges and arbitrators are not expected to be oblivious to the realities on the ground. UNCLOS is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The object and purpose of the Charter, as well as those of the Convention, are far from irrelevant. These purposes include the maintenance and strengthening of international peace and security. Nothing would contribute more to these objectives than the Tribunal’s finding that China’s rights and obligations are neither more nor less than those established by UNCLOS. And that the entitlements of the tiny insular features it claims are limited to 12 M,” he said.

Del Rosario further said that finding otherwise would leave the Philippines and its Southeast Asian neighbors “in worse straits than when we embarked on this arbitral voyage”.

“It would convert the nine-dash line, or its equivalent in the form of exaggerated maritime zones for tiny, uninhabitable features, into a Berlin Wall of the Sea. A giant fence, owned by, and excluding everyone but, China itself,” he added.

He expressed confidence that the Tribunal would interpret and apply the law “in a way that produces a truly just solution”, one that truly promotes peace, security and good neighborliness in the South China Sea.

The Philippine official also thanked the members of the Tribunal for their “care, dedication, wisdom and courage” during the proceedings.

“We confidently entrust our fate, the fate of the region and, indeed, the fate of the Convention to you. We know that in your capable hands, the rule of law will not be reduced to the quaint aspiration of a time now past, but rather will be accorded the primacy that the founders of the United Nations and the drafters of UNCLOS envisioned,” he said.

Del Rosario acknowledged the members of the Philippines’ legal team, led by Principal Counsel Paul Reichler, Lawrence Martin, professors Philippe Sands, Bernard Oxman, Alan Boyle, and Andrew Loewenstein.

“The Philippines could not have entrusted this case, our fate, to more skilled, principled and determined hands. I know they share the Philippines’ firm conviction about the need to uphold the international rule of law as the bedrock of peace, order and stability in our world,” he said.

After Del Rosario’s speech, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay delivered the closing remarks.

Presiding Arbitrator Judge Thomas Mensah officially adjourned the proceedings. PND (jm)

World leaders adopt Manila-Paris declaration
(PARIS, France) Members of the Vulnerable 20 (V20) on Monday adopted the Manila-Paris Declaration and a three-year Road Map of Activities aimed at enhancing cooperation among themselves to effectively address climate change.

The declaration was issued following the third high-level meeting of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which President Benigno S. Aquino III presided on the sidelines of the leaders’ event of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21).

According to a press statement released by the CVF, the Manila-Paris Declaration is a “historic” one and “the strongest call to date”, as it has united some of the world’s vulnerable countries across continents to a single commitment.

The agreement calls for a full de-carbonization of the world economy, 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and zero emission by mid-century to keep the world on track towards its below 1.5 degrees of warming target.

It also encourages highly industrialized nations to assist the most climate vulnerable developing countries, technically and financially, in utilizing renewable energy sources to address the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Individually, we are already survivors; collectively, we are a force towards a fairer, more climate-proactive world,” President Benigno S. Aquino III was quoted as saying during the forum.

Philippine Finance Secretary and V20 Finance Ministers’ group chair Cesar Purisima announced that they would find ways to help push the goals established by the declaration.

“We are convinced that the V20 has its role to play in helping to unlock the full potential of climate finance as we look to a new international partnership for moving our effort forward,” Purisima said.

“We will work in this context to take steps to enable our economies to benefit from $20 billion in new and additional finance by 2020, drawing from international, regional and domestic sources, and leveraging maximum degrees of private finance,” he added.

According to Bangladeshi Minister of Environment Anwar Hossain Manju, the Manila-Paris Declaration “is just the beginning of our efforts to step up our voice and collaboration”.

“We refuse to be the sacrifice of the international community in Paris. Anything that takes our survival off the table here is a red line. All parties have an obligation to act. Not doing so is a crime,” Hossain said.

The CVF, which was founded in 2009, is a broad coalition of middle income, least developed, and small island developing states worldwide that are susceptible to the adverse impacts of climate change.

The Philippines held the chairmanship of CVF for this year with Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Maldives, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Ghana, Nepal, Timor-Leste, Barbados, Kenya, Tuvalu, Bhutan, Kiribati, Rwanda, Vanuatu, Costa Rica, Madagascar, Saint Lucia and Vietnam as members.

Ethiopia was confirmed as the incoming chair of the CVF for the 2016-2017 period.

The third high-level meeting of the CVF held here was the culmination of nearly two years of expert, diplomatic and senior official consultations, including five regional meetings and a global preparatory meeting last November 11 in Manila that issued The Manila Communiqué. PND (hdc)

President Aquino joins call for global economy de-carbonization
(PARIS, France) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday joined 29 other leaders in seizing day one of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) by jointly issuing a historic declaration linking the hands of the world’s vulnerable countries to combat climate change.

The broad coalition of middle income, least developed and small island developing states worldwide, opened the prospect of high-ambition agreements at COP21.

They issued the strongest call to date for full de-carbonization of the world economy by shifting to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and zero emission by mid-century to keep the world on track to achieve the target of below 1.5 degrees of warming.

“Individually, we are already survivors; collectively, we are a force towards a fairer, more climate-proactive world,” President Aquino said.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a body of countries highly vulnerable to climate change founded in 2009, adopted the Manila-Paris Declaration and a three-year Road Map of Activities aimed at enhancing cooperation and protecting the world’s most vulnerable countries against the adverse effects of climate change.

A commitment to reduce emissions is most likely a commitment to strengthen economic growth. This has been the experience of several vulnerable countries, such as Costa Rica.

The Forum’s dedicated track of Ministers of Finance, the Vulnerable Twenty (V20) Group, also reported on updates from the efforts of its Working Group since its foundation last month in Lima, Peru.

Chair of the V20 and Philippine Secretary of Finance, Cesar Purisima announced, “We are convinced that the V20 has its role to play in helping to unlock the full potential of climate finance as we look to a new international partnership for moving our effort forward.”

“We will work in this context to take steps to enable our economies to benefit from $20 billion in new and additional finance by 2020, drawing from international, regional and domestic sources, and leveraging maximum degrees of private finance.”

The third high-level meeting of the Climate Vulnerable Forum held here Monday was the culmination of nearly two years of expert, diplomatic and senior official consultations, including five regional meetings that culminated on November 9 to 11 with a global preparatory meeting in Manila that issued The Manila Communiqué.

All nominated incoming member countries named in The Manila Communiqué were recognized by the body. PND (as)