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Stop climate politicking. Walden Bello

Philippines must demand deep and early cuts in GHG emissions from developed countries in Copenhagen

Walden Bello

Walden Bello, is an Akbayan Representative in the 14th Congress of Republic of the Philippines. He is also a senior analyst of Focus on the Global South and professor of sociology at the University of the Philippines. This article is Walden's speech delivered to the Phillipino House of Representatives on 8 December 2009.

It is no exaggeration to say that the future of the planet will be greatly determined in the halls of the Bella Center in Copenhagen in the next few weeks.

The steadfastness of leaders from the developing countries in the negotiations may spell the difference between a pro-people, development-oriented environmental commitment and a soft, ineffective climate policy that puts undue burden on the developing world and is skewed towards the interests of the developed world.

We call on the negotiators to firmly defend the position of the Philippine delegation, crafted in consultation with civil society groups and technical experts:

  • Deep, early cuts in emissions for Annex 1 countries
  • Limit carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere to 350parts per million (ppm)
  • Temperature increase must not go beyond 1.5 - 2 degrees C.
  • Funding for developing countries must come from grants, not loans, and must not be coursed through the WB, IMF, other IFIs
  • Developed countries must allocate at least 1% of gross national income (GNI) to fund mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries
  • All constraints within the WTO regarding technology transfers must be abrogated for climate change mitigation and adaptation technology.

If the Philippines has a good program going to Copenhagen, this is due to the good, cooperative relationship that has developed between some agencies and individuals in government and civil society groups.The question is: will Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo defend these positions when she is in Copenhagen?

Mrs. Arroyo has already echoed the United States’ call and back-tracked from what the Philippines previously demanded, saying, on the eve of US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s recent visit, that the Philippines “need not insist on deep and early cuts in carbon emission, but we should require countries to make a commitment.” How effective can a commitment be to ward off climate change if it is not a substantial and binding commitment to significantly reduce carbon emissions by the big industrialized countries?

The US offer to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels is simply unacceptable. It translates into an insignificant 4 per cent reduction from 1990 levels, which serve as the benchmark for serious cuts. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has asserted that a 25-40 per cent cut in GHG is the minimum figure that would keep global mean temperature this century from rising above two degrees Celsius, the upper threshold for manageable climate developments.

It is very disturbing that one of the most effective members of the Philippine delegation, Bernarditas de Castro Muller was dropped from the Copenhagen negotiating team. Muller serves as the coordinator and spokesperson of G77 and China, the main negotiating bloc defending the interests of more than 130 developing countries in the crucial negotiations.

Instead of fielding a person who is regarded as toughest negotiator for the developing countries, Mrs. Arroyo, according to credible sources, personally ordered her being dropped from the team. What else can explain this fact except pressure from the rich countries who are intimidated by Mueller’s negotiating skills? Thank god, the Sudan has adopted Ms. Muller, ensuring that the Group of 77 and China will not be outmaneuvered in Copenhagen.

The reality is that the government’s handling of Philippine climate policy is haphazard and uncoordinated. We question Mrs. Arroyo’s voluntary assumption of the position of climate czar. What is her credibility to lead such efforts? We have witnessed her failure with the illegal drugs battle, and we cannot stand for such ineptitude which will have not only national, but also global repercussions.

We question Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes’ heading the Interagency Task Force for Climate Change when he has emerged as the spokesman for the big oil companies that are among the key culprits behind climate change. We question the competence of Principal Negotiator Heherson Alvarez who recently earned the ire of developing country governments by implying that New York City might also be a recipient of money designated to assist developing countries deal with climate change.

The lack of coherence, consistency, and competence goes all the way down the line. One of the initial submissions of the Philippines to the United Nations climate negotiations stated that trade liberalization was one of the elements of our climate strategy. But what does trade liberalization have to do with mitigating climate change? In fact, studies suggest trade liberalization contributes to climate change.

We were also surprised to learn that at the recent talks in Bangkok, the Philippines committed itself to a 5% cut in its Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2020. While we in Akbayan would take pride in leading developing countries to commit emissions reductions and other mitigation efforts, this is a unilateral move that is not supported by feasibility studies and impact assessments on the trajectory of Philippine development.

We maintain the position that any commitment we make in the negotiations, or any position we espouse must go through thorough evaluation and must not obstruct efforts to develop an equitable and just society that provides employment and welfare for all. The Philippines’ contribution to global warming is infinitesimal. We must not be tabling any commitments until the US and the other industrialized countries that are the major culprits behind global warming make serious, legally binding offers.

The Philippines has already submitted its position to the UNFCCC and this submission is fully supported by key leaders of the convention. Let our negotiators stick to our positions, work with the Group of 77 towards a common objective, and not allow ourselves to be intimidated or seduced by the industrialized country governments. In the end, it is better to have no deal than to have a bad deal that does not meet the climate challenge but simply serves as a figleaf for the big industrialized countries to continue damaging the climate.