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Duterte signs Paris pact on climate change

“After examining the text thereof, I find it advisable to accede to the Paris Agreement and seek the Senate’s concurrence thereto,” the President said in a letter to the Senate. AP/Aaron Favila, File

MANILA, Philippines - Despite his objections to some of its provisions, President Duterte has signed the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change that calls for the reduction of carbon emissions, which have been linked to the occurrence of natural disasters and extreme weather conditions.

Malacañang transmitted to the Senate on Feb. 28 the signed Instrument of Accession, copies of which were furnished to the media yesterday.

The climate agreement has to be ratified by the Senate before it becomes binding.

“After examining the text thereof, I find it advisable to accede to the Paris Agreement and seek the Senate’s concurrence thereto,” the President said in a letter to the Senate.

Duterte previously rejected the climate deal, calling it a “stupid” and “unfair” agreement that could limit the industrialization of developing countries like the Philippines.

The President also noted that it did not enumerate sanctions for parties that failed to comply with their obligations.“If there is no sanction and you are asking somebody to do something or not to do something, and there is no sanction or punishment or whatever, then it’s nothing,” Duterte said in a speech last November.

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In December 2015 in Paris, members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including the Philippines, crafted the agreement, which aims to limit the increase in the global average temperature to “well below” two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Signed by 175 countries in New York, on April  22, 2016, the pact took effect on Nov. 4 after parties representing 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions ratified its provisions.

While not a major emitter, the Philippines promised to reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030 – something Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña believes is doable if all sectors will cooperate. “Whatever difficulties we may encounter, we are bound to extend our support to that,” Dela Peña said. “With the approval, then we have to really focus our programs on how to meet the commitment of the Philippines.”

Dela Peña added his agency would intensify research on renewable energy, energy conservation and other areas that would enable the Philippines to address the impact of climate change.

Climate body lauds signing

Meanwhile, the Climate Change Commission (CCC) yesterday lauded Duterte’s decision to sign the Paris Agreement.

CCC secretary Vernice Victorio said the impending ratification of the agreement will allow the Philippines to push for stronger compliance to the provisions of the pact.

“As one of the most vulnerable developing countries to climate change, it is important that we remain a strong voice and advocate of principles of historical responsibility and common but differentiated responsibilities,” Victorio added.

If the Senate ratifies the agreement before the next round of climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany this November, the Philippines will be able to sit on the conference of parties that will tackle the status of implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Victorio said the Philippines can strengthen its stand and voice on issues involving climate change once it becomes a party to the agreement.

CCC said the Philippine accession to the agreement will include a declaration that will ensure that our national laws and priorities will be upheld.

Also included in this declaration is a statement laying the groundwork for a comprehensive review of the contributions that the country will provide to efforts that will address climate change, according to CCC.

“The review will include a wider consultation on the previously submitted conditional emission reduction pledge of 70 percent towards the development of the Nationally Determined Contributions and will take into consideration our capacity to implement such contribution, support received from developed countries for climate action and our development pathway,” Victorio said.

Despite its support during the negotiations, the Philippines was not able to immediately ratify the agreement following the change in administration.

Ratification by Earth Day

Senate committee on climate change chair Sen. Loren Legarda said they will immediately begin the conduct of hearings to finalize the ratification process before Congress goes on a six-week break starting March 16.

Legarda formally received the treaty, which was personally delivered by Deputy Executive Secretary Meynard Guevarra to her office yesterday. 

“The Office of the President is pleased to transmit to the Senate, through Sen. Loren Legarda, who is the principal author of the Climate Change Law. This instrument of accession of the Philippines to the Paris Agreement was duly signed by the President yesterday,” Guevarra said. 

Legarda noted that she had been pestering Malacañang to transmit the treaty to the Senate for its concurrence. 

The Philippines has not yet completed the ratification process, thus it only sat as an observer in the ceremonial first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement or the CMA during the 2016 climate negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco. 

“Simply put, this is the signed climate agreement that we have all been waiting for. We can see that this is a product of very close coordination between the legislative department and the executive department,” Legarda said. 

She said that the Philippines would only stand to benefit from the treaty, particularly because the country is the third most climate-vulnerable in the world.  

She said her personal target is to have the Philippines complete the ratification process by Earth Day, April 25.

DENR welcomes Rody’s move

In a press statement, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez welcomed Duterte’s signing of the landmark deal.

“As one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, the Philippines cannot abandon its commitment in addressing the single greatest threat facing our planet. We are one with the world in tackling the threat of climate change,” Lopez said.

She added that Duterte’s move has brought a “silver lining of hope” for Filipinos of the next generations, as it would empower the government to better manage its natural resources and empower localities to be disaster-resilient.

“There is also no doubt we will be able to fully transform our communities toward climate resiliency and embrace the principle of sustainable integrated area development as the way forward to achieving a green economy,” Lopez said.

In a related development, a Filipino climate change expert has been recently chosen as one of the lead authors for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming.

Rosa Perez, who is assigned to the Climate Change Assistance Section of the Manila Observatory, is one of 86 experts chosen from over 560 nominations based on technical expertise, geographical representation and gender balance, among other criteria. – With Marvin Sy, Elizabeth Marcelo, Pia Lee-Brago

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