Time to act on climate change, Philippines tells UN
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - October 3, 2019 - 12:00am

UNITED NATIONS – The Philippines is not backing down in its call for countries to act on climate change even as it sent a “lean” delegation to the historic Climate Action Summit held here in New York last week.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., speaking before the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday (early Sunday in Manila), stressed the need for countries to start acting on climate change, noting that the Philippines is among those hard hit.

“Climate change – or as (UN) Secretary General (António) Guterres calls it, the climate crisis – is the defining development issue of our time,” he said. 

“Climate change has brought my country – already one of the most vulnerable countries to disasters – extreme weather events of increasing recurrence and strength,” he added.

Describing the phenomenon as the “reverse of God,” Locsin said disaster wipes out socio-economic gains and reverses economic growth built with great sacrifice.

“If climate action does not measure up to what is needed, we all face the same fate: a diminished existence then extinction altogether. But the most to blame will suffer less; and only much later than those who are the least at fault,” he said.

“We already have the global frameworks to address poverty, sustain development, and combat climate change. So, let’s just do it. To borrow from Kung Fu Panda, ‘Enough talk, let’s fight.’ The Secretary General urges us to actually plant trees than plan some more to plant them. I think he’s fed up,” he added.

The foreign affairs chief stressed the need for climate action for the present and future generation.

“For God’s sake, they’re already screaming at us. They see what’s there and we refuse; none so blind, indeed,” he said, referring to the youth who have organized a global climate strike participated by millions around the world.

Lean delegation

Locsin made the statement on climate change even as the country took the backseat in the summit convened by Guterres last Sept. 23.

The country was not among those that delivered commitments on climate action, which included proposals to reduce carbon emissions to slow down global warming and strengthen mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Climate Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman said he was not able to attend the summit due to “pressing domestic concerns,” particularly budget deliberations in Congress.

Nevertheless, he said the Philippines had a “lean delegation” composed of representatives from the Philippine Permanent Mission in New York, National Economic and Development Authority and the Climate Change Commission.

Even United States President Donald Trump, a climate change skeptic, briefly dropped by the summit while he was at the UN headquarters to attend a separate event on religious freedom.

De Guzman, in his statement following the summit, congratulated Guterres and the country co-chairs of the priority action tracks for successfully organizing the event.

“We welcome the collaboration among governments, private sector, civil society and the youth to produce a balanced and diverse set of committed actions for achieving the long-term temperature goal of the Paris Agreement,” he said.

“We trust that the committed actions will uphold the time-honored principles of the Convention — the common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and the precautionary principle,” he added.

The climate body chief also expressed hope that developed countries would deliver promptly on their financing commitment under the Paris Agreement for the climate actions of developing countries such as the Philippines.

“Finally, we laud the youth across the globe for manifesting its collective resolve to participate in the process of finding and implementing transformative climate solutions and in calling on world leaders to respond decisively to the climate emergency with climate justice,” he added.

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