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Marcos: Philippines seeks to host climate disaster fund

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Marcos: Philippines seeks to host climate disaster fund
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on November 14, 2023.
STAR / KJ Rosales

DUBAI – The Philippines intends to host the more than $400-million fund that several countries have committed as compensation for nations bedeviled by extreme weather conditions caused by climate change.

President Marcos voiced his administration’s intention for the country to host the “Loss and Damage Fund” in a speech delivered for him by Special Assistant to the President Antonio Lagdameo Jr. at the opening of the Philippine Pavilion, themed “Together Today for Tomorrow,” at the Dubai Exhibition Center Friday afternoon (Dubai time).

The event was part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), which runs until Dec.12.

“We urge partners from the private sector, civil society, partner countries and governments and developing funding institutions to support the Philippines in this bid. You have been there for meaningful collaboration with our government to tackle the climate crises,” he said.

The Philippines has yet to officially bring up its intention before COP28.

In his message, President Marcos also called on world leaders to ensure prompt implementation of the “Loss and Damage Fund” to help nations cope with the effects of climate change.

“The Philippines’ call for the immediate operationalization of this fund to assist developing and vulnerable countries to respond to droughts, floods and rising sea levels exacerbated by climate change,” Marcos said.

The President cancelled his attendance at COP28, citing “important developments” in the case of 17 Filipino seafarers held hostage by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militants in the Red Sea.

Developed countries, led by the US, want the fund to be based in the World Bank, but developing nations said this would make it hard for them to tap into the funding.

The Chief Executive said his administration has carried out transformative solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change and address biodiversity loss and pollution.

“More than just an environmental issue, for us, it is a matter of survival, of justice and of protecting the rights of our people. Thus, the Philippine Development Plan sealed the national development priorities on accelerating climate action and establishing sustainable and livable cities,” he said.

The Philippine government has allotted P453.11 billion for climate change adaptation and mitigation for 2023, while P889.65 million has been granted to local government units for climate change adaptation programs and projects under the People’s Survival Fund, he said.

Low carbon development

The President likewise noted the Philippines is heading toward low-carbon development.

“We are on track towards achieving a 35-percent renewable energy share in the power generation mix by 2023 through policy reforms that allow more investors for offshore wind and floating solar. We need to protect our forests, our oceans and our biodiversity,” Marcos said.

The Philippines, he said, remains as the third largest geothermal power producer in the world, next to the US and Indonesia.

“The Philippines, being a mega-diverse country, is home to 50,000 species of flora and fauna, 50 percent of which can only be found in the country. We are intensifying the protection of natural resources to restore natural ecosystems and maximize ecosystem services that will benefit indigenous peoples and local communities,” he added.

In an interview with Filipino journalists here on Friday, Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said the approval of the Loss and Damage Fund – long being pushed by developing nations most affected by climate change – is one of the biggest achievements of this year’s conference. Loyzaga heads the Philippine delegation to COP28.

“There was an expectation that they (countries) would start with $200 million, but they raised yesterday over $400 million in pledges and more to come,” Loyzaga said after leading the opening of the Philippine Pavilion inside the Dubai Exhibition Center.

The official stressed the fund would not only help vulnerable countries recover from natural disasters but would also enhance their resilience to climate change.

“As far as the Philippines’ leadership is concerned, we’re very much recognized for the loss and damage fund,” Loyzaga told Filipino journalists.

“We hope to be able also to have a seat on that (Loss and Damage Fund) board in order for us to further pursue the representation of vulnerable countries,” she said.

COP28’s host country, the United Arab Emirates, has committed $100 million to the fund. Germany has also reportedly pledged $100 million, while the European Union promised $275 million. The US and Japan pledged $17.5 million and $10 million, respectively.

In 2022, the Philippines topped the World Risk Index, which measures countries’ disaster risk from extreme natural events and the effects of climate change.

In a speech on Wednesday at Malacañang, the President underscored the significance of COP28 to the Philippines, one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

“But we must also take the lead when it comes to the global move and the global aspiration that those most vulnerable communities around the world will somehow be assisted by the developed countries when it comes to these measures to mitigate and to adapt to climate change,” he said.

Climate justice

In a statement, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda yesterday lauded the deal reached during the COP28 climate change summit in Dubai for the setting up of a loss and damage fund.

“This is a welcome development of a decades-long battle on loss and damage as we continue our call for climate justice and demand the developed countries to deliver on their commitments in the Paris Agreement,” Legarda said in a statement.

She said the development was made possible after countries like the Philippines supported it when it was discussed in last year’s COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

“I am aware our Philippine delegation has been working hard on putting the loss and damage agenda on the table since last year’s conference and pushing towards the establishment of the Fund in the ongoing negotiations with G77, the COP28 presidency of the United Arab Emirates and other stakeholders,” Legarda said.

She said more industrialized countries should take the lead in putting up the fund for countries like the Philippines, which have a low contribution to greenhouse gas emission but are most vulnerable to drought, rising sea level and strong typhoons.

“Our stand is that developed countries most responsible for climate change must do more for countries least responsible,” Legarda said.

“To pursue climate justice is to exact accountability from the most responsible for the climate crisis based on the developed countries’ historical responsibility for emissions,” she added.

In her taped speech delivered yesterday during the High-level Dialogue with the COP28 Philippine delegation in Dubai, Legarda thanked the Climate Change Commission and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for presenting the country’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 75 percent, as part of the Philippines’ obligations to the Paris Agreement.

“In order to minimize the scale and intensity of climate impacts, we must adapt to – as well as leapfrog to – low-carbon systems and transform our ways of living for the better. The Philippines has, for far too long, been the face of loss and damage and climate risk and vulnerability,” Legarda said.

The Paris Agreement was adopted as a legally binding treaty on climate change during the COP21 in Paris in 2015.

It aims to keep “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” — Marc Jayson Cayabyab

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