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Opinion

Together for our planet: A reflection on COP26

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Laure Beaufils - The Philippine Star

As the dust settles in the wake of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) that concluded in Glasgow last week, I have been reflecting on what we were collectively able to achieve. COP26 was our moment of reckoning, our moment to get the world on track to address the enormous threat of climate change. 25,000 people from 197 countries, including 120 world leaders, came together in the UK – the biggest conference that the UK has ever hosted: Did we collectively step up? And where should we be turning our attention now?

Having thought carefully about this, I can confidently say that we did make huge progress, and we should not shy away from celebrating this. The “Glasgow Climate Pact” will accelerate the pace of climate action now, and while there is still a huge amount more to do in the coming years, the agreement is a significant step that demonstrates a powerful shift to clean energy, more and better adaptation and sets major precedent.

On the side of emissions/ mitigation, it focuses on a “just transition” and commits countries to phase down unabated coal and phase-out inefficient fuel subsidies. It agrees on a common timeframe and methodology for national commitments on emissions reductions. Crucially, it agrees that countries will return next year to revisit their 2030 emissions reductions targets to bring them in line with the 1.5 degrees Celsius target.

And many other agreements were reached, not least a critical one on forests, where more than 130 leaders – representing 90 percent of the world’s forest – made a pledge to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. So the goal of limiting our global warming to 1.5 degrees is still within reach.

I think it’s also really important that nature and locally-led adaptation were at the heart of the COP. Developed countries agreed to at least double support for countries to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change by 2025. Support for action to tackle loss and damage is also a key feature of the Glasgow Climate Pact.

On the finance side, more public and private finance has been mobilized than ever before. New pledges made at COP26 bring us closer to meeting the $100-billion annual climate finance target next year and ensure we will exceed it from 2023.

Agreeing this Pact was not an easy process, and certainly not one confined to the negotiation halls. It is the culmination of tireless negotiations, artful diplomacy and the voices of youth, academia, civil society, media and the private sector.

But of course the Glasgow Climate Pact, and world leaders, will be judged on whether countries truly deliver on the commitments they made at COP26. And it is essential for countries such as the Philippines that we do this.

The Philippines was well represented at COP26 with Finance Secretary and chairperson of the Climate Change Commission Carlos Dominguez as the head of the delegation. His leadership signalled the Philippines’ willingness to take bold actions to tackle climate change, including through the country’s enhanced NDC and new commitments on halting and reversing deforestation, deployment of clean power generation and energy efficiency measures, building resilience, promoting sustainable agriculture and supporting sustainability disclosure standards.

At a sub-national level, the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Guimaras, Negros Oriental and Occidental and cities of Quezon, Ormoc and Masbate also made important contributions. Secretary Dominguez also underscored the need for urgent action and continued to be the voice for countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, that are demanding urgent action and more finance. He was right to do so.

The UK Government will continue to respond to that call for action. The UK’s International Climate Finance has been doubled to £11.6 billion (approximately P745 billion) over the period 2021 to 2025. At COP26, the UK announced new support for the region, including the Philippines, including £110 million (approximately P7 billion) to the ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility, managed by the Asian Development Bank, to increase finance for green infrastructure for ASEAN countries.

We also announced over £290 million (approximately P19 billion) in new funding for adaptation, which will strengthen climate resilience across the Indo-Pacific. And we have launched a new Urban Climate Action Programme (£27.5 million; approximately P1 billion), which will support developing cities and regions, including Quezon City, to transition to net zero by 2050 through low-emission public transport systems, renewable energy generation, sustainable waste management and climate-smart buildings.

Beyond this, we will continue to invest in adaptation and low carbon energy through existing programs, policy initiatives and research in the Philippines that are all contributing in practical ways to building adaptation and resilience, strengthening nature-based solutions, supporting a transition to clean energy and mobilizing sustainable finance in the Philippines. And we will continue to support the Philippines in the development of a Long-Term Climate Strategy for resilient and low carbon economic development.

Keeping the momentum beyond COP26 is essential for the Philippines and the UK. That is why climate change is integral to our UK-Philippines Enhanced Partnership. We will continue our close partnership on climate change through the UK’s COP26 presidency year and beyond. I look forward to more collaboration ahead with the Philippine Government and with our friends across the wide range of sectors that play a part in generating climate solutions. Collectively we have got to deliver on the promises set out in Glasgow, and the hard work starts now.

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Laure Beaufils is the British Ambassador to the Philippines. Twitter @LaureBeaufils

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