Philippines: Poster child for Paris climate talks?
MANILA, Philippines – The visit of French President François Hollande to the Philippines from February 26 to 27 is expected to be heavy on symbolism in efforts to combat climate change.
France is the European Union’s (EU) poster child for greenhouse gas emissions reduction, a contentious agenda in the climate talks it will host in December 2015. Hollande will “highlight the Philippines as a partner in the fight against climate change,” according to the French embassy in Manila.
On the other hand, Philippines has become an image of disaster vulnerability after it was battered by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013. Hollande is scheduled to make a symbolic visit to Yolanda-affected Guiuan in Eastern Samar.
But Yolanda survivors and environmental activists warned France from using Yolanda-affected areas in the Philippines as a “photo opportunity.”
Becky Destajo Hollande, 53, a Yolanda survivor from Manicani island in Guiuan, lamented her community has suffered enough from the combined effects of typhoons and mining to be exploited because of vested interests.
Destajo and her group Save Manicani Movement will stage a rally when the French president arrives in her town on Friday, February 27. They will highlight their fight to stop nickel mining in the island which she claimed has aggravated the impact of climate change.
The island of about 3,000 people hosts a mining operation that started in the late 1980s. Mining destroyed fishing and farming, the community’s main sources of income, Destajo said. She added it worsened the effects of disasters like Yolanda.
“Yung mina ay open-pit. Bumabaha pag napupuno dahil sa ulan,” Destajo said. (It is an open-pit mine. When it rains, water in the open pit overflows, causing flooding.)
Destajo challenged Hollande to support projects in the country that are environment-friendly and sustainable like renewable energy.
Only 100 of the 600 households in Manicani have electricity. Destajo said she welcomes renewable energy projects as she herself gets electricity from solar power.
Destajo said it would the first time a foreign president will set foot in Guian. In fact, the historic visit will be the first by a French president to the Philippines since it gained independence in 1946.
“Sana maiapaabot ng presidente ng France kay Aquino na isang sanhi ng disasters ang pagmimina. Dapat bawas-bawasan ng mga mayayamang bansa ang mga mapanirang negosyo,” Destajo told Rappler in a phone interview. (We hope that the French President will tell President Benigno Aquino III that mining is among the causes of disasters. Rich countries should reduce destructive businesses.)
The environmental group Kalikasan echoed Destajo’s call, but also urged Hollande to tackle the country’s “dirty coal” policy with Aquino, who has approved 59 coal plants for construction from 2014 to 2020.
“We hope Hollande spends his time in the Philippines well by convincing President Noynoy Aquino to reverse his hard-headed push for foreign-driven, dirty coal-fired power plants in the Philippines,” Kalikasan campaign coordinator Leon Dulce told Rappler.
Dulce said Aquino could learn from France’s renewable energy leadership in EU.
“Hollande can help broker a legislated moratorium on coal-fired power plants in the Philippines as a perfect gesture for the upcoming COP 21,” Dulce furthered.
Aquino and Hollande are expected to initiate a call for other countries to sign a climate deal during the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) in December 2015.
France is hosting the talk that seeks to forge an agreement among 197 countries to contain the irreversible effects of climate change.
"We’d like to make this call with the Philippines because your country is very much involved in the climate issue. The Philippines, though very vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, has a positive and constructive international stand,” Gilles Garachon, France's ambassador to the Philippines, said in a statement.
Higher, more ambitious targets
Civil society groups in Manila are expected to stage a rally when Hollande meets Aquino in Malacañang on February 26.
In a press conference on Tuesday, February 24, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) challenged the French government to lead the EU in aiming for “higher, more ambitious emissions reduction targets.” (READ: Activists to French president: Climate action not enough)
“What we need from France is not posturing but the fulfillment of (its) obligations to radically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and deliver sufficient climate finance as (its) historical responsibility requires,” PMCJ’s Lidy Nacpil said.
The group said EU should cut back at least 55% of their emissions to limit global warming below 2°C – the ideal level of emissions, according to scientists.
France is currently one of the biggest funders of coal projects. But at home, it has significantly reduced its pollutants emissions by 70% and its carbon emissions by 40% in 20 years. It is also EU’s main producer of renewable energy, contributing 15% to the total production of the region. – Rappler.com