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MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is set to attend this year’s United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference or COP28 happening in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Marcos confirmed his attendance at COP28 during the ceremonial turnover of the People’s Survival Fund to local governments on Wednesday, November 29.
“As we are set to participate – I leave for Dubai in the UAE tomorrow – in the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or what is more commonly known as COP28, we are once again poised to lead,” the President said.
Climate financing remains a top priority for Marcos. “We will use this platform to rally the global community and call upon nations to honor their commitments, particularly in climate financing,” he said.
Recommendations on how to operationalize the Loss and Damage fund established during COP27 are expected to be threshed out in Dubai. The fund is supposed to help vulnerable countries like the Philippines weather climate disasters exacerbated by rich, polluting countries.
COP 28 will also oversee the first Global Stocktake, where nations assess their collective progress in honoring the commitments they’ve made and the goals set in the Paris Agreement.
Climate Change Commission Vice Chairperson and Executive Director Robert Borje said the President’s participation in COP28, as in any multilateral event, is important because “he speaks at the highest level.”
“Everybody knows that the President, since his inaugural address, has placed climate change as a priority of the administration,” Borje said in a press briefing in late October, adding that Marcos wants the country “to move from the victim’s story to the victor’s story.”
The issue of climate change has figured in many of Marcos’ speeches, with the President even calling it the “most pressing existential challenge of our time.” Critics, however, have called out Marcos for being all talk and no walk in his climate policies.
Jon Bonifacio, the national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said it was strange that Marcos portrays himself as a climate advocate when there are a lot of infrastructure projects that have climate impacts continuing and being proposed under his administration.
“Mas ‘yung orientation talaga (The orientation is really more) around infrastructure and all of that, and building all these kinds of seawalls or even reclamation or what have you, or megadams, and these ‘climate solutions,’ which is being financed by climate finance supposedly as adaptation measures, they’re not actually helping communities adapt. Kasi (Because) a lot of the communities are being displaced, they’re being torn out of their ecosystems and their livelihoods,” Bonifacio said in an interview with Rappler.
He also pointed out that Marcos has never commented on the issue of environmental defender killings in the country despite the Philippines being the most dangerous country in Asia for land and environmental defenders for 10 straight years.
“It’s very strange that Marcos postures himself like that, saying that he’s a climate justice advocate, when the fundamentals of climate justice seem to escape him,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English, adding that he’s “very wary” of Marcos’ attendance being another form of greenwashing.
Research institute Manila Observatory’s Tony La Viña, a lawyer and climate expert who served many times as lead negotiator for the Philippines in UN climate talks, welcomed Marcos’ attendance as it showed “he’s taking it seriously.”
“This is an important step that Marcos is making. I hope he listens. The Philippines is a big player in climate negotiations because we have good ideas, we have a strong voice historically – although [during] the [Rodrigo] Duterte years, we wasted a lot of that, but now we’re finding that voice again,” La Viña told Rappler.
He said the President’s presence means the Philippine delegation will also be “even more influential than usual.”
“Marcos will be lobbied by the United States, by the United Arab Emirates, to help out, have a good agreement. Because that’s the danger, na palpak ang agreement o ‘di makapag-agree (that the agreement won’t be good or there won’t be an agreement). The Philippines will be seen as an honest broker,” La Viña explained.
The last time a Philippine president attended the annual climate talks was when the late president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III spoke before hundreds of world leaders at COP21 in Paris last 2015, where he stood up for countries most vulnerable to climate change. It was in Paris where nations agreed on the Paris Agreement, a historic climate pact that aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius.
As for Marcos’ predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, not only did he not attend the climate talks during his term, he even blasted the annual conferences for doing “nothing” about climate change.
This story was produced as part of the 2023 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.