[OPINION] What’s at stake for the Philippines at COP24

John Leo C. Algo

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[OPINION] What’s at stake for the Philippines at COP24
'Just as it has done in previous Conference of Parties, the Philippines needs to take an even more active role in navigating the complex web of climate negotiations and push for the proper implementation of the Paris agreement'


This December, negotiators from all countries will convene at the 24th Conference of Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, for two weeks to finalize how the Paris climate agreement will be implemented. The accord, which was adopted 3 years ago, will enter into force in 2020. It aims to limit global warming to 1.5ºCelsius (C). (READ: Will the Paris agreement work?)

The urgency to stop climate change was heightened amid both new scientific evidence and recent events. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that should business continue as usual, global warming will reach 1.5ºC as early as 12 years from now. Any further temperature increase will intensify impact being felt today, from coral bleaching and sea level rise to droughts and wildfires.

For the Philippines, the outcomes of the upcoming talks are crucial to both its immediate and long-term survival. Given its active role in international negotiations and as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, there is a lot on the line for the country at COP24.

An urgent agenda

One of the main disputes to be tackled at COP24 is how to ensure that developed countries will receive guaranteed financial aid from high-emitting, industrialized nations. Under the accord, wealthy countries are expected to raise $100 billion by 2020. Without the proper mechanisms to ensure funding, vulnerable countries would continue to bear the brunt of more extreme events.

With adaptation as its primary mode of climate action, the Philippines needs to emphasize the security and efficiency of such mechanisms if it will implement the necessary projects at the local level.

Another key discussion will focus on how global stocktake processes will be reported, monitored, and reviewed.

For the Philippines and other vulnerable countries, it is vital to push for the inclusion of loss and damage in the assessment of progress made during implementation. This is to allow for more efficient changes to the means of implementation and support. It will also allow these countries to adapt and mitigate more easily, considering that the projected impact would likely worsen throughout the 21st century.     

Furthermore, guidelines will be developed for the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which serve as each country’s strategy for voluntarily reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. Specifically, negotiators will figure out aspects of this document, including the timeframe of implementation and different guidelines for developed and developing countries.

The importance of curbing emissions is more urgent than ever, given that the impact of climate change is still being felt across the world. The UN Environment recently reported that despite global efforts, carbon dioxide emissions increased in 2017 due to economic growth – a first instance in 4 years. With current pledges on course to fall short of the 1.5-degree increase target, boosted ambitions are needed from all countries.

The Philippines, which is currently crafting its NDC, needs to ensure that the finalized guidelines would allow it to achieve its targets without compromising its sustainable development. As its current plan relies on conditionally reducing its emissions only with financial and technological support from industrialized countries, active participation in the development of the Paris rulebook is necessary. Similarly, its negotiators also have to ensure that the interests of the country’s most impoverished sectors will be prioritized during this crucial meeting.

Perhaps the most critical of these sectors is agriculture. A weak to moderate El Niño event is predicted to affect the Philippines during the first quarter of 2019. While not as strong as the episode experienced in 2016 that led to P10 billion of losses in agricultural production and the infamous Kidapawan incident, the potential impact can still be exacerbated by the poor conditions of farming communities and increased global emissions.

The projected dry spells and droughts will be most severe in Luzon, which hosts large farming areas. Given that this situation could repeat for the next few decades, it is vital for the Philippine delegation to negotiate terms that could help the agricultural areas adapt as soon as possible.   

The increasing pace and severity of climate change impact need to be matched by urgent and intensive actions from the individual to the international level. While it is key for countries to enact measures at the domestic front, synergy at the global level is just as important to achieve targets to fight climate change and its causes which are of a much bigger scale.

It is undeniable that the solutions to the climate crisis already exist, yet some of them inevitably need support from governments and institutions. Just as it has done in previous COPs, the Philippines needs to take an even more active role in navigating the complex web of climate negotiations and push for the proper implementation of the Paris agreement. It needs to act like its future depends on it, because our future depends on it. – Rappler.com

John Leo Algo is the Science Policy Associate of the Climate Reality Project Philippines. He will earn his MS Atmospheric Science degree from the Ateneo de Manila University in December 2018. He is also a citizen journalist.

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