[OPINION] How COP27 impacts the Philippines

John Leo C. Algo

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[OPINION] How COP27 impacts the Philippines

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'It is hypocritical for the Philippines to keep supporting further use of the same fossil fuels that are clearly harming it in many ways'

The 2022 UN climate negotiations (COP27) have finally concluded. For the past two weeks, more than 35,000 delegates representing governments, civil society, and businesses convened in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt to decide how to implement the Paris Agreement, the global treaty that targets limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Among the priority issues on the Philippine agenda at COP27 include loss and damage, adaptation, and finance. With warming at slightly above 1 degree Celsius, our nation and other vulnerable countries are already struggling to deal with the impacts of the climate crisis and are seeking urgent solutions at the global scale.

The question should now be asked: are the decisions at COP27 enough to put the Philippines on a path to sustainable development in the era of the climate emergency?

On loss and damage (L&D)

Arguably the most controversial issue in the Egypt climate summit is on financing solutions to address L&D. The Philippines joined other developing countries in lobbying to establish a finance facility to provide restitution and support for communities gravely hit by typhoons, droughts, sea level rise, and other impacts.

For the first time in history, Parties agreed to establish an L&D fund to aid vulnerable nations deal with extreme impacts. The decision text does not state how this mechanism would be funded or when and how it would become operational. Such details need to be ironed out in the next few months, especially as climate-related disasters continue to hit highly vulnerable communities worldwide.

Nevertheless, this is seen as a huge victory for nations like the Philippines that for decades have been fighting for support to address L&D. The G77 negotiating bloc of developing nations played a huge role in securing this outcome, including the commendable work of Filipino lawyer Vicente Yu, the bloc’s coordinator on L&D. 

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On adaptation

At COP27, a new Sharm-El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda was launched aiming to enhance the climate resilience of 4 billion people by 2030. It consists of 30 outcomes that cover a wide range of actions, including on sustainable agriculture and food production, protection and restoration of land and freshwater ecosystems like mangroves, early warning systems, and access to clean cooking. 

Adaptation remains the Philippines’s anchor strategy against the climate crisis. Moving forward, government representatives need to remain active in multilateral partnerships including the Adaptation Agenda for securing the necessary support our nation needs. They also need to keep on actively influencing the development of a roadmap to ensure that developed nations deliver on their pledge from last year’s climate summit to double adaptation finance for vulnerable countries.

On finance

Implementation is impossible without finance, especially on climate solutions. Developing countries have been demanding finance from developed nations, on the basis that they produced much of the pollution from burning fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas that caused the climate crisis.

The COP27 decision text highlighted the growing needs for different facets of climate action, including the nearly $6 trillion worth of climate-related needs of developing countries by 2030. It also urged the rich nations to finally deliver their pledge of $100 billion every year to support developing countries, which was originally made in 2020 and called on international banks and financial institutions to commit more finance for climate solutions.

The Philippines’s commitment to reduce its pollution by 75% within the current decade can only be achieved with resources provided by developed countries, partially based on the “polluters pay” principle. It is vital for our government to secure finance, technologies, and capacity-building support from developed nations and other funding entities through agreements that do not further burden the poorest and most vulnerable Filipinos and hinder our pursuit of sustainable development.

On mitigation

No matter how much the Philippines adapts, if pollution keeps being emitted at current rates, global temperatures will still increase and trigger more extreme and destructive impacts. Exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming is widely considered as a point when such impacts may start becoming too intense to be dealt with.

This is why the issue of reducing fossil fuel use was a critical topic at COP27. Despite a push by India for a phase-down of all fossil fuels, the final decision remained on course with last year’s statement on “accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

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The lack of a strong commitment to phasing out coal, oil, and natural gas was influenced by the fossil fuel industry, which maintained a strong presence in the negotiations. This could also undermine global efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal that was also nearly removed from the decision text.

Interestingly, the Philippine government delegation did not strongly support calls for a fossil fuel phaseout, which is not surprising as the current presidency wants the local natural gas industry to expand. While the nation has a right to pursue development on its own terms, it is hypocritical for the Philippines, one of the most vulnerable to the climate crisis, to keep supporting further use of the same fossil fuels that are clearly harming it in many ways.

The time may be over for COP27, but time for climate action that avoids the worst-case scenario for the Philippines and elsewhere is running out. As with any climate negotiations, the reception to the decisions are mixed. Yet what matters now is how we build on these outcomes to ensure that our nation survives and thrives in the era of the climate emergency.

Climate action can only be done if we work together for implementation. –

John Leo Algo is the Deputy Executive Director for Programs and Campaigns of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines and a member of the interim Secretariat of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas. He is a Filipino civil society delegate and speaker at COP27, and a member of the Youth Advisory Group for Environmental and Climate Justice under the UNDP in Asia and the Pacific.

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