Philippines to Stop Sending Officials to Climate-Change Conferences Abroad

Dennis Jay Santos
Davao, Philippines
190606_PH-environment-trash-1000.jpg Firefighters battle a blaze that engulfed an open dumpsite along the shores of Lingayen Gulf in the northern Philippine city of Dagupan, Jan. 12, 2017.
Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews

The Philippines will stop sending officials to all climate-change conferences abroad, the country’s top diplomat said Thursday, a week after President Rodrigo Duterte slammed the United Nations for allegedly doing little to solve the global issue.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. made the statement to clarify an earlier tweet that he made in reaction to Duterte’s criticism of the series of international meetings about climate change, amid the continuing impact of that phenomenon on the environment.

“We’ll just vote without talking,” Locsin said on Twitter, emphasizing that at a recent conference in New York he had pointed out that “using air travel to talk about climate change makes climate change worse.”

Filipino officials would now be asked to join meetings via the Internet, he said.

On Wednesday, Locsin was more emphatic, announcing on Twitter that he was “rejecting all official participation in climate-change conferences requiring air travel.” The Philippine government, he said, views as more “hot air” the latest U.N. pronouncement of a yet a stronger stand on climate change.

The Philippines is a party to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, a landmark accord adopted in December 2015 by more than 190 countries to slash greenhouse gas emissions and keep the pace of global temperature increases under control. The agreement came into force on Nov. 4, 2016.

In his speech at the Nikkei International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo last week, Duterte called for accountability for disasters brought about by climate change.

“What ails the system now? What is this conference of climate change for? There is nobody, no entity to enforce the laws governing climate,” Duterte said.

“Let’s stop kidding ourselves, or else we are just wasting the time and money of the people coming back and forth to this conference, which has not improved the climate-change situation,” he said. “What have we done from the first meeting to the last? None.”

Duterte signed the agreement in March last year, pledging that Manila would reduce its greenhouse emissions by 70 percent by 2030. He affixed his signature despite his skepticism about the accord after a majority of his Cabinet voted to support it.

The Philippine leader made his stand on climate change after U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier warned that countries were not living up to their commitments under the agreement to cap global warming to below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Global warming happens when greenhouse gases trap heat in the planet’s atmosphere, causing polar icecaps to melt and sea levels to rise, according to scientists.

“There are so many countries with so many bombs, atomic hydrogen and all. If any one of them would start to send one into the air, there’s a chance that it will be end of the world,” Duterte said. “That’s why climate change does not really matter to us at all.”

Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato City contributed to this report.

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