Durban Conference Outcome

December 12, 2011

Against a backdrop of the glacial pace by which the international climate treaty negotiations have progressed, recently evidenced by the near collapse of climate talks in Durban, I rise once again to remind world leaders of the responsibilities before us to lead our people out of the crises and uncertainties brought about by climate change.
We can take inspiration from a victim of a disaster, who turned the tragedy into an opportunity and help stop the next disaster from happening.
Eighteen-year-old Arnel Alipao was one of the 30,151 persons affected by the massive flooding brought by three consecutive days of heavy rains in Surigao del Norte in January 2011. At that time, his life seemed dependent on the disaster-rice fields and houses in their community were submerged in floodwater, no school for him, no harvest for his parents.
Anger and disappointment filled Arnel. But instead of moping about the tragic experience, he used it as inspiration to motivate others, becoming an advocate of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, encouraging people to take part in disaster prevention efforts, and telling us that “we cannot really change the world, but we can change ourselves for the world.”
We are fully aware of the threats of the climate crisis. Beyond our shores, more and more countries are also reeling from disasters of unprecedented magnitude-this year Cambodia, Thailand, and Bangladesh went through devastating floods, which are among the worst in their history; Pakistan is suffering from severe inundation since last year; giant floods in Australia in December 2010 have affected 3.1 million people; torrential rains in South Africa in January 2011 have claimed the lives of 70 people and forced the evacuation of some 8,000 citizens; floods and mudslides in Brazil early this year have killed at least 791 individuals.
Given this grim scenario, how much of the costly humanitarian responses can world governments afford in the future? How many more precious lives will be lost before we act decisively to prevent them?
For climate change is clearly not only about floods. It is about food, water, settlement, jobs and livelihood. It is about human welfare and security, poverty reduction and sustainable development.
Following the recently concluded 17th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Durban, South Africa, I express my hope that leaders who have negotiated for the world’s future have not consigned themselves to the charge that “more is said than done”.
Allow me to reiterate that industrialized countries have a historical responsibility for climate change and are morally obliged to financially and technologically assist developing countries in their efforts to reduce their vulnerability and adapt to its consequences, while reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions.
What did Durban deliver? Governments, including the US, China and India, agreed to adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change, to be decided on not later than 2015 and to come into force by 2020. Governments, including 35 industrialized countries but excludes the US, Canada, Japan and Russia, also agreed a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from 1 January 2013. However, the second commitment period is said to cover less than 15% of global emissions, which could warm the world to the tune of 3.5 degrees, dangerously way above the 2 degrees acceptable limit.
The Durban Platform certainly lacks ambition: political will failed to match the call of climate science.
As industrialized countries conveniently delay action, poor and vulnerable countries, such as ours, continuously suffer from floods, hunger, displacement and economic setbacks.
It is clear injustice to witness the devastating impact of climate change being borne by the poorest groups with least responsibility for having caused it and least capacity to adapt. For the developed world to compensate for this inequality, the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which is expected to provide $100 billion per year for climate change adaptation by 2020, must be at full speed. We gladly take note that in the Durban outcome, this fund will become fully operational next year.
As we await the report of the Philippine delegation to the Durban meet, we have to sustain our country’s effort in sincerely addressing climate impacts.
We are optimistic that we will very soon establish a People’s Survival Fund, proposed by no less than the Senate President.
And while we await more decisive outcomes of the climate talks, we in our country must resolve to quickly move policy into action. Our laws, which have been considered model legislation by the UN and the IPU, must be complemented by effective implementation from the executive.
In a context where growth in disaster losses surpasses growth in our economic yardsticks, we should come to realize that perhaps our old, consumptive and extractive development model has not worked. And we cannot use this model to solve the complex problems of our contemporary society.
Now is the time to redefine development – to change our way of thinking and our way of doing. Now is the time to pursue the kind of development that is founded on good governance, sustainable and equitable socio-economic development, ecosystems protection, cultural renaissance and disaster resilience.
Pursuing this kind of development is within our reach. Let us be the change we seek.
Thank you.