Privilege Speech On the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC

November 8, 2021

 Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues:

Last Sunday, October 31st, after a year’s postponement due to the pandemic, the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) finally opened in Glasgow under the presidency of the United Kingdom. These twelve days of climate talks could well be “the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control.” Today, November 8, the nation commemorates the eighth anniversary of Supertyphoon Yolanda.

Indeed, this climate summit is a make-or-break for the most vulnerable countries. Here at home, our constituents are already feeling the worsening impacts of climate change: severe rains, storms, floods, and droughts are intensifying, pushing the poor even further into poverty. In our most vulnerable communities, families live one disaster away from losing everything—their homes, their livelihoods, even their lives.

Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues, you are well acquainted with the challenge ahead of us. After all, the House of Representatives has taken the lead in adopting a resolution declaring a climate and environmental emergency, and calling for a whole-of-government, whole-of-society, and whole-of-nation policy response towards the effective implementation of our laws on climate change adaptation and mitigation and disaster risk reduction to anticipate, halt, reduce, reverse, address, and adapt to its impacts, consequences, and causes.

The same resolution emphasized the need to pursue climate justice for the country, especially as the Philippines, along with many other developing countries, remains among those most vulnerable to climate change—a crisis caused by developed countries in the first place, who have historically contributed the most to global warming. This concept of climate justice is what enabled and animates the Paris Agreement, which recognized our common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities in tackling the climate crisis.

Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues:

Against this backdrop, and given the state of the climate emergency today, we emphasize what COP26 must mean—what it must deliver, what its results must be, and what outcomes we as legislators especially must be closely monitoring as the talks progress.

To be clear, these are just some of the many things COP26 must achieve if it is to be a summit of survival—I say survival because that is precisely what is at stake: not success or failure, but survival or oblivion. Much more needs to be done on the four key themes of COP26— securing global net-zero by mid-century and keeping 1.5˚Celsius within reach; urgent adaptation to protect communities and natural habitats; mobilizing finance; and working together to deliver the means of implementation of the Paris Agreement—and beyond.

Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues, first of all: 

The Parties at COP26 must agree on a clear and concrete delivery plan for the annual 100 billion USD over five years pledged by developed countries to developing ones from 2020 to 2024—after which we expect the amount to increase. This commitment does not just represent one of the key outcomes of the Paris Agreement; as others have noted, it is the very glue that holds the treaty together.

We must emphasize to all Parties at COP26: the time for pledges and promises is over; now is the time for concrete plans and action. We expect the Philippine delegation to lead in pushing the Parties at COP26 to deliver on this front. 

Without this, and without the means of implementation of the Paris Agreement, we will not be able to build the capacity and technical know-how we need to avoid more GHG emissions, and we will not be able to survive the intensifying impacts of climate change that our people confront on a daily basis. If we cannot secure what developed countries owe vulnerable developing ones, we are only poisoning the trust that was painstakingly built to enable the Paris Agreement. If COP26 will not talk about finance, we might as well not talk at all.

Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues, we also emphasize:

COP26 must take concrete action on Loss and Damage—a critical component of the UNFCCC intended to avert, minimize, and address loss and damage associated with climate impacts. That includes both extreme weather events and slow onset events. COP26 must ensure that timely technical assistance reaches the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change. COP26 must make this integral to its outcome.

In our energy sector alone, electric cooperatives were hit with 3.16 billion pesos in infrastructure damage due to extreme weather events—and that is just in the span of six months in 2020. We cannot transition to resilience—much less transition to clean, renewable energy—if we do not move the issue of loss and damage forward in COP26.

Additionally, we have a looming food crisis.  Food production around the world will suffer as global heating reaches 1.5C.  Already, the increased heat and humidity are harming crops and livestock, with droughts and floods wiping out harvests as well. For Southeast Asia, the warming of the earth is not just changing rainfall patterns, but also a threat to the glaciers that irrigate millions of our rice lands. Not only this, we are seeing the consequences of rising energy prices, which has already resulted in fertilizer prices roughly tripling.  This will cascade through global agriculture, as smallholder farms cannot afford the higher costs, and thus undermine food production. The world is facing the possibility of a dramatic shortfall in food production. Vulnerable regions cannot afford any more food insecurity, especially at a time when access to food is already under threat from the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. 

Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues:


COP26 is set to tackle something particularly important to the Philippines: the finalization of rules for Article 6 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which involve modalities and procedures for implementing cooperative approaches between developed and developing countries.

At COP25 in December 2019, the Philippine delegation, which I headed, introduced the concept of “emissions avoidance,” in the context of the country’s insignificant contribution to the global warming problem, with emissions at 0.3% of the global total emissions.

The Philippines should continue to push the eligibility of activities for “emissions avoidance” in the case of developing countries given our right to our remaining development space.

Mr. Speaker:

As we work to accelerate climate action and ambition in COP26, we must realize: we cannot expect the rest of the world to move while we stand still. I reiterate my call to constantly raise climate ambition in our national targets. We will bring our Nationally Determined Contribution, which was submitted in April this year, to COP26. As it stands, this NDC communicates a 75% reduction and avoidance target by 2030.

It is true that this is higher than the 70% target in our Intended NDC submitted in 2015. And yet, 72.29% of this is “conditional” or contingent on the support of climate finance, technologies, and capacity development from developed countries. While we acknowledge the importance of such support for developing countries, we cannot deny: our NDC is virtually business-as-usual if over 95% of it will remain conditional over this critical decade. COP26 is the platform to help us enhance even more our climate ambition.

Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues, allow me to reiterate our imperatives:

We need a clear delivery plan from developed countries on the 500 billion USD they promised us. We need to move global action on Loss and Damage forward. We need to reevaluate our own NDC, and constantly raise action and ambition. The lives and livelihoods of Filipinos today and in the future hang in the balance.

Because the truth is, in the end, our planet will survive: it will find a way to adapt to the changing climate we humans created. Life will find a way—and it will find a way without us, if it has to. We are not, strictly speaking, destroying the planet; what we are doing is changing it to a point where we can no longer live in it. In short: it is not our planet, but our people, that need our saving.

Whether at COP26, in the halls of this Congress, or wherever we are, let this be our reminder. We have much more work to do—but let’s begin by securing these imperatives at COP26. In doing so, we may yet secure the safer, greener, sustainable future that every member of this House dreams for their family, for their community and constituents, for our country and our planet.

Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues: 

Allow me a few more minutes to highlight an issue that is as important as global warming and climate change, and perhaps more immediate. I would like to draw your attention to the poor quality and unhealthy state of the air that we breathe every single day.

November is Clean Air Month, and this year’s observance is made more significant by the release of the 2021 World Health Organization Global Air Quality Guidelines on September 23, 2021.

Mr. Chairman and dear colleagues, the new guidelines provide clear evidence of the damage air pollution inflicts on human health and recommend new air quality levels to protect the health of populations, by reducing levels of key air pollutants.

Millions of premature deaths around the world have been attributed to poor air quality and millions more are exposed to higher levels of pollution from a growing number of pollution sources. Some of the pollutants also contribute to climate change.

In the Eleventh Congress, I co-authored Republic Act No. 8749, or the Philippine Clean Air Act, to institutionalize a holistic national program of air pollution management, to ensure clean air and promote public health.

The law mandates the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as the lead agency to base national ambient air quality standards on World Health Organization (WHO) standards, but shall not be limited to nor be less stringent than such standards.

Let me just cite one example to describe to you the work that needs to be done.

The Philippine Standard for Particulate Matter 2.5 or PM 2.5 is 25 micrograms per normal cubic meter annually versus the WHO Air Quality Standard of 5 micrograms per normal cubic meter. This means we allow 4 times more of PM 2.5 in our air, annually.

The Philippine Standard for PM 2.5. is 35 micrograms per normal cubic meter per twenty-four hours (24 hrs) and 2005 WHO Global Air Quality Guidelines is 25 micrograms per normal cubic meter and the 2021 guidelines set it at 15 micrograms per normal cubic meter, per twenty- four hours (24 hrs). This means we are allowing 1.5 times the pollution of Particulate Matter 2.5 or PM 2.5 in our air if we use the 2005 Guidelines and, using the 2021 Guidelines, we will miss by more than 200 percent what is deemed to be safe.

Mr. President, dear Colleagues, the size of PM 2.5 is only 5 percent of the thickness of a human hair. This is a pollutant that is so small and insidious that it can get into the bloodstream and is able to cross the placental barrier.

I urge this Chamber to pass a Joint Resolution of Congress, together with our esteemed colleagues in the Senate, to take cognizance of the 2001 WHO Air Quality Guidelines and to constitute the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Clean Air Act. 

Through this effort, we hope to help ensure that we are able to support the concerned national agencies in protecting the environment and public health. 

The adverse impacts of climate change and poor air quality do not recognize political colors nor seasons. It is incumbent upon us to come together and take leadership in the effort to promote the health of the environment and of our people.

Ultimately, the earth, our home is giving us a final exam today. If we pass it, with courage, conviction and innovation, our children and our childrens’ children will look back with gratitude.  If we fail, our generation will be judged on it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.