STATEMENT OF DEPUTY SPEAKER LOREN LEGARDA Head of the Philippine Delegation to COP25 on the outcome of the recently-concluded climate conference in Madrid, Spain

December 19, 2019

I welcome the conclusion of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP25) held last week in Madrid. I welcome its close for several reasons, not all of which may be self-evident, and so I wish to spell them out:

Confronted by the most serious crisis humanity has ever faced, leaders of the most advanced nations that also happen to bear the greatest responsibility in creating and exacerbating today’s climate crisis, have chosen instead to lean back and watch as the world burns.

I welcome the naked display of their impotence and ignorance. They will be remembered for their indifference and cowardice.

I embrace as well the sustained display of shared leadership that has become the hallmark of the Climate Vulnerable Forum or CVF. I co-founded the Forum a decade ago in 2009, with President Mohammed Nasheed of the Maldives and a handful of other countries. We are the ants moving the elephants. We may be vulnerable but we are certainly most capable. We are tenacious. We are relentless, and we are stronger when we act together.

What was ten years ago a clutch of nations has blossomed today into a 48-government strong advocacy association driven by a high sense of urgency and leadership.

We recognize that, individually, we may appear puny, and that, separately, our emissions may seem negligible. But we have dreams, and when we act together we are greater. For our mission is guided not only by a greater sense of responsibility but also a deep-seated recognition of accountability. All nations can and must contribute their fair share of global climate action.

Together, the combined population of CVF member countries is comparable to China. Together, our emissions surpass those of Russia and, together, we represent as well the means to establish new strategic alliances that speak to partners among progressive developed nations. But also, we must begin more proactively reaching out to new actors beyond the West, such as China, and, perhaps even more compellingly, our very own neighbors in Southeast Asia.

We did not get everything we wanted in Madrid. In fact, the Madrid COP demonstrated contrasting instances of statesmanship.

One reflects an unmistakable poverty of leadership, particularly from those with a moral obligation to act because of their historical responsibility in instigating and exacerbating climate change. As I said on December 10, on the second week of the climate negotiations in Spain, sadly, “when our youth demand action from those with the means to stave off this crisis, the rich and the powerful gaze at their navels, seemingly in love with the illusion they can bring their wealth to the afterlife.”

Unfortunately, our people cannot afford to toy around with such illusions.

This is why, with great pride, I once again joined the ranks of spirited, hopeful leadership. Working closely with other member countries of the CVF, we marshalled in Madrid the support of over 80 countries each of whom committed to deliver stronger climate action by 2020. We reached beyond the Forum’s membership and inspired the support of disparate nations committed to delivering enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs next year. This includes the likes of Chile, The Netherlands and Spain, and Malaysia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ecuador.

Countries deeply responsible for the climate crisis chose evasion and obfuscation. But nations like the Philippines living on the frontlines of climate change marched forward instead, determined to inspire others and to act, against the odds. It gave me great pride, therefore, to have headed the Philippine delegation to the climate talks in Spain.

It is a foregone fact that new NDCs in 2020 must go beyond addressing the gap between current efforts and the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees objective. This will need the injection of significant new energy from all nations in 2020, in consideration of an aggregate strengthening by 50% of the current NDCs as the requirement to keep to the 1.5C temperature threshold.

We cannot forget as well the globally agreed objective where developed countries are to deliver annually, as of 2020, US$ 100 billion to address the needs of developing countries, upon which urgent climate actions depend.

It cannot be denied that COP25 fell dramatically short on advancing efforts to respond to loss and damage. We have also yet important to finalize rules for the implementation of the Paris Agreement with respect to carbon markets.

What the Madrid debacle should remind us of, clearly, is the need to reach out again to our partners in the executive. We simply cannot afford to send super tiny delegations to the climate talks. Because by doing so we give way to those with criminal intent to spread the conflagration of more climate harm, providing only a woefully inadequate defense from our side.

We cannot make polluting rich nations accountable for their apathy if we don’t show up not just with righteous anger but also with the full diplomatic might of our country.

Our demand for climate justice must be heard.

Our demand for more drastic, deeper, earlier cuts in developed country carbon emissions must resound throughout the climate talks.

Just as critically, our voice must lead in demanding climate reparations from rich nations.

Most important of all, the Philippine voice must be a voice not just of anger but also of hope.

As the great feminist and writer Rebecca Solnit wrote in 2003, “Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky.” Hope “is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”

Hope. Apart from the courage of our people and our government, apart from the conviction regarding the righteousness of our cause, hope is what we hold dear.

We have a year to prepare and deliver the diplomatic alliances and offensives that can make COP26 in Glasgow come up with decisions that truly matter in the immediate term and the long run for our long-suffering communities. And beyond Glasgow, we have nothing but a modern, resilient, efficient and sustainable economy to win. Because the time is now.

May our collective resolve to both survive and thrive in the face of the climate emergency be the durable legacy that we leave behind for our youth to take up when it is their turn to govern.***