House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda expressed disappointment in how the executive branch has limited the number of negotiators attending international climate negotiations, saying it weakens the voice of climate-vulnerable countries.
"What the Madrid debacle should remind us of, clearly, is the need to reach out again to our partners in the executive," Legarda said in a statement about the recently concluded climate change negotiations in Spain, which did not have favorable results.
“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,” she said.
Only ten people, including Legarda as head of delegation, were sent to Madrid this month for the Conference of Parties (COP). Other members of the delegation were from the Climate Change Commission and Philippine embassy officials, including the ambassador.
“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,” Legarda said.
In her statement, Legarda spoke about the need for the Philippines’ demands to be heard.
The COP is the decision-making body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Philippines is among its 197 members. Because it involves a lot of nations and issues connected to climate change, annual meetings involve attending two weeks of discussions. Many of the negotiations happen simultaneously, making it hard for smaller delegations to cover as much ground. Attendance in important discussions is crucial, especially for countries like the Philippines, which has been recognized as a leading voice among climate-vulnerable countries.
The Philippines, like other developing countries, has been calling for “climate justice” and the need to hold polluting countries accountable. But many have deemed the recent discussions a failure, among them UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who said: “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation, and finance to tackle the climate crisis."
Reports said major carbon emitters like China and India saw no need to improve their current plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions, which is among the main causes of human-linked climate change. This goes against the goal of the recent negotiations for countries to scale-up their climate pledges.
It can be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. have both said that large contingents will no longer be sent abroad to attend climate conferences to avoid excessive travel among government officials.
During the climate summit of the United Nations in September, the Philippines failed to send a high-level delegation. Those who attended for the Philippines were representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the National Economic and Development Authority and three senior advisers of the Climate Change Commission.
At that time, civil society groups from the Philippines criticized the move. Former government negotiator and now Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Yeb Saño said that while there were officials who took advantage of official travel, not sending enough negotiators and officials who can speak in behalf of the country was detrimental. He said a high-level delegation is supposed to “fight for us” Filipinos.
Legarda agreed with the assessment of environmental advocates that the recent negotiations was a failure.
“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,” she said.
On the other hand, she said members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, composed of developing and climate-vulnerable countries, showed a “sustained display of shared leadership.”
She said the Philippines must be among those demanding climate reparations from rich nations.
Despite this, Legarda said she is hopeful that next year’s negotiations, the fifth since the passage of the historic climate pact in Paris, the Philippines will be able to “deliver the diplomatic alliances and offensives” needed to secure the future of “long-suffering communities.”