Philippines urged to push for fossil fuel phaseout, climate justice at COP28

Gaea Katreena Cabico – Philstar.com

November 30, 2023 | 5:58pm

MANILA, Philippines — As COP28 opens in Dubai Thursday, climate and energy groups are hopeful that the Philippines will lend its voice to the calls for an equitable and swift transition from fossil fuels to renewables, and corporate accountability for climate impacts. 

More than 70,000 delegates are expected to attend the two-week-long climate negotiations in the glitzy Gulf city to push for aid to climate-vulnerable communities and ambitious action to address the consequences of global warming. 

COP28 comes at a pivotal moment, with emissions still on the rise and this year likely to be the hottest on record. 

Groups said the Philippine delegation, led by Environment Secretary Maria Yulo-Loyzaga, should call for the end of fossil fuels to avert the most disastrous impacts of climate change. 

“Putting an end to the Philippines’ push for massive additional fossil fuel use, particularly with gas, is an urgent policy shift that can get us on track to 1.5 degree Celsius-compatibility,” said Avril De Torres, deputy executive director of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development. 

An analysis released this month suggests that the Philippines should end its coal dependency by 2035 and almost entirely phase out gas-fired generation by 2040 to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The power generation in the Philippines heavily relies on fossil fuels, with the country generating 60% of its electricity from coal, a significant contributor to planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions. 

The government targets to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix from the current 22% to 35% by 2030 and 50% by 2040. 

But for John Leo Algo, the national coordinator of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, calling for the fossil fuel phaseout may not be high on the government’s list of priorities.

“It is not surprising, considering the Marcos administration heavily promotes even more use of fossil gas and is intent on growing the mining industry to supposedly support RE development,” he said. 

Climate finance, loss and damage

Yulo-Loyzaga, who also serves as the chairperson-designate of the Climate Change Commission, said the Philippine delegation will engage in seven negotiating work streams, covering loss and damage, climate finance, adaptation, mitigation, just energy transition, global stocktake, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction and avoidance. 

A major test in Dubai is the expected launch of the loss and damage fund, which will compensate developing countries for climate-induced damage. But talks on the operationalization of the fund have proven to be complicated, with questions on which countries will pay, who will be the recipients, and where the fund will be housed. 

Greenpeace Philippines called on the Philippines and other governments to demand payment from fossil fuel companies and advocate for climate justice. 

“Those who’ve polluted and profited the most must be made accountable and pay their debt to the people most impacted by their irresponsible operations,” said Greenpeace campaigner Jefferson Chua said 

The group is currently blocking access to the import terminal of Shell in Batangas City, staging a protest aimed at emphasizing the importance of holding companies accountable for the consequences of their business activities.

COP28 also features the culmination of the first-ever global stocktake, a process that assesses how far countries have come in tackling climate change and facilitates discussion on how stakeholders can strengthen their climate policies and commitments. 

‘Walk the talk’

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. announced just hours before the opening of COP28 that he is no longer attending the crucial climate summit “in light of important developments” in the hostage situation involving 17 Filipino seafarers in the Red Sea. 

He said Yulo-Loyzaga will lead the Philippine delegation composed of 237 people and express the country’s statement on his behalf. 

The Philippines will open its first ever pavilion at the major United Nations conference, where the government will showcase its strategies to combat climate change. 

The environment chief said the country’s participation at COP28 seeks to amplify calls for developed nations to fulfill their commitments, particularly in finance, technology transfer and capacity building. 

Yulo-Loyzaga added that international exposure will open opportunities for access to needed financial and technical support. 

While expectations for COP28 should be tempered because of a clear lack of climate action to match the pace of climate change, Aksyon Klima’s Algo stressed the importance of participation. 

“We challenge all governments, including the Philippine government delegation, to actually walk the talk. If you will say you still want to achieve the 1.5°C limit, be inclusive in your strategies, or any other promise, then keep your word,” he said.— with report from Agence France-Presse 


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