Philippine Senior Negotiator Discusses the Imperatives and Challenges of COP21

Dr. Antonio La Viña discusses the Philippine experiences in climate negotiations.
Dr. Antonio La Viña discusses the Philippine experiences in climate negotiations.

The Foreign Service Institute held a lecture entitled “Climate Change and the Philippines: Imperatives and Challenges of the Paris Agreement” as part of the Mabini Dialogue Series on 21 July 2016 at the Carlos P. Romulo Library.  The guest speaker was Dr. Antonio La Viña, a senior negotiator for the Philippines at COP21 and former Dean of the Ateneo School of Government.

Dr. La Viña narrated the experiences of the Philippine panel in the series of climate negotiations from its beginnings in 1990 to the Paris Agreement in December 2015.  During the negotiations, he pointed out the recurring issues such as the role of science in the international process, the challenges related to climate finance and technology transfer, the role of private sector, and land use.

He clarified that the Paris Agreement relies on member states’ voluntary contributions in reducing global carbon emissions. Countries can identify their own climate responses called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The Agreement also highlights the need to support developing countries in climate change adaptation and mitigation. The Philippines took the initiative to push for the establishment of a financial support mechanism to help developing countries in fulfilling this commitment. The Philippines also advocated the inclusion of human rights, particularly the rights of indigenous peoples, as one of the pillars of climate justice.

Dr. La Viña emphasized that while the Philippines has committed to an ambitious 70% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030, the fulfillment of such a commitment would be dependent on how much international financial and technological support would be provided to the country. The reduction of carbon emissions will come from the energy, transport, waste, forestry, and industry sectors.

The speaker cautioned that there would be serious implications should the government decide not to ratify the Paris Agreement. For one, non-ratification would isolate the Philippines from the rest of the global community in terms of collectively addressing climate change. Secondly, the Philippines’ leadership role and influence in climate negotiations would be greatly diminished. Dr. La Viña asserted that the Duterte government, if adequately informed, would see the ratification as an opportunity for the Philippines to gather international support for the country’s efforts to curb the impact of climate change.