By Genalyn Kabiling
President Rodrigo Duterte has finally agreed to endorse the Paris climate change agreement but pressed for “sanctions” for countries unable to meet the provisions of the binding accord.
The president changed his mind about the United Nations deal, which calls on countries to limit carbon emissions to mitigate climate change, after a long discussion with the Cabinet members who were supportive of the deal.
“After so much debate, iyong climate change, pipirmahan ko because it’s a unanimous vote except for one or two. Ako iyong isa which was arguing about,” Duterte said during the oath-taking ceremony of new National Press Club officers at Malacañang on Monday, November 7.
“Because it’s a Cabinet decision, I’ll go along with it and sign it. As I have promised you, I will not solve this problem alone. I will give it, place it on the table, give the Cabinet members, the whole of the Cabinet to vote,” he added.
The president previously hesitated to honor the international climate agreement due to concerns it was limiting the country’s economic and industrial growth.
The United Nations pact, agreed by 195 countries including the Philippines last December, aims to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The deal came into force on Friday, November 4, with 94 countries ratifying the accord. The Philippines, one of the countries vulnerable to natural disasters, to has yet to formally ratify the agreement.
In his remarks, the president raised concern about the lack of sanctions that would hold countries accountable if they do not comply with the international climate accord.
“If it’s a binding treaty, you have to have a sanction. If you read the treaty, it’s binding but there is no sanction,” he said.
Nothing in the climate deal also compels the rich countries to shell out funds for environmental damages, according to the president. “Contrary to the popular belief, we read the contract word for word, iyong mga pera na to be culled sa mga rich industrial countries, hanggang doon lang. And there is no binding agreement that they have to pay this and that.”
“The industrialized countries have been known not to honor financial obligations especially America. It has not paid its dues to the United Nations,” he added.
By ratifying the agreement, he said Philippines could avail around $200 million for climate mitigation projects.
But he said the funds could not be used to compensate for damage incurred by climate vulnerable countries. He said the agreement states that the money will only be used for projects for reducing carbon emissions, “not an outright pay for the damage.”
Duterte likewise admitted there was “no point” in signing the global climate deal since the country’s environmental laws have already set higher targets to cut carbon emissions by 70 percent.
“Ang hinihingi nila .3 [percent]. There’s no point in insisting on signing it because the national law, which binds, only says we have to reduce it by 70 [percent]… We overshot it by a thousand miles,” he said.
“That’s why it took us several hours to finish the Cabinet meeting only to dwell on that particular issue. But hopefully, I said, with the decision, which I myself decided to be, decided by the committee as a whole,” he added.