THE Philippines joined 170 other nations at the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement at the United Nations headquarters in New York City last April 22. The nations pledged to carry out their respective programs to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, with the goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed it as a “rare moment in history” as the nations offered to take steps, each in its own way, to help achieve the global goal. Among these nations were the world’s top two emitters of polluting gasses – the United States and China – who announced they had reached their own agreement to cut down on their emissions.
Last week, President Duterte unexpectedly declared he would not honor the Paris agreement as, he said, it would hold back the nation’s industrial growth. He saw it as an imposition by some industrialized countries who may not want competition from other nations. It is indeed true that development in the big industrial countries was propelled by energy from coal, oil, and other fossil fuels, the principal sources of global pollution. The US and China account for 38 percent of total emissions in the world today.
The President, however, should see that the Paris agreement that we signed at the UN in New York is basically a collection of national goals, not a list of requirements that must be followed. Each nation has its own program in accordance with its capacities.
The Philippines has several coal plants lined up in various provinces as part of its long-range development plan. We are not stopping these plants as we need them for our economic growth. We are merely looking forward to setting up more plants in the future that rely on solar, wind, and other renewable sources of energy.
Thus, Sen. Leila de Lima urged President Duterte to reconsider his position not to honor the Paris agreement. We can still develop our economy without giving up our commitment to combat climate change, she said. Sen. Joel Villanueva added that development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive. We can achieve them both; we can pursue green development.
The Paris agreement is supposed to be ratified by our Senate, but Senate President Drilon said President Duterte may not send it to the Senate for ratification. We may well withhold formal ratification of the agreement for now. But we should see the value of collective efforts by the world’s nations, especially the top polluters, to rein in their previously irresponsible actions.
We will continue with our own development program in our country, including the already approved coal plants. But we should also be on the constant lookout and systematic search for new sources of renewable energy as a matter of national policy.