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Developed countries reluctant to take lead vs climate change

March 13, 2008 6:24pm
MANILA- Philippines - Despite the recognition of the global dangers of climate change and of the need to “act to protect the climate on the basis of equity and respective capabilities," developed countries seemed to remain reluctant in taking the lead in undertaking measures to mitigate factors contributing to climate change even after years of international discussions on the issue.

Ahead of the next round of climate change talks in Bangkok, a Philippine senior climate change negotiator on Thursday said most of the developed countries that are signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) continue to fail to deliver on their commitments, more than a decade since the convention was entered into force in March 1994.

During a national conference that aims at arriving at a consolidated national policy to address climate change, Bernarditas C. Muller – the Department of Foreign Affairs senior adviser on climate change – appealed for the adherence to the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities."

This principle places a heavier burden on developed nations to take a lead in efforts to address climate change. This is based on the recognition that the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries, and that per capita emissions in developing countries remain relatively low.

“Based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, the developed countries have the obligation to take the lead (in mitigating climate change)… (But) developed countries are not meeting their targets in the convention in terms of the transfer of technology and financial assistance to developing countries," Muller said.

“The miserable 5% emission reduction target is not being met by many developed countries," she added.

Lost in Bali

The Bali Roadmap was a clear reflection of the developed nations’ reluctance to take the lead in mitigating climate change, Muller noted.

“We lost more than we gained in Bali," Muller said, referring to developing countries including the Philippines. She said developed countries managed to water down their commitments and succeeded in shifting the pressure on to the developing countries.

“When in the Convention, the developed countries have the obligations to take the lead. We lost that kind of momentum. In Bali, they were saying that the developing countries are not doing anything, which is actually farthest from the truth," Muller said.
“Now, instead of technology transfer, they even want to sell the technology," she added.

Muller noted that while developing countries likewise have commitments in terms of emission reduction, the extent to which developing countries will effectively implement their commitments will depend on the effective implementation by developed country of their commitments relating to financial resources and transfer of technology.

“We can’t do this on our own. We need global cooperation to address the problem of climate change… The way we can implement our obligations largely depends in the implementation of their financial obligations," Muller said.

The Philippine situation

The Philippines was among the first countries to set up a national committee to tackle climate change, the Inter Agency Committee on Climate Change. The government has also created the Presidential Task Force on Climate Change (PTFCC) in January 2007.

But while the country is very much involved in international policy-making on climate change, much still needs to be done on the national level, non-government organization Third World Network (TWN) – which is involved in issues relating to the environment, development and the third world – said.

For one, TWN’s Elenita Daño said the government is still far from coming up with a “coherent policies and positions" on climate change.

“One one’s talking about a national strategy against climate change, and we ought to have one," Daño said, noting that her group is currently in close coordination with the Department of Energy (DOE) which heads the PTFCC for the formulation of national policies on climate change.

Presently, the country’s policies dwell mostly on mitigation but generally remains silent on the issue of adaptation, which may entail re-zoning of existing communities in response to or in anticipation of expected disasters in order to moderate harm, Daño said.

“Based on our discussions with the PTFCC, we have the impression that they are still on mitigation and have not quite caught up on adaptation yet. We have absolutely achieved ‘zero’ in terms of zoning, and I don’t see any coordination between the DOE and the LGUs, which is in charge of zoning," Daño said.

Muller underscores the need to include adaptation in the national strategy for climate change, saying future vulnerability also depends on development pathways taken by the government.

“If you adapt, you can develop; if you develop, you can mitigate," Muller said.

Daño also noted that while key environmental legislations have already been passed, such as the Clean Air Act, Solid Waste Management Act and Clean Water Act, these laws are simply not being enforced.

“Yes, we have very good legislation already in place, but again, it still boils down to enforcement. Just how many local government units are enforcing waste segregation? Maybe just a few. We are still a long way for these laws to be useful," Daño said.

One bright aspect in efforts to mitigate climate change is the government’s conscious effort to increase the use of renewable sources of energy.

“We are pursuing ways which we could be able to use renewable sources of energy. But even in terms of energy use, we could still benefit from technology transfer from developed countries," Muller said.

Also, an increased national awareness on climate change and the government’s openness to a wide, participatory approach in decision-making and policy-making is expected to result to a more encompassing and comprehensive Philippine policy on climate change. - GMANews.TV
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