On the first of December, President Noynoy Aquino will speak at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) Climate Talks in Paris, France. Aquino’s three-minute speech will likely prattle about the Philippines’ Intended Nationally-Determined Commitment (INDC) to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 70 percent, and the supposed improvement of disaster risk management under his administration. He will also appeal to the world stage for a new climate agreement.
From the looks and sounds of it, Aquino is the quintessential climate champion. Is he?
The Philippines intends to undertake a GHG emissions reduction of about 70% by 2030 relative to its ‘business as usual’ scenario of 2000-2030. The target emissions reduction would come from the energy, transport, waste, and industry sectors, excluding contributions coming from land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF).
The premise of the carbon cuts commitment itself is already questionable, as it is conditional on whether or not there is financial support from the international community. In other words, the Aquino government will only change its national policies and programs that promote plunder, exploitation, and pollution if—and only if—other countries will payroll it.
The commitment is negligible compared to what is needed to keep global warming below 2°C unless the more pollutive countries take greater effort to make deeper reductions, according to scientific think-tank Climate Action Tracker (CAT). Unfortunately, we do not have a strong country position demanding bigger, bolder, and binding emissions reduction commitments from the top polluters.
The commitment is deceptive once we do the math. The Aquino administration is notoriously known for the proliferation of coal power plants in the country, under which coal-driven carbon emissions increased by 30 percent. If all the committed and indicative 47 coal power projects worth a whopping total of 10 gigawatts will push through, there will be an additional 60 metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2 ) emissions by 2025.
This is on top of the projected increase of carbons emission from 2010 to 2020 by up to 250 MtCO2 and up to 350 MtCO2 by 2030 if there will be no policy changes in the identified sectors. Carbon emissions in the Philippines were 153 MtCO2e in 2010, excluding LULUCF. In reality, there will instead be a significant increase of carbon emissions by 2030.
If we further factor in the emissions increase from the rapid deforestation caused by large-scale mining, agricultural plantations, and commercial logging, carbon emissions will likely double from 2000 to 2030. This does not yet include the loss of our mangrove forests due to aquaculture farms, the conversion of our agricultural lands to real estate and tourism ventures, and other threats to the country’s various carbon sinks.
What about the so-called improvement in disaster risk management of the Aquino adminstration? Let the facts speak for themselves: Four of the five most devastating typhoon disasters in Philippine history happened during the Aquino administration. So did the Philex mine spill, the largest mining disaster in Philippine history where extreme rainfall caused 20 million metric tons of mine waste to spill into downstream rivers.
No wonder that in 2013 Climate Risk Index, the Philippines is identified as the most affected country in the world by climate-related disasters. In that same year, Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), the most powerful typhoon ever to make landfall in world history, caught the Aquino administration vastly unprepared.
Independent estimates pegged the deaths at more than 10,000 people. Two years after, thousands remain in bunkhouses and temporary shelter, and thousands more are displaced by no-dwelling zones. Billions of pesos’ worth of government disaster funds have not yet been channeled to the victims, feared lost to corruption. Majority of the survivors of Yolanda are still deeply mired in poverty.
Not quite the climate champion, so it seems. President BS Aquino’s reputation has actually earned him the appropriate moniker ‘Disaster President of the Philippines.’ What kind of climate protocol can we expect Aquino to champion for?
At Paris, Filipino climate activists will unmask the callous double talk of Aquino. He will be exposed to the hilt in his policy regime that continues to aggravate environmental degradation, contribute to the climate crisis, and render the Filipino people extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.