I write this column on the plane from Manila to Doha on my way to Egypt.
My ultimate destination in Sharm-El-Sheikh, the famous tourist resort city at the edge of the Sinai Desert and by the shores of the Red Sea.
I will join thousands of government officials, scientists, environmental activists, business lobbyists, and young people attending the Twenty-Seventh Conference of the Parties (COP 27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
I have attended 22 of these conferences – Berlin (1995), Geneva (1996), Kyoto (1997), Buenos Aires (1998), Bonn (1999), The Hague (2000), Bonn (June 2001) Marrakech (December 2001), New Delhi (2002), Milan (2003), Copenhagen (2009), Cancun (2010), Durban (2011), Doha (2012), Warsaw (2013), Lima (2014), Paris (2015), Marrakech (2016), Bonn (2017), Watowice (2018), and Madrid (2019, just before the pandemic).
I missed the COPs in 2004 (Buenos Aires), 2005 (Montreal), 2006 (Nairobi), 2007 (Bali), 2008 (Poznan), and last year in Glasgow. But I followed them closely as an academic and advocate.
In most of these meetings, I was a lead negotiator of the Philippines and played major facilitation roles for the process. However, in Sharm, I will be a climate justice advocate.
I am part of a 12-person strong delegation from the Manila Observatory (MO).
Led by our Executive Director Fr. Jett Villarin SJ, we hope to influence the discussions in COP 27.
Although some of us are in the Philippine Delegation to assist our officials led by Environment Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga (like me a former executive director of Manila Observatory), most of us will be in Sharm because MO is a core member of the Allied for Climate Transformation by 2025 (ACT2025), a consortium of research, led by the World Resources Institute, working to achieve climate justice.
MO is also implementing with Ateneo de Naga College of Law and other Ateneo Law schools the Climate Justice Capacity Initiative, supported by Client Earth and the Foundation for International Law for the Environment (FILE), and a pioneering effort in Southeast Asia on loss and damage, supported by the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Samdhana Institue, and the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung.
We will be sharing lessons from these projects in Sharm, hoping that governments will listen to civil society voices.
They should as stakes are high in this meeting which is expected to begin with an agenda fight over the most critical issue in these negotiations: the creation of a loss and damage finance facility.
The Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the importance of loss and damage.
First, it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. These include the burning of fossil fuels, continuing deforestation, and unsustainable agriculture, production, and consumption practices
Second, global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.
We need a cut of 45 percent of global emissions by 2030 so we can achieve a state of net zero emissions by 2050.
Third, if global warming transiently exceeds 1.5°C, many human and natural systems will face additional severe risks. Right now, if business as usual continues, we will exceed 3°C. That is catastrophic.
Fourth, human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has already caused widespread adverse impacts to nature and people.
It will get much worse as we overshoot 1.5°C, 2°C, and beyond. Typhoons will be stronger and droughts will be more frequent and last longer. All regions will experience seasons of extreme heat and excessive precipitation.
Fifth, the rise in weather and climate extremes has led to irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond ability to adapt. Among others, there will be serious Impacts on public health, including more pandemics and outbreaks of diseases such as dengue, malaria, etc.
Fifth, the most vulnerable people and systems are disproportionately affected.
Poor countries and poor people in all countries will be first and most affected. Rich countries and rich people will also be affected but they have more resources to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
That is why climate justice is our battle cry in this fight.
The Philippines will be one of the most affected by climate change. We are not a stranger to the loss of lives and the damage to property, infrastructure, livelihoods, and non-economic assets caused by climate change.
Sea level rise and severe weather will affect more people here in our country than many other places.
We may not be an island state but we are a state of many small islands and we have one of the world’s longest coastlines when you combine our coasts in one stretch.
Agriculture, fisheries and biodiversity will be severely affected, compromising livelihoods and increasing social conflict as saw this week with Typhoon Paeng devastating many parts of the country from Luzon to Mindanao.
We experienced this earlier this year with Typhoon Agaton and before that, last December 2021, with Typhoon Odette destroying much of Siargao and Dinagat Islands and parts of Bohol.
And a year before that, large areas of Luzon from South to North was hit by a quinta of storms in the last quarter.
We trust our delegation will not fail us in this fight over loss and damage in Egypt.
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