President Aquino Presents Climate Change Reforms; Calls for Commitment to Support V20 Nations 

In his statement during the Leaders Event for the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, France on November 30, 2015, President Benigno S. Aquino III reiterated his call to rich countries to share the burden of poor countries, especially the so-called Vulnerable 20, in addressing concerns of climate change.

The President said countries like the Philippines, the island-state of Grenada as well as island-nations like the Maldives are affected the most in terms of destruction and economy when typhoons and extreme weather strike, further draining resources to do their share in addressing this concern. For V20 countries, this translates to about 44.9 billion dollars each year as economic cost of climate change.

Taking the cudgel for developing countries most at risk by the effects of climate change, President Aquino as this year’s chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of one billion people, stressed that the Philippines stands in solidarity with these countries in the appeal for more financial support for climate change mitigation efforts. The Forum was in the midst of finalizing the Manila-Paris Declaration which presents the countries’ “aspirations for a world that is resilient and just, one where no one is left behind.”

The President took the opportunity to present to some 100 world leaders initiatives of the Philippines to mitigate climate change, foremost of which is the National Greening Program and how its goal of 1.5 billion trees planted on 1.5 million hectares, once realized upon completion would be able to absorb some 30 million tons of carbon per year. This endeavor and notable gains has earned for the country to be named as one of top five nations with the highest annual forest gain by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s Global Forest Resources Assessment for 2015. He also shared the relentless campaign against illegal logging that has reduced by 88 percent the number of municipalities and cities tagged as illegal logging hotspots.

He likewise cited the allocation of funds to complement policies and legislation on climate change, with 5% of the total budget going to climate change; veering towards the increase of renewables in the energy mix which is now at 33 percent as well as the commitment of the country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions conditionally by 70% by 2030 under the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC).

The participation of President Aquino in COP 21 is significant with the Philippines among the V20 countries. Continually visited by typhoons, the resolve “to learn from the past” comes with insights gained from the massive destruction brought about by Typhoon Yolanda two years ago that gained for the country international attention.