Something must be wrong with the state of the Philippine press. The three biggest broadsheets all had banner headlines on the United Nations-led climate change agreement signed by nearly 200 countries in Paris the other day. The Philippine Star, controlled through intermediary firms by the Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim, gushed: “Climate deal unveiled, a historic turning point.” The Philippine Daily Inquirer wrote: “Paris talks in last stretch.” The Manila Bulletin’s: “Landmark climate deal up for approval.”
Surprisingly, the, ahem, best newspaper in the country, this newspaper, didn’t have any news report on the “landmark, historic deal.” Its banner was on Fil-Am boxer Nonito Donaire’s victory over a Mexican challenger.
My beef with the three papers that did report the climate change deal is this: Why am I reading all these dispatches from Paris by foreign news agencies, which would be the same stories I’d be reading if I were an American or an Australian living in New York or Sydney? A newspaper in one country by definition talks of what interests the citizens of that country.
The agreement’s significance was that the participating countries – especially the big two polluters China and the US – agreed to curb the increase in global temperature to less than 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to even limit it to 1.5 degrees.
As important as that agreed-upon target is that every nation had pledged or will pledge exactly by how much they would reduce pollution in their countries. These will even be recorded, and made publicly available, in an official UN registry.
So naturally, as a Filipino, the information I wanted was: What did this government pledge for climate change? I’m worried you see, given the fact that we learned only a year later after his 2011 Tokyo meeting with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that the President, in effect, promised the Islamic insurgents their own nation-state, called Bangsamoro.
I read twice, thrice the articles on it by the three broadsheets, and searched their newspapers: There is no report at all what the hell did the Philippines under Aquino pledged to contribute to reducing global warming.
A Facebook friend, dean of the Ateneo School of Government Antonio La Viña had several-on-the-ground posts on the conference, including selfies with delegates from all over the world on his FB wall. It was high drama, his posts implied. He and his fellow “negotiators” were burning the midnight oil on the draft agreement, negotiating with other countries to accept it. Wow! Did the Philippines, which accounts for a miniscule 0.3 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions, just save the world?
The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s columnist who seemed to be in Paris devoted an entire article on La Viña’s excitement that the term “climate justice” was in the text of the draft agreement. (Yes it was mentioned once in the 7,344-word agreement and in a by-the-way-tone: “noting the importance for some of the concept of “climate justice.” I wonder what his excitement over the term is about, as it’s an old term and there was even a Climate Justice Summit in 2000.)
But darn, there was no report from them what the Philippine pledge was. I couldn’t even find what this government pledged in behalf of all of us on the website of the Commission on Climate Change.
It took a lot of googling and several calls to my sources to find out what the Philippine pledge was. The Philippines and many other countries, including the US and China, had submitted their promises in October and November in preparation for the Paris convention. The Philippines submitted its pledge on Oct. 1.
Finally, I read the Philippine pledge: It smacks of this government’s and its NGO allies’ kind of empty braggadocio. And worse.
This government pledged to reduce its pollution levels 70 percent by 2030. (Technically, all emissions from all sectors, including the result of changes, land use, land use change and forestry, and including those from industrial, energy and agricultural emissions.)
That is really the kind of promise Aquino gave to the MILF in 2011 in his obsession to win the Nobel Prize.
In comparison, Thailand pledged to lower its emissions only by 20 percent, and Indonesia by 29 percent. The three biggest polluters that make up half of carbon emissions in the world – China, the United States and India – pledged reductions of 24 percent, 15.5 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.
Are we pretending to be a developed country? The crux of the controversy here – everyone wishes for a clean planet – is that non-industrial countries, and China and Russia include themselves in this category, allege that the industrial countries led by the US polluted the planet many decades ago, and that pollution is the price we now have to pay for those countries’ economic growth. Why should the developing countries, especially China and India, be handicapped now in their industrialization? I myself am wondering why the US pledged only a 15.5 percent reduction in its emissions, when it is the world’s richest nation that can afford to reduce its pollution drastically, as Europe in the past decades has done. Germany, for instance, accounts for only 2.2 percent of CO2 emissions, while Italy and France account for a mere 0.9 percent each.
We contribute only 0.3 percent of the global CO2 emissions, yet we pledged to reduce that by 70 percent. (Our problem of pollution is really limited to that in Metro Manila.)
The government must have a reason for that 70 percent pledge. That hollow-sounding promise has been graded “adequate” by environmental groups, such as the Climate Action Tracker. Expect Aquino to boast about that.
I don’t think there is any other country that pledged a reduction by anything more than 30 percent. What would that make us look like? High-school braggarts?
What is really embarrassing for us a nation is that the pledge is conditional “on the extent of financial resources, including technology development and transfer, and capacity building that will be made available to the Philippines.”
This government, in effect, told the world: “We’ll reduce our pollution by 70 percent. But give us the money to do that.” That’s really like the BBL Aquino promised the MILF, if you believe credible reports that some Malaysian slush fund was offered to this Administration if it passed that bill into law.
What a government!