OFFICIAL STATEMENT: COP26 pact nowhere near enough to limit global warming to 1.5°C

The 2021 UN climate negotiations in Glasgow, Scotland (COP26) promised to push the momentum forward to address the climate emergency. For two weeks, we monitored government leaders discuss how to raise ambition, declare new pledges to scale up solutions and support, and develop new strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance adaptation and resilience.

Aksyon Klima Pilipinas expresses its disappointment in the outcomes under the Glasgow Climate Pact. While some progress was made in strengthening workstreams of global climate action, they are still nowhere near enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, the central objective of the Paris climate agreement. 

On reducing emissions

Science does not lie. Without drastic decarbonization, we would hit 1.5 degrees of heating before 2040, per the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Sixth Assessment Report. No level of adaptation would ever suffice, especially for vulnerable nations such as the Philippines, if greenhouse gases continue to be emitted at current rates by high-polluting countries.

COP26 featured many commitments related to a clean energy transition, focusing on reducing carbon dioxide emissions . The most notable of these is the inclusion in the COP decision text of a call against fossil fuels for the first time. The call is specifically for nations to phase down “unabated coal” and phase out “inefficient subsidies of fossil fuels.” 

While a noteworthy inclusion, we are extremely disappointed with how this language has been watered down from the initial text stating the need to end all coal and inefficient subsidies. The influence of China and India, as well as of coal and oil producers, led to this compromise. There should be no more room for this kind of compromise, especially when highly vulnerable countries including the Philippines continue to be at the losing end of these big polluters being unable or unwilling to do their part.

At the same time, we commend the initiative of more than 100 nations to cut emissions of methane, the second most potent warming pollutant, by 30% by 2030. As a short-lived pollutant, mitigating methane is key to slowing down near-term global warming and provides an opportunity for vulnerable countries to adapt to local impacts, and for participating nations to make their agricultural and waste sectors more sustainable. 

We also applaud the announcement of more than 40 countries at COP26 to phase coal out of their power fleets in the 2030s for developed countries, and the 2040s for poorer nations.

Even with these new commitments, however, all existing commitments would still result in a 2.4-degree warmer world. This simply shows how far off our collective efforts are to respond to the climate crisis, and just how important it is to follow through with these promises. 

On loss and damage

Aksyon Klima Pilipinas expresses its gratitude to negotiators who pushed for the creation of the Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility, which would serve as a mechanism for high-polluting nations to pay reparations to at-risk nations like the Philippines for causing the climate crisis. We also commend the Scottish government for pledging GBP2 Million to fund efforts to address loss and damage, the first among the world’s governments. We hope that this action would encourage more governments and multilateral agencies to provide financial support for victims of climate disasters. 

On the other hand, the lack of priority for loss and damage in the COP26 agenda by developing countries is an insult to the plight of communities who are victims of climate-related disasters. This was highlighted even more when any push for financing loss and damage was blocked at the closing stages of the summit, with many parties opting to delay discussions on this matter to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. 

On climate finance

We appreciate the inclusion in the COP decision of a call urging developed nations to at least double the funding for adaptation by 2025. This is crucial for the Philippines and other high-risk countries to protect their communities while still pursuing sustainable development. However, we need to see stronger language for demand on adaptation finance and ensure that richer nations would fulfill this promise.

The announcement by the United States, Canada, Italy, and at least 20 other countries to stop overseas financing of fossil fuels by 2022 is crucial to finally commencing the end of the era of dirty energy. However, many of these countries plan to maintain or expand domestic oil and gas operations. The benefits in terms of emissions reductions through this commitment would be nullified without the will from them to reduce their own emissions.

We also applaud the pledge of nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom of USD1.7 Billion to support indigenous peoples’ forest conservation and land rights. As indigenous peoples are the frontliners and the most effective caretakers of our forests and other ecosystems, protecting their well-being and enhancing their capacity to take care of our environment through this financing is aligned with climate justice.

On forests and carbon markets

Aligned with our advocacy on ecosystems integrity and upholding the rights of indigenous peoples, we appreciate the pledge of more than 100 governments, including the Philippines, to end deforestation by 2030. This involves USD19.2 Billion worth of public and private funds, which if spent properly could effectively strengthen both adaptation and mitigation efforts around the world. Yet we note that a similar deal was reached seven years ago, which ultimately failed.

We are disappointed with the outcomes of finalizing the rules for carbon markets, one of the remaining points of contention for determining the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement. The resulting deal is not enough to avoid the risk of carbon offsetting or to meaningfully reduce emissions. The risk of double-counting of emissions could also still arise if the actions of corporations are not monitored properly; the risk of human rights violations and threats to indigenous peoples under the proposed carbon markets scheme also remain high.

On Philippine action

As one of the most vulnerable nations to the climate crisis, scaling up ambition and climate solutions is crucial for the Philippines to achieve national sustainable development. We need foreign support, especially in terms of finance, to combat the climate crisis, as expressed in our largely conditional commitment in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030. While adaptation is strategically placed as the country’s anchor for its climate action, our pursuit of a less-pollutive development pathway is a moral imperative that must be upheld. 

As such, the Philippine delegation to COP26 placed an emphasis on securing the means of implementation for its adaptation and mitigation programs. The new pledges for climate finance at COP26 are still not enough, aside from being long overdue, for the benefit of Filipinos and other vulnerable peoples. 

The lack of finance for addressing loss and damage is especially a huge blow for our fight for climate justice. It is as if negotiators, especially from developed nations, forgot the devastation caused by super-typhoon Haiyan eight years ago, which arguably changed the entire course of the negotiations to where it is today. Yet we are not surprised, given the history of how discussions under this workstream have gone. 

Perhaps in anticipation of the slow progress seen in previous COPs, the Philippine delegation to COP26 decided to engage in bilateral talks, with some key outcomes. In Glasgow, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez represented the nation in unveiling its partnership with the Asian Development Bank for an energy transition mechanism. This program aims to retire all coal plants within 10 to 15 years and hopefully usher in the era of a renewable energy-dominated Philippines. 

However, there remains a lack of transparency in many aspects of this mechanism. We call on the Department of Finance, the Department of Energy, and the Asian Development Bank, to disclose the terms of this energy transition mechanism, especially how it would lead to renewable energy development, avoid bailing out coal developers and financiers, and uphold climate justice.

The delegation also presented to ministers at COP26 the Philippine’s Sustainable Finance Roadmap, which would help create the pathway to attaining its targets under the NDC, as well as other national adaptation, mitigation, and development plans. We hope that this strategy would address gaps in promoting sustainable investments, and we express our willingness to work with the Philippine government and other non-government stakeholders in making this roadmap a reality

While we respect the strategy of the Philippine delegation in this context, the admitted lack of experience by many of its members in terms of the climate negotiations could be harmful in securing deals and partnerships aligned with the country’s interests. We expect that all transactions entered into by the delegation would be aligned with the country’s four main national development objectives and priorities: sustainable industrial development; poverty eradication and inclusive growth; energy security; and social and climate justice. 

We call particular attention to the fact that the Philippine delegation to COP26 refused to meaningfully engage with Aksyon Klima Pilipinas and other Filipino non-government delegates in attendance at the conference. As we have previously expressed to the head of the delegation, the glaring lack of consultation with various sectors in formulating the country’s positions at the Glasgow climate summit is in violation of the “whole-of-nation” approach that the government itself frequently uses to describe effective climate action, specifically mandated under RA 9729 or the Climate Change Act of 2009. 

How can we as a nation thrive in the era of the climate emergency if our own government leaders respect neither the laws established to protect national interests, nor the right of the people themselves to contribute crucial insights and actions to formulate country strategies?

Nevertheless, we state with hope our interest to meaningfully engage with the Philippine government in carrying the momentum from COP26 and translating it to effective climate change adaptation and mitigation programs at the national and local levels.

Overall, we recognize that some landmark commitments have been made at COP26, especially when compared to recent climate negotiations. But until these words are turned into urgent, just, inclusive, and effective solutions, we have earned the right to be wary of these new promises. We have seen it at the global and national levels. The longer we delay meaningful climate action and the more time and resources we invest in false solutions, the more suffering vulnerable communities will continue to endure from climate change impacts. Ultimately, it will also cost our economy tremendous losses and damages that could only affect our pursuit of development.

Whether inside the conference halls or on the streets with thousands of others, we remain steadfast in our calls. We want climate justice. We demand finance for loss and damage. We call for global and local solidarity. We demand higher ambition turned into concrete climate action. And we need them now.