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'Pablo' puts Philippines at center-stage in Doha

Climate activists stage a sympathy rally to show support for the Philippines after typhoon 'Pablo' swept through the country leaving hundreds dead and hundreds more missing. (photo by Imelda V. Abano, InterAksyon.com)

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

DOHA, Qatar -- Typhoon “Pablo,” which has left more than 300 people dead with hundreds more missing, placed the Philippines on center-stage at the Doha climate talks, spurring calls by developing countries for urgent steps to combat climate change.

Frustrations at slow progress of the UN-backed climate talks echoed in every corner of the Qatar Convention Center here as officials of some developing countries held up the Philippines as an example of a country severely devastated by extreme weather events triggered by climate change.

“What is happening to the Philippines might also happen to our countries. We are now in the era of loss and damage. The rich countries might adapt but poorer nations have no resources to cope,” said Ronald Jumeau, Seychelles ambassador for climate change and representative of the Alliance of Small Island States.

“We speak for every coastal low lying countries in the world, as small island nations have nowhere to run when disasters strike,” he said.

Jumeau told InterAksyon that wealthy countries lack urgency in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and helping poorer countries cope with the loss and damage from climate-related events.

Among the contentious issues being discussed here at the UN Framework on Climate Change are how to ensure a fair and legally binding second phase of the Kyoto Protocol for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, which expires this month. Countries are also expected to reach a consensus on how to mobilize the US$30 billion “fast start finance” and the long-term finance to support mitigation and adaptation measures of poorer countries with about US$100 billion a year by 2020.

Appeal for mercy

Philippines Climate Change Commission vice chair Mary Lucille Sering said the country is facing “unprecedented challenges to its economy and the environment” from the impacts of the changing climate as she condemned rich countries for their lack of urgency in addressing climate issues.

“We appreciate the sympathy from other countries, but we need the mercy. We need climate action to move us forward,” Sering said. “We are heavily impacted by climate change year after year. Our people, our environment and our economy suffer a lot.”

Noting that the Philippines is dealing with its 16th typhoon this year, Sering said “what is happening right now in the climate change negotiations is not enough to help vulnerable countries to adapt to new climate realities.”

Amid the gloomy climate here, Sering, who is also head of the Philippine delegation, however, hoped governments would heed developing countries’ plea to address climate issues.

This call was echoed by Climate Change commissioner Naderev Sano who said many countries are not satisfied with the slow pace of Doha talks.

“We see slow, little progress here in Doha. Climate change is not only an environmental issue, but also a development issue. It is a global problem that needs a global solution,” Sano said.

While some of the ministers and heads of country delegations are delivering their final speeches on the climate negotiations, civic society, youth organizations and non-government organizations and members of the Philippine delegation stood in solidarity in the hallways of the Qatar National Convention Center.

They did a call-and-response song of resistance, carrying a banner that said, “We stand with you,” to draw attention to the devastating typhoon that swept through the country.

“We stand behind the countries who have experienced, are experiencing and will experience the devastating effects and who continue to hold out for a deal that will provide them with basic human rights and dignity at the international level,” said Neelam Khare of the Canadian Youth Delegation.

A new report released at the Doha climate conference ranked the Philippines fifth among 190 countries worst hit by extreme weather events.

The 2013 Global Climate Risk Index of an environmental organization Germanwatch said the country endured harsh typhoons last year that caused over US$1 billion in losses and claimed more than 1,600 lives.

Senior Philippines climate negotiator Bernarditas Mueller had earlier condemned rich countries’ hesitance to commit to the Kyoto Protocol.

“I cannot sit here and allow only those interests of developed countries to prevail, demanding more mitigation from developing countries in the face of very low ambitions of developed countries,” Bernarditas said.

Realizing the urgency of climate action, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pointed out that the “danger signs are around” and that time is running out to address climate change.

“We are in a race against time. If we act together with clear purpose, we can meet this challenge. But we need to be united,” Ban stressed.

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