Category Archives: Shades of Green

Les bidonvilles de Manille

Last November, the Japan-based correspondent of Le Monde, Philippe Mesmer, spent several days in the Philippines researching Ondoy/Pepeng stories. Because of something he thought I wrote, his host set up a meeting with me; I also invited him to an Inquirer Briefing on the great flood. 

Last week, he sent me copies of the two stories Le Monde published. They are in French, and because my scanty knowledge of Romance languages can only take me so far (in other words, all nuance escapes me), I have had to “read” them in Google translations.

But in case a French reader happens to drop by (in the wooly world of the Internet, one never knows), I thought it might be an interesting exercise to re-publish (with Philippe’s permission) at least one of the stories here. (With links to the online translations.)

Dans les bidonvilles de Manille, où six millions de pauvres survivent Continue reading

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Column: ‘Why is China acting this way?’

Published on December 22, 2009.

COPENHAGEN—THE QUESTION IS THIRD ON a list of eight, proposed in a fit of charity by the Washington Post last Friday, on the last day of the contentious UN Climate Conference. I think it captures nicely the easy, often unremarked assumption of the governments of the developed world, and reflected in coverage of much of the Western press, that China was the stumbling block to the ultimate success of the climate talks.

It wasn’t. China was certainly a crucial player, one of only two countries in my view with an effective veto on the entire process, but to suggest that the United States or the European Union served the world’s needs, while the Chinese acted merely to protect their national interest, is to grossly misrepresent reality. Continue reading

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Column: ‘On the new and never previously seen star’

Published on December 15, 2009.

COPENHAGEN—IT SEEMS LIKE A NO-BRAINER. If the prevailing scientific consensus points to human responsibility for much of global warming, then mankind must do something to stop it. That is the hope that animates summits like the 15th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, now on its second and crucial week in this sunlight-starved, metal-gray city.

But humanity is divided, or organized, into nation-states, and it is a truism that nations negotiate with their national interests in mind. This is the reality that makes the negotiations in the Bella Center, the sprawling conference venue, both necessary and intricately difficult.

The United States is a nation-state, only more so. Continue reading

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RP punching above its weight?

I thought this letter to the editor, from Antonio Hill of Oxfam, deserves all the boost it can get. Met Hill, the group’s senior campaigner on climate change issues, at the newsroom two weeks ago, and then again at the ADB head office, before his keynote at the closing plenary session of the Clean Energy Forum. (He was sitting at the back of the hall, typing away at his laptop, working on his speech.)

The letter, a response to an earlier news story in the Inquirer (which, unfortunately, I cannot find online), reveals something about both the Philippines’ negotiating tack, and Oxfam’s language of assertive diplomacy.

Oxfam clarifies RP’s role in climate talks

I write in response to the article  “RP urged to join alliance to reduce carbon emissions” (Inquirer, 6/16/09)  to clarify Oxfam’s position, and to provide background information that is essential for understanding the performance and positions of the Philippine government delegation to the intergovernmental climate change negotiations, going on under the auspices of the United Nations.

First, I wish to emphasize Oxfam’s general view that the Philippine government played a positive and progressive role in the negotiations. What is not clear from the article—and what citizens need to know—is that the Philippines was the first country to put forward a concrete proposal (early this year) for the mid-term emissions cuts necessary from each individual industrialized country. This proposal reflected an even higher level of ambition than the proposal from South Africa, Brazil, China, India and other developing countries in the most recent negotiation session. Having such a bold proposal on the table early in the negotiating process has helped embolden the position of other developing countries, and also has filled a critical gap by setting out for industrialized countries such as the European Union, Japan and the United States the level of ambition that they need to be aiming for.

Second, Filipinos need to know that their delegation has consistently played a central role in the alliance of developing countries known as the G77 & China—another point that doesn’t come through clearly in the article. Like all countries negotiating for a stronger international climate regime, the Philippines forges its strategies, tactics and alliances on specific issues based on its specific national circumstances and interests. No doubt, the choice not to join the specific bloc of countries pushing for a 40-percent cut from industrialized countries by 2020 at the recent round of talks in Bonn reflects carefully considered judgment. More importantly, it is not necessarily incompatible with wider alliance-building efforts with these or other developing countries that work under the G77 & China bloc in the run-up to Copenhagen.

The negotiations are far from over, and much remains to be done. Securing a fair and safe agreement in Copenhagen is critical to reduce risks and increase support for poor people, who are already suffering most the climate impacts despite being least responsible for them. The Philippines is playing a critical role and should continue to do so.

—ANTONIO HILL,
senior policy adviser on climate change,
Oxfam International

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