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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Filed under Readings in Media, Shades of Green

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