Climate expert Tony La Viña summed up the outcome of the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt in this way: the best ever for not only climate justice advocates but fossil producers, too.
“COP27 is the biggest victory ever for climate justice advocates in the last 30 years,” La Viña, associate director of Manila Observatory’s climate policy and international relations, said on the phone days after flying home from the global summit held at the Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh.
“However, it’s also the best COP ever for fossil producers—both countries and companies,” he added.
COP27 continues to generate a buzz after nearly 200 nations hammered out a landmark deal to set up a fund for poor countries battered by rising seas, storms, floods and other disasters, but skipped commitments to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and to accelerate emissions-cutting efforts or phase out use of fossil fuels.
The irony wasn’t lost on La Viña and other Filipino climate campaigners who attended the Nov. 6-18 conference.
“We’re paying for loss and damage [due to climate change] but we continue to increase loss and damage by allowing the rise of fossil fuel emissions,” La Viña said. “You nullify one with the other.”
Rodne Galicha, convener of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas representing 1,200 civil society organizations, earlier also said as much: “While we’re happy, we’re expecting more losses and damages [since there was no progress on the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit and the phaseout of fossil fuels].”
The phaseout of fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy were “non-negotiable,” Galicha told CoverStory by phone from Egypt. “It’s good news, but we must be vigilant, too.”
Short and lacking
At the conference, climate campaigners from the Philippines led the call for the rapid phaseout of coal, oil and natural gas, and assistance to poor countries in their transition to clean energy.
“Even while the establishment of a loss and damage fund is noteworthy, COP27 still stands as a conference that is short on ambition and lacking in commitments and action,” John Leo Algo, deputy executive director for programs and campaigns of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines, said by email.
The phaseout of coal and significant phasedown of oil and natural gas are needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, he said.
“It’s not an option; it is needed as a matter of our survival,” Algo said. “Without it, the Philippines and other similarly vulnerable nations would only experience more loss and damage from typhoons, droughts and other hazards, to a point that the costs could be so high that no amount of money from developed nations may ever compensate for it.”
According to new research by climate think tank Climate Analytics, coal remains a major source of electricity in the Philippines, comprising 55% of the energy mix. And despite the coal moratorium, coal capacity additions amount to 2.6 gigawatts from 2020 to 2025.
To comply with the 1.5 degrees Celsius path, the Philippine government should slash coal’s share in power generation to around 10% by 2030 en route to its phaseout by 2035, the think tank said.
“To achieve this, the Philippines needs to scrap all future coal plans and phase out the existing plants,” it said.
But for La Viña, all inroads made in climate adaptation and mitigation after hard-fought negotiations every year at the summit must be counted as a blessing.
“You can’t underestimate this victory; we’ve been fighting for this for 30 years,” he said, recalling that the struggle began with the 1996 call by developing countries for a “Clean Development Fund,” or compensation by developed countries for historical emissions. “But this is tempered by the realization that the fight is not over.”
La Viña pointed out that the loss and damage fund would give the Philippine archipelago—devastated by storms, floods and droughts over the years, and threatened by sea level rise, rising temperature and extreme rainfall annually—“cushion to respond to disasters effectively.”
People struck by disasters need a fund like this to get back on their feet and become resilient again, he said.
The establishment of the fund could take a few years; its finer details, including which countries will pay into the fund, what the funding will look like, and which countries will benefit are still being threshed out.
Between now and that time when the fund will finally be in effect, La Viῆa said, the Philippines should prepare by halting “development aggression” projects that harm the environment, such as the artificial dolomite beach on Manila Bay, and by doing some science on the impact of a warming climate on the country.
“The idea is to get our house in order,” La Viῆa said, adding that Manila Observatory would be consulting various sectors on the matter. “We will give voice to the fisherfolk, indigenous people, and local governments.”
In the end, Algo said, the government should lobby for the most vulnerable communities in the country, and not just nations, “to have direct access” to the loss and damage fund.
“It is up to the most vulnerable nations and communities to continue pressuring developed countries, and even fossil fuel corporations, to stop making excuses and spreading false information, and start turning the idea of a loss and damage fund into an operational mechanism,” he said.