Phase out fossil fuels, fund the poor: Asean NGOs urge rich nations

Regional coalition A-FAB has called on rich nations to adopt renewable energy and provide more funds for climate adaptation measures on the back of the Philippines' and France's joint appeal to act on climate change.

ejeepney hollande
French president Francois Hollande is the chair of the 21st UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP21) which will be held in Paris in December.

A coalition of regional non-government organisations in Southeast Asia has urged French president Francois Hollande to lead developed nations in phasing out the use of fossil fuels and pledging more funds to help the poor and vulnerable in the region adapt to the impact of climate change.

The Asean for a Fair, Ambitious and Binding Global Climate Deal (A-FAB), comprising Oxfam, Greenpeace and Eastern Regional Organisation for Public Administration or Eropa, voiced their appeal on Thursday in Philippines’ capital Manila, as Hollande arrived in the country for an historic state visit, the first for a French head of state since the country’s diplomatic ties with France were established in 1947. 

“We urge President Hollande and leaders of developed countries to commit to stand-alone financing for climate change adaptation or projects which prepare for climate impact, especially for poor farmers and fishers in Southeast Asia, who are the poorest of the poor,” said Risa Bernabe, policy and research coordinator of Oxfam in Asia. 

President Hollande, who is the chair of the 21st UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP21) which will be held in Paris in December, was in the Philippines for two days to seek support from the Filipino community to be one of France’s partners in the call to action for climate change. He is joined by French film actresses Marion Cotillard and Melanie Laurent.

Environmental group Greenpeace Southeast Asia noted Hollande’s visit as important and doubly historic for the country as it’s the first visit by a French head of state, and he also put climate change as his main agenda: to garner support from 195 countries to reach a global agreement at COP21.

“President Hollande aims to show to the rest of the world that climate change is real and happening in vulnerable countries like the Philippines, that have a small carbon footprint but are facing the brunt of the climate crisis,” noted Anna Abad, climate justice campaigner for Greenpeace. 

A-FAB said extreme weather events are happening not only in the Philippines, but also in many parts of Asia. In a paper titled ‘Weathering Extremes’ released last year, the group highlighted that some of the worst climate-related disasters in the past decade occurred in Southeast Asia, including the Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008 and the severe flooding in Thailand in 2011.

More calls to action

On Thursday evening, Hollande and Philippines president Benigno Aquino III led the launch of the ‘Manila Call to Action on Climate Change’, a joint statement rallying the international community to reach “a universal, equitable and ambitious climate deal” and shift from mere intentions to actions.

“From Manila today, we hope to make history together in Paris in December and not simply watch history unfold,” they said.

Rich nations like France must commit to adaptation funds, which should be separate from funds for mitigation, or projects to reduce carbon emissions.

Risa Bernabe, policy and research coordinator of Oxfam in Asia

The statement contained a more general appeal to climate action, solidarity and justice, cooperation among developed and developing countries. It pressed for ‘financial and technical solidarity’, which focused on seeking cooperation from all countries to present their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) or set of commitments which will lower their greenhouse gas emissions.

It also called on developed countries and developing countries which are capable and willing to provide the poorest and most vulnerable countries with “adequate means” to transition to low-carbon economies and become more resilient to the impact of climate change.

Hollande offered 50 million euros (US$56.6 million) of loans to the Philippines to help fund projects that could avert futher disasters. “I have offered to President Aquino 50 million euros through the French Development Agency to work on projects to prevent some further disasters from happening,” he said in his statement during his bilateral meeting with Aquino. 

The Philippines government has accepted the loan offer, and it will be managed under the Climate Change Commission, the press office of the president saidbut details of how or when the funds will be disbursed have not been revealed. 

On Friday, Hollande visited the town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar, one of the provinces badly affected by super-typhoon Haiyan in 2013 to highlight to the international community the urgency of climate change actions. “The world will act for you and I want success in Paris,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him as telling the residents. 

However, A-FAB believe that pushing for a binding agreement in Paris would require stronger commitment to action, which would include phasing out fossil fuels and nuclear energy, and transitioning to 100 per cent use of renewable energy.

Zelda Soriano, legal and political advisor of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and a member of A-FAB, commented: “We should all move away from our dependence on polluting sources of energy and embrace clean, low-carbon alternatives. This can be done with the proper support and political will, and we hope to see this in Paris.”

The group also asked Hollande and other leaders of rich nations to put the interests of poor nations most affected by climate change at the heart of the treaty, and ensure clear and separate funding for climate adaptation.

“Rich nations like France must commit to adaptation funds, which should be separate from funds for mitigation, or projects to reduce carbon emissions,” said Oxfam’s Bernabe. 

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