Climate change talks in Paris

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NOW that we are definitely in an era of climate change, a phenomenon brought about by overheating of the earth’s atmosphere in turn brought about largely by the use of fossil fuels through our modern life – motor vehicles, power plants, airplanes, etc., what exactly is our country’s policy regarding how to deal with it in tune with the rest of the world?
The simple answer would be that we have to do our part in bringing down the world’s temperature, keeping our forested areas, conserving our water resources, purifying our air.

For these three issues we have already heard cries of alarm. Our forest cover has been under siege for decades since post World War II, the scarcity of water is no longer an unheard of condition in many of our urban areas, even as rural areas have not yet been serviced by organized water supplies.

Manila clearly has air pollution. One need only look at the horizon early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the off color of red and brown veering into black hangs over it. The sun burns the color off but the pollution particles surely remain causing all those cases of asthma in children, allergies and asthma in adults, respiratory diseases. These problems we can certainly do something about on our own.

The matter of carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels for power generation is another issue. Our power supplies have been declared inadequate for a nation that needs to become developed to give its population a better standard of living. But it seems that our planned power plants are based on fossil fuel. Unlike some few countries left we no longer have the water resources to have hydro power.


We have also become the poster victims of climate change with our ever fiercer typhoons devastating our archipelago yearly. Our summer temperatures are reaching dangerous levels that could cause death as it did in Pakistan this year. Drought and drinking water scarcity will come with El Niño which is already here. And we definitely need more power to develop and progress.

So, what are we saying in Paris at the climate change talks? I heard that we are asking for help in the form of funds and technology to avert and alleviate the climate change effects here and presumably to do our part in the worldwide effort to reverse it.

Obviously we have to come up with a policy of how to balance what the world needs and what we need in the matter of addressing climate change. We are a developing country and we do need power to reach better standards of living. Does the government have a policy on what new power sources we will use? Is fossil fuel a no no? Whatever solution we come up with will surely cost more than what we budgeted for power.

It is to be hoped that the Paris climate change talks and agreements to come will take into consideration the different conditions of each country and make adjustments to what each individual country can and should do without disrupting progress in it and progress in climate change. It will be a matter of negotiation. Those who pollute more must do more. We are not among the world’s top polluters. Europe has been burning coal for two hundred years. China has been doing it in the last century and more so in the years since its economy reached the top. China now and Europe and America before and now are the big time polluters. Look at Beijing as we speak with its deathly air pollution.

Developing countries like the Philippines are nowhere in that category of world polluters. Responsibility lies elsewhere for the 2 Centigrade warming that happened over 100 years ago and the peril of an additional 2 Centigrade rise that we seem to be arriving at in less than 100 years. If we do that will cause life-threatening conditions.

We are not washing our hands, we have our own part to play in reversing the damage but it has to be calibrated to what we can do without reversing progress in our country. We cannot be circumscribed by what we are not responsible for. There must be a middle way and it is to be hoped that the Paris talks find it. A friend suggested that scientists quantify the damage wreaked by countries that have been using coal the last three hundred years and proportionally make amends. He further said that polluters like China who are dredging away near disputed islands hereabouts should bring those dredging machines and stabilize places like Kiribati, Marshall Islands and the Maldives. Europe and America should extend their own assistance too to these very endangered places.

As the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, said at the talks, “Developing countries should be allowed to develop. Developed countries should carry the burden of reducing carbon emissions.”

Maybe that is what President Aquino is trying to tell the world in Paris when he requested for funds and technology to address the issue – that developed countries subsidize the incremental cost for developing countries to adopt carbon reduction strategies.
That would be fair and doable.

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