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July 19 — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said July 18 that his country would not ratify the international Paris Agreement on climate change, sparking concerns that other countries could follow suit.
The Philippines was among the nearly 200 countries that agreed to the first global pact to fight climate change at the United Nations' Paris climate summit last December.
Before the talks, it submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the UN, vowing to reduce emissions in the Philippines by 70 percent between 2000 and 2030 compared to a business-as-usual scenario, contingent on financial support from developed countries.
But all that took place before Duterte took office last month, and on July 18 he said the Philippines “would not honor” international carbon emission agreements, claiming such pacts hindered growth in developing countries like the Philippines.
Addressing the issue during remarks to Olympic athletes, Duterte said a foreign ambassador in Manila reminded him the Philippines signed the Paris Agreement, and the president replied, “That was not my signature.”
The Paris Agreement can still enter into force without the Philippines, which represents only 0.3 percent of worldwide emissions.
The Paris document will enter into force once at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of worldwide emissions ratify it. Nineteen countries representing around 0.2 percent of worldwide emissions have formally ratified the agreement as of July 19.
Even after it enters into force, the Paris Agreement will be legally binding only according to the domestic laws in countries that ratify it. The problem comes if other countries follow the Philippines' lead, environmental groups said.
“If in the end, two or three countries never ratify the Paris Agreement, it can still be effective,” Peter Scott, from Climate Action Network, told Bloomberg BNA. “The problems start if other countries make the same decision.”
Scott noted that the Philippines just assumed the rotating leadership of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 50 countries most at risk from extreme weather caused by climate change. The country could influence the ratification process in some other members of the group, he said.
According to Francis Dela Cruz, policy advocate in the Philippines, the international community should continue to engage the Philippines in hopes that Duterte may change his mind.
“It is critical to engage the UN process so the Philippines can influence the level of ambition, the targets and rules of climate action so that they benefit vulnerable countries most,” Dela Cruz said.
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