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MARRAKECH, Morocco – Former Senator and former Secretary of the Philippine Climate Change Commission Heherson T. Alvarez here, called on G20 countries not only to fulfill their financial commitments to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) but to substantially raise it, to be able to make significant assistance to climate-vulnerable countries that are the first casualties of the impacts of climate change, like the Philippines.

Speaking before the Tri-Continental Dialogue, De-Carbonization to Defy Disasters With Climate Solutions, an official side event in the COP 22, Alvarez said that the contributions of the G20 countries to the GCF is measly compared to the national wealth that they have created when they industrialized by using fossil fuels, thus, historically emitting the biggest amount of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

The GCF which was formally established at the 2010 UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun (COP16) set a goal of raising $100 billion a year by 2020.  It is meant to help climate change vulnerable countries cope with disasters caused by climate change. So far, a total of $10.3 billion has been pledged by 47 countries.  The US pledged $3 billion to the Fund in 2014.

Alvarez, who is also chair of the Advisory Board of Washington DC-based Climate Institute, explained that on average, the GDP of G20 countries is $4000 billion making the $100 billion contribution towards climate finance as miniscule. The European Union (average GDP: $18,398 B) would only have to contribute 0.54 percent of this amount, while the United States whose GDP on average is $17,416 billion would only have to contribute 0.57 percent.

“If you look at the destructive impact of climate change, noting in particular super typhoon Haiyan in my country, US$300 million worth of onslaught happened,” Alvarez said. He stressed that the Philippines averages 20 typhoons a year and damages costs the country four percent of its annual GDP.   

Alvarez’s call echoed the apprehension of Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on the commitments made by developed nations in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). 

During the announcement of Duterte in Manila that he will sign the Paris Agreement after much deliberation with his Cabinet, the President said that he is “not comfortable with it.”

“Read again (and again) because even in the matter of contributing the money to a common fund you will find that it does not say about payment of damages that you will incur in a storm or a typhoon like Yolanda,” Duterte said. 

According to Alvarez, “The UN Green Climate Fund should also help us develop fully the capacity to manage the peoples’ grief. For, while we need more technological capacity building assistance for developing countries and more carbon reduction from developed countries, and we have somehow managed physical destruction, it is always far more difficult to address the invisible impact of disasters like the trauma of children who have lost their parents, of families who have lost homes, and of the many other people who have been emotionally dislocated.”

“Unless these values are changed so that they become responsive to the threatened climate disaster, the meeting in Marrakech would be just another meeting. It will not be a watershed as many have expected since Paris,” Alvarez concluded.

The COP22 Side Event South-South Dialogue served as a platform to deliberate on what vulnerable countries expect in the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate justice along the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

Joining Alvarez in the panel were Ugandan Member of Parliament Cecilia Barbara Atim-Ogwal, lead scientist and founder of WeatherRisk Explore Inc., Dr. Chi-Ming Peng, Debra Boudreaux, vice president of the Tzu Chi Foundation, and Viktor Sebek, chairman of SSCC. It was organized by the Philippine Earthsavers Movement UNESCO Dream Center  as the lead convener in partnership with Tzu Chi Foundation, Climate Institute, South-South Cooperation Council (SSCC), WeatherRisk Explore Inc.,The International Theatre Institute (ITI-CIDC), Social Change Network and Ugandan Member of Parliament.

The Philippine STAR
November 25, 2016