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Nunca Externalitë A Philippine perspective: The urgency of a Paris consensus

AFTER 23 years of negotiations and debates on climate change, the world finally stands at a hopeful crossroad. The world is on the brink of creating a new international order – one that will reduce carbon poison in the environment and guarantee a better future for human civilization. The Philippines is one of the top three countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts, so we are enthusiastic about the coming Paris summit.

In Paris this December, world leaders are expected to seal a pact that would curb greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming not to exceed to 2° Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Beyond this point, the international scientific community believes we will lose our ability to prevent the worst impact of climate change.

We all need to insure the success of the Paris summit, but the pivotal countries in this effort would be the United States, China, the Russian Federation, India and Japan. They are in a position to seriously influence the other large emitters – Brazil, Germany, and Indonesia. In 2014, these eight countries alone accounted for almost 67% of global carbon emissions. This week, the G7 group of industrial nations, meeting in Germany, reaffirmed the goal to decarbonize the global economy by the end of the 21st century.

A globally binding agreement is not only possible – it is imperative. Another Kyoto situation will be a failure. Majority of world leaders are now deeply aware that the world has run out of options, and we are also running out of time. With the U.S., China, France, and Germany leading the nations, a comprehensive climate agreement can begin a workable global mitigation programme.

And the single, most important outcome of the Paris summit would come in the submission of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs by all nations of the world. INDCs will form the main input to the Paris climate agreement since the aggregate INDCs will determine whether the world can truly unite within a brief span of time toward a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.

Most of the member states are currently working on their national pre-2020 INDCs, to be submitted in the coming months well before the Paris conference.

More than two decades of negotiations has created a lot of skepticism, and it is legitimate to ask what will make COP21 different from other past climate conferences. The difference is that there is now a broad scientific consensus – in fact, a universal fear –among nations that climate change is the greatest threat to human survival. Last March, scientists have provided increasingly more compelling evidence that the safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere degradation has reached a dangerous and alarming 400 parts per million, while the assumed safe threshold is 350 parts per million.

This is a very clear signal that nations must act swiftly to protect our planet.

But even the great nations of the world are bound to market practices and traditions held for decades and change does not come easy.

It is the young minds of the world since time immemorial that have readily embraced change from STATUS QUO. This STATUS QUO mindset of carbon efficiency and the widespread fallacy that it is the “cheap and abundant” fuel of our modernized communities.

Carbon is never “cheap.” Corporate man has excluded from its cost the human death and social ruin – even the death of species and destruction of BIODIVERSITY from its market cost.

Towards the end of the 18th century, Paris had confronted an enormous historic challenge, that brought a great human drama of change – the FRENCH REVOLUTION. Although it was violent, it is, perhaps, the most universally significant, political, social revolution that gave humanity the eternal cry for LIBERTE, EGALITE, FRATERNITE.

But today, even before we move to Paris, and perhaps, some years thereafter, let the youth of our nations, swiftly and resoundingly challenge the gridlock of the $400 billion fossil subsidy and the market cost externalities of CARBON. The peaceful global battle cry of man to save man from climate change would be LIBERTE, EGALITE, NUNCA EXTERNALITE.

(The speech was delivered at the International Climate Negotiations: The Road to Paris 2015

International Student Energy Summit at the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center on June 13, 2015)