In Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Laudate Deum, His Holiness set the expectation for United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 28th Conference of Parties (COP28), since it is hosted by a country heavily reliant on fossil fuels – Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). For almost three decades of the climate negotiations, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), globally, continue to increase. It is evident that Pope Francis advocates for the phaseout of fossil fuels, “yet, the necessary transition towards clean energy sources such as wind and solar energy, and the abandonment of fossil fuels, is not progressing at the necessary speed” (Laudate Deum par. 55, on ‘What to expect from COP28 in Dubai’). He further solidified this stance saying “whatever is being done risks being seen only as a ploy to distract attention.”
The 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) occurred from November 30 to December 12, 2023, with a participation exceeding 70,000 attendees. The conference focused on addressing crucial work programmes, including the operationalization of the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), the establishment of the Loss and Damage (L&D) funding mechanism, and the refinement of the Global Stocktake text (GST), alongside other equally significant matters demanding resolutions to effectively combat the climate crisis. This assembly served as a critical juncture where world leaders, negotiators, advocates, activists, technical advisors, grassroots communities, indigenous peoples, and vulnerable sectors affected by this existential crisis, come together to reach a pivotal decision on the 1.5-degree Celsius global aspiration and reduce the warming of our planet by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Living Laudato Si’ Philippines, driven by its ethical responsibility to advocate the Church’s teachings and its moral duty to the integral ecology, reiterates our demands for genuine climate action. This involves steering clear of ineffective and false solutions such as fossil fuel phase-down and amplifying our insistence on climate justice, with a particular emphasis on paying up for losses and damages.
On Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA)
Crucial attention is needed on finalizing the operationalization of the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA). This entails establishing institutional arrangements, modalities, and activities under the work programme, ensuring that the GGA is country-driven, locally-driven, gender-sensitive, ecologically-sustainable, and transformative.
Comprehensive adaptation strategies, accounting for vulnerable groups and tailoring support to local climate-related risks, could have been adopted. Direct-access funding for local resilience-building is essential. Developed countries must fulfill their commitment to doubling adaptation finance, ensuring a fair distribution of funds between adaptation and mitigation. The roadmap for doubling adaptation finance should be finalized with the utmost urgency. Climate-smart agriculture, aligning with the Paris Agreement’s goals, must necessitate capacity-building at local levels to address the devastating impact of the climate crisis on food systems. Additionally, exploring agroecological approaches is encouraged for their alignment with sustainable development goals and the Paris Agreement.
On Loss and Damage (L&D)
On the significant first day of COP28, countries responsible for the further degradation of our common home pledged USD 700 million worth of financial support to countries for loss and damage reparations, considerably below the annual USD 387 billion estimate by the United Nations for climate change adaptation measures. A struggle since a decade ago when Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit the Philippines paving the way for the establishment of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on Loss and Damage (L&D).
While Living Laudato Si’ Philippines welcomes this progress, the commitments made in this year’s COP remain insufficient to adequately compensate for the human lives lost and the non-economic losses and damages in the history of humanity. The Santiago Network on Loss and Damage (SNLD), positioned under the United Nations for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for the effective mobilization and coordination of technical support and capacity-building related to Loss and Damage (L&D) for developing nations, needs to be effectively operationalized. It is crucial to underscore that these financial reparations should be grants-based rather than imposing additional debt on developing nations.
LLS Philippines consistently urges various organizations, formations, movements, sectors, and most especially, those in power, to ensure that this L&D funding mechanism is accessible, working under the “polluters pay” principle, grants-based, and substantial, ensuring no one is left behind.
On Global Stocktake (GST)
Pope Francis also underscored in Laudate Deum, published just last October 2023 that “if there is sincere interest in making COP28 a historic event that honours and ennobles us as human beings, then one can only hope for binding forms of energy transition that meet three conditions: that they be efficient, obligatory and readily monitored. This, in order to achieve the beginning of a new process marked by three requirements: that it be drastic, intense and count on the commitment of all. That is not what has happened so far, and only a process of this sort can enable international politics to recover its credibility, since only in this concrete manner will it be possible to reduce significantly carbon dioxide levels and to prevent even greater evils over time.” (Laudate Deum par. 59) A foreshadowing of what transpired in the last critical hours at COP28.
A pivotal outcome of this year’s climate negotiations is the completion of the inaugural Global Stocktake (GST). As stated in the key outcomes published by the Carbon Brief, LLS Philippines lauds the commitment to “triple the renewable energy (RE) capacity, globally, and the doubling of the rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2050.” But on the verge of the conference’s slated conclusion, a significantly weakened text on the Global Stocktake (GST) surfaced, leaving no room for doubt that the prospect of fossil fuel phase-out had been completely sidelined.
We are in solidarity with numerous groups – civil society organizations, climate activists, indigenous peoples, grassroots communities, and those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, most especially those who are among the Alliance of Small Island states (AOSIS), who left the discussions feeling frustrated and enraged due to the absence of unequivocal demands for the imperative phase-out of fossil fuels essential for meeting the 1.5-degree Celsius global ambition.
We persistently urge, particularly those in positions of authority, that no one should be left behind. Let us not defer to the next decade what the urgency of science and the integrity of our ecology demand today.
“Hope inspires action” but now, concrete actions, genuine pledges, and the commitment of all, inspire hope. The best time to act was yesterday, the second best is now; for a future where no one is left behind.