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Dubai, United Arab Emirates

PH Delegation Urged: Call for End to Fossil Fuels at COP28

The President may no longer be attending the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference here, but an environmental group said this should not stop the Philippines from making bold actions at COP28, among them calling for an end to the use of fossil fuels.

As the annual climate negotiations began on Thursday, November 30, one group represented in Dubai said the Philippine delegation must “lend its voice” to one of the key issues on the agenda: a just energy transition.

“While the Philippines’ COP 28 delegation earlier on said that it intends to call for urgent climate action and will pay particular attention to loss and damage conversations at COP among other matters, it must also lend its voice to the call for a just and rapid move away from fossil fuels and a full shift to renewables aligned to 1.5°C,” said Avril de Torres, deputy executive director of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED).

De Torres said it would be a “great disservice to Filipinos” if the Philippine delegation “chooses to keep its mouth shut” on this issue.

“Putting an end to the Philippines’ push for massive additional fossil fuel use, particularly with gas, is an urgent policy shift that can get us on track to 1.5°C-compatibility,” she said.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced early Thursday his decision to skip COP28 due to the hostage situation involving 17 Filipino seafarers in the Red Sea.

He said he had entrusted Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga to lead the country’s delegation and “articulate the country’s statement on his behalf.”

During a Malacañang briefing on Wednesday, November 29, Loyzaga said the Philippine delegation was working on seven major negotiating work schemes: loss and damage, climate finance, adaptation, mitigation, the global stocktake, just energy transition, and Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

Loyzaga said they were also centering their positions around three general themes, among them the “pursuit of a low-carbon future which is sustainable and resilient for the country.”

But while the President last July said his government was “aggressively promoting” renewables, he also touted in the same speech his administration’s push “for more gas exploration in other parts of the country.”

Some see natural gas as a transition fuel, but critics call it a “detour” in energy transition when a direct path to renewable energy was possible. A CEED-commissioned study said that a full renewable energy transition was possible for the country by no later than 2040.

Weeks before the climate talks, Aksyon Klima Pilipinas national coordinator John Leo Algo had said the Philippine delegation’s “broad positions” in the climate talks still lacked a “strong language on ending the era of fossil fuels.”

Role of fossil fuels

During Thursday’s opening ceremony, COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber, who is also the chief executive of state energy giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, said it was essential to leave no issue off the table.

“And yes, as I have been saying, we must look for ways and ensure the inclusion of the role of fossil fuels. I know there are strong views about the idea of including language on fossil fuels and renewables in the negotiated text,” he said.

He added: “We, collectively, have the power to do something unprecedented. In fact, we have no choice but to go the very unconventional way. I ask you all to work together. Be flexible, find common ground, come forward with solutions, achieve consensus, and never lose sight of our North Star of 1.5 [degrees Celsius].”

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell, meanwhile, urged COP28 delegates to “decide to commit to a new energy system.”

“If we do not signal the terminal decline of the fossil fuel era as we know it, we welcome our own terminal decline. And we choose to pay with people’s lives. If this transition isn’t just, we won’t transition at all. That means justice within and between countries,” he said during the opening ceremony.

 This story was produced as part of the 2023 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security. It was first published in Rappler on November 30, 2023 and has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Banner image: Climate campaigners and civil society groups march along the Queon Memorial Circle to join the global marches around the world against fossil fuels, on September 15, 2023. The protesters call on the government and the private sector to stop funding fossil fuel projects and to support renewable energy resources and projects that help mitigate climate change / Credit: Jire Carreon for Rappler.