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|LAST year the world saw significant
progress in its goal of developing secure, affordable and clean
energy, and tackling the threat of global warming. World leaders
believe that 2009 will be a crucial year when it comes to
negotiating a meaningful, binding climate-change deal in Copenhagen
this December, which is meant to find a successor to the Kyoto
Protocol on global emission levels.
Climate change has risen to its highest ever position on the global
political agenda, and pressure is building for governments to set
the parameters for negotiating a post-2012 climate-change agreement.
The post-2012 framework will set global incentives for transition to
a low-carbon economy for the next 20 years.
Just like any other nation, the Philippines, one of the 181
countries that signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol, considers
this an enormous challenge, given the complicated politics of
shifting institutional and societal structures and the need for
Serious about the problem of climate change in the Philippines,
President Arroyo recently took on the role of climate-change czar.
She also issued last year Administrative Order 171 creating a
Presidential Task Force on Climate Change (PTFCC). An archipelagic
nation of 7,000 islands, Philippines is highly vulnerable to many of
the effects of climate change such as high tides and rising sea
levels, floods, and changes in rainfall patterns.
Earlier, Arroyo also appointed former agrarian reform and
environment secretary Heherson Alvarez as Presidential Adviser on
Global Warming and Climate Change. Alvarez led the Philippine
delegation in the climate-change meeting in Poznan, Poland, last
In this exclusive interview by the BusinessMirror correspondent
Imelda V. Abaño with Alvarez, he explains how to win over the
skeptics and he anticipates a sense of urgency to address
Why do we need a new deal in Copenhagen? Is it significant to the
Science tells us that we must stabilize global emissions within the
next 10 to 15 years or we will reach a tipping point, and then any
remedy will become very, very expensive. The Philippines, being a
low-lying small country, will suffer most if we do not act now. We
have the technologies and we have the knowledge. But we must hurry.
In a global world, global challenges require global responses.
What is your assessment of the UN climate talks in Poznan? Has it
given us a reason for optimism? Is the road to Copenhagen a tough
Poznan has not established a coherent affirmative course of action.
However, the negotiating positions of key participants were made
known. Everyone would like to find a solution but many still insist
on their kind of self-serving views.
The negotiations will continue in Bonn sometime in April and the
position of most countries will be clearer. This will decide whether
the world has a clear road in Copenhagen toward a human and
intelligent solution to slow down global warming and spare humanity
from that ultimate disaster.
It was easier to settle the nuclear impasse where fewer people and
leaders participated to deflect the course of history from a nuclear
armageddon. With global warming, a new culture, a new mindset has
emerged. And for that, determined leadership of individuals and
institutions must stand out to create a carbon neutral civilization.
What are realistic expectations for Copenhagen in 2009?
Two thousand nine is a crucial year for climate-change action. There
is some question of what exactly will—or can be—adopted in
Copenhagen, but there is a strong feeling that the deal reached next
year will contain all the essential elements of a comprehensive
agreement that might leave some technical elements for agreement
afterward. A more realistic outcome may be an agreement on the basic
architecture of the post-2012 climate framework—for instance,
binding economy-wide targets for developed countries, policy
commitments for the major emerging economies, and support mechanisms
for technology, finance and adaptation in developing countries.
Do you think governments have realized that it is time to act now?
Yes, we are emerging from an era of benign indifference. In 1995 I
convened the first global warming conference in Manila. At that
point, an American president scorned the persistent voices of
concern in the world to organize against global warming and climate
He said that global warming was a “hoax.” That conference in 1995,
and the Manila Declaration signed by all 36 participating countries
in the Asia-Pacific region, affirmed the threat of global warming
and drew attention to the extreme vulnerabilities of our
archipelagic and small islands nations to the early destruction with
global warming—massive storms of accelerating velocity of more than
200 kph, floodings, the rising oceans and the melting of glaciers,
inundating coastal communities.
That was 14 years ago but no commensurate sense of danger or
self-defence has ever emerged in our political culture. That sense
of danger may have come about with Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth
only two years back.
What made you accept the post of a Presidential Adviser on Global
Warming and Climate Change?
It is a critical appointment. Global warming is the most devastating
disaster to our archipelagic and small islands geography. We are one
of the most vulnerable areas in the world. We must be an actively
keen participant in our self defence, working with nations of the
Is your climate-change advocacy more fun than politics?
I have initiated direction of environmental change and reform and I
have always found it to be most fulfilling. Now it has emerged as a
crucial survival issue. It is beyond the common excitement and
struggle of politics. Politics addresses problems to create a free
and stable society. But global warming is survival itself.
The programs that may be instituted for global warming will
modernize the nation and rouse it out of poverty.
What message will you be carrying on your climate mission?
We have no time to lose. The data are now clearly presented and have
very high confidence levels. We cannot wait for another five or 10
years. We must be active now. Global warming, if understood, managed
and tamed, would mean the great millennium for mankind. We shall
have found that bond that unites us toward a common purpose. When we
learn to save ourselves and our communities from its grave danger,
we shall have grown in wisdom of working to solve social and
political problems in great unity, and all of mankind will easily