Philippines Joins the Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Earlier this week, the Philippines formally joined the Paris Agreement. The next step for the country, according to its Climate Change Commission, will be to finalize and mainstream the “country’s obligations under the agreement into national policies, plans and programs.” These obligations include a conditional commitment to reduce emissions by 70 percent below projected levels by 2030.

The decision by the Philippines to join the Paris Agreement should be a wake-up call for the countries that have not yet joined the agreement. Despite having a President who initially rejected the Paris Agreement, the country has now demonstrated a firm commitment to the Agreement. After President Duterte took office, he called the deal “stupid.” When an ambassador from an industrialized nation reminded him about the Philippine’s new climate obligations, Duterte said he “wanted to kick him” because of the hypocrisy of having a high-emitting developed nation lecture a less-industrialized nation about its greenhouse gas emissions.

However, with the support of leading advocates in the country’s Senate and consultation with the Cabinet, Duterte has reversed his earlier position and signed the Paris Agreement. This is in recognition of the many dangers posed to the Philippines, and many other vulnerable nations, from the impacts of climate change. Many countries who have emitted the least carbon are going to bear the brunt of the impacts. That is why the Philippines and other nations had formed the Climate Vulnerable Forum for cooperation on tackling climate change and transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy.

In a statement, the Philippines Climate Change Commission said that formally joining the Agreement “reflects the sense of global urgency needed to hold the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels agreed under the Paris Agreement, which the Philippines strongly advocated for."

As the lead climate negotiator for the Philippines said: “Through the Paris Agreement, humanity—despite diversity and divergence—found common ground on which to build a common home, firmly founded on climate justice, human rights and ecosystems integrity.”

At a time when America’s commitment to tackling climate change is in doubt—especially international support for the most vulnerable nations, it’s more important than ever to recognize our shared moral obligation. We have a responsibility to ensure that future generations inherit a livable planet. For that reason, President Duterte’s decision to reverse his opposition to the Paris Agreement is a welcome development. When it comes to tackling climate change, even the skeptics must come around eventually.