By: Imelda V. Abano, InterAksyon.com
MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 12:45 p.m.) As momentum builds towards the global climate negotiations in Paris in December, we can expect to see more celebrity activists lending their voice to campaigns and organizations to highlight the Earth’s changing climate.
French celebrities Melanie Laurent and Marion Cotillard are joining French President Francois Hollande’s visit to the Philippines.
The two-day trip, the first by a French president to the country, is part of Hollande’s campaign to build diplomatic momentum ahead of the United Nations event that France will host in December.
Both Laurent and Cotillard, who use their star power to publicize a good cause, have participated in campaigns for environmental protection, in particular, campaigns against overfishing, forest destruction, poaching of forest and animal products and climate change.
Laurent starred in the Hollywood film “Now You See Me,” while Cottilard will be one of the lead stars in the upcoming 3D animated film “The Little Prince.”
Hollande, who reaffirmed his country’s commitment to highlight global climate crisis in the forthcoming climate talks in Paris, will meet this afternoon with President Benigno Aquino III. They are expected to draw up a commitment for climate action.
World leaders from 195 nations will gather in Paris in December to negotiate a binding agreement to reduce global carbon emissions.
Hollande says he is determined to “leave a mark” on history by brokering an historic agreement to contain climate change that would make up for the failure to reach such an accord in Copenhagen in 2009.
Joining the French president who arrived this morning at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, are Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Laurent Fabius, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Segolene Royal, Minister of State for Development and Francophony Annick Girardin, and Special envoy of the President for the protection of the planet Nicolas Hulot.
United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) vice-chair Jean Jouzel, UN Environment Program executive director Achim Steiner, UN disaster risk reduction chief Margareta Wahlstrom, Green Climate Fund executive director Hela Cheikhrouhou, WWF director-general Marco Lambertini and Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church, French business leaders, university officials and students are also with the delegation.
“I welcome the arrival of President Hollande and his delegation to the Philippines. The fact that his contingent includes mostly personalities that deal with climate change is indeed a manifestation on how important is the agenda to the French,” Climate Change Commission Secretary Mary Ann Lucille Sering told the InterAksyon.com. “We share the same concern and hopefully, together the world will finally heed the call for urgent climate action through a meaningful and just agreement at the climate talks in Paris.”
After a wreath-laying ceremony at the Rizal monument, a climate forum is scheduled this afternoon at the National Museum before Hollande proceeds to Malacanang to meet with Aquino. The French delegation will also visit tomorrow Guiuan in Eastern Samar, one of the towns most devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
Clamor for climate action
Climate activists and environmental groups will stage protests coinciding with Hollande’s visit to highlight what they call the lack of progress in a country seen as a frontline in the battle against climate change.
Renato Redentor Constantino, who heads the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, said civil society has a clear leadership role to play in the climate debate not only to highlight vulnerability but to emphasize ambition and opportunity as well.
“The French are here to help climate talks in Paris succeed. But cheerleading won’t help, neither will heckling. Governments are unable to come to agreement on their own,” Constantino told InterAksyon.com. “The Philippines can do more to advance the country’s long-term economic and resilience interests. That these coincide with global goals as far as more efficient, resilient, low-carbon development is concerned is our contribution to the global effort.”
Commenting on the “Manila Climate Appeal” that will be jointly launched by Hollande and Aquino, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice said the declaration has to reflect a sincere commitment from both countries to keep global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees in emissions reductions, delivery of climate finance and technology transfer.
“The French delegation’s personality-centric climate trip must not turn into a fiasco of empty promises and statements,” said Gerry Arances, national coordinator of PMCJ. “It must not amount to a mere publicity stunt. It must be a time for expressing our legitimate and just demands to both the French government and the Philippine government, that is, fulfilling climate obligations and responsibilities to those vulnerable communities and people.”
Arances said hundreds of climate activists are preparing to march towards Mendiola when Hollande meets Aquino Thursday afternoon.
Voltaire Alferez, national coordinator of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, said in a statement that Hollande’s visit in the Philippines “may be a good way to call for all countries to commit to a strong climate deal in Paris.”
“But France and its fellow rich countries must lead the fight against deadly global warming and better support poor and vulnerable countries like the Philippines,” Alferez stressed.
He added that France must show strong mitigation targets to address the climate crisis to keep track to achieving its 2020 renewable energy targets.
The Aquino government is also warmly embracing Hollande’s trip as an endorsement of the Philippines’ maturing democracy.
“The ties that bind the Philippines and France are underscored by the importance that the two countries give to democracy,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose told AFP.
“The affinity between the two peoples and their shared democratic values are deepened on this historic visit by the French president.”
France was the first nation to recognize the revolutionary government of Corazon Aquino, the current president’s mother, in 1986 following the “People Power” uprising that overthrew the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
A number of trade agreements on “green” sectors, including in transport, renewable energy and water treatment, are also expected to be signed during Hollande’s visit.
The leaders are also expected to discuss the tense territorial dispute between the Philippines and China over their rival claims to parts of the South China Sea. (with a report from Agence France-Presse)
About the Feature Image: Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, left, walks beside French President Francois Hollande, right, during arrival ceremonies at the presidential palace in Manila on Thursday. Hollande is in the country for a two-day visit. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila). Image grabbed from arabnews.com