MANILA, 23 September 2020 – President Rodrigo Duterte called on world leaders in his first ever speech to the United Nations General Assembly to address climate change as urgently as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The same urgency needed to fight COVID-19 is needed to address the climate crisis. This is a global challenge that has worsened existing inequalities and vulnerabilities from within and between nations. Climate change has worsened the ravages of the pandemic. People in developing countries like the Philippines suffer the most. We cannot afford to suffer more,” Duterte said.

“The Philippines joined the Paris Agreement to fight climate change. We call on all parties, especially those who have not made good [on] their commitment to fight climate change, to honor the same,” he added.

Reacting to this statement, Renato Redentor Constantino, executive director of the Manila-based policy group Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, said:

“The Philippine government displayed international leadership at the right moment by affirming the need to flatten both the COVID-19 and the climate curves as urgently as possible. It adds significantly to the momentum generated by Chinese president Xi Jinping’s pledge to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. They offer a sharp contrast to the deadly irresponsibility of US president Donald Trump and Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro who defended their environmental records even as their countries’ economic future, like their forests, are going up in smoke because of climate change.

“Duterte’s statement underscores the need for the whole world to act in concert based on science to tackle both the climate and COVID-19 crises. Experts advise physical distancing to prevent the transmission of the virus while a vaccine is still being developed, and scientists have long said we must keep global warming below the 1.5-degrees Celsius threshold to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

“The president’s remarks reflect the climate and energy transition is underway not only in the Philippines but also globally. Solutions such as decentralized renewable energy, active mobility and sustainable transport, and mangrove and watershed management can address not only COVID-worsened public health and economic problems in the short term but also climate risks and development challenges in the long haul. We expect Duterte’s remarks to be reflected in the ongoing drafting of the country’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement, as well as in the national budget deliberations and the policies of the Department of Energy and Department of Transportation.”

UN Photo/Manuel Elias | President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (on screen) of the Philippines addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-fifth session.