Climate Change, Energy and Environment


Exclusion of civil society: activists criticise the Philippine COP26 delegation

For the Philippines, as one of the nations that is most vulnerable to the climate crisis, the outcomes of COP26 are vital. However, the lack of transparency in the strategy and decision-making of the country’s delegation is becoming a major problem, activists say.


by John Leo Algo (Twitter: @sirjohnalgo)

The Philippine government has shifted its approach to the UN climate negotiations, resulting in a lack of inclusion and transparency in the climate policymaking in the run up to COP26, activists say. Non-government stakeholders, for example, are excluded from participation in climate policymaking.

Rodne Galicha, lead convenor of the civil society network Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, said the lack of involvement of non-state actors in the lead up to COP26 could pose problems for Philippine climate action.

“It would have been more strategic, inclusive and transparent if consultation with sectors had been conducted months before the conference, as has customarily been the case,” he said.

The 20-person Philippine delegation to COP26 will be composed mostly of finance and foreign affairs officials, led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, the Chair-Designate of the Climate Change Commission (CCC). The delegation reflects the country’s focus on climate finance in the negotiations.

According to its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), the Philippines aims to reduce its carbon emissions by 75 per cent within the current decade, almost all of which is conditional (requires foreign financial support).

This type of climate pledge is based on the principle that developed nations, who are historically responsible for the majority of global carbon emissions, should pay their “climate debt” to vulnerable nations, who contributed a smaller share of the emissions that have led to the current crisis.

Shift in direction

The provision of finance, technologies and capacity building are aligned with the pursuit of climate justice, which previous delegations have championed. However, the Philippine government has failed to effectively present its specific climate priorities at COP26.

For Galicha, this is an indicator of the government’s lack of understanding of the context of the climate negotiations for vulnerable states and the work of previous delegations.

“We call on Secretary Dominguez to meet Filipino civil society organizations and the private sector present at COP26,” he said.

Alaya de Leon, a former climate negotiator for the Philippines focusing on ecosystems, indigenous peoples and human rights, criticised the departure from the established practices of inclusion and transparency of previous delegations.

“The Philippines was most effective, influential, and had the most bargaining power at the negotiations when the delegation was inclusive and participatory, bringing in key expertise from both within and outside of government,” she said.

De Leon added that these changes reflect the country’s declining influence in recent climate negotiations, which she relates to the indecisive leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte.

He has previously expressed his desire to pull the country out of the Paris Agreement and has criticised recent negotiators for allegedly wasting money. Duterte is also the mandated Chairperson of the Climate Change Commission, but he chose Dominguez to attend COP26 in his place.

“It is unclear whether enough delegates are present to track important agenda items and whether they have sufficient familiarity and experience to adeptly advance our country's positions,” she said.

Building bridges

Despite these issues, Galicha expressed hope that the government is still willing to work with civil society groups, with the shared goal of enhancing adaptation and mitigation strategies in the face of the climate emergency.

He said that Filipino civil society representatives at COP26 intend to “help the government to articulate and lobby for the interests of the Filipino people, make those who are responsible pay for losses and damages, and fight for climate justice.”

Securing the means of implementation is among the top priorities for the Philippines at COP26, especially as it is still recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Galicha called for negotiators to avoid brandishing false solutions and to prioritise loss and damage in the delegation’s agenda.

Climate justice should be at the forefront, he added, saying that “access to finance for mitigation, adaptation, capacity building and technology must be assured in the spirit of climate justice, without compromise, no strings attached.”

De Leon, for her part, emphasised that, while continuing outreach to the Philippine delegation is crucial, other Filipinos in attendance at COP26 do not have to wait for the government to get its act together.

“It is important at this point, not just because access to the delegation has been limited, to drill down on what is being done rather than what is not,” she said. “They must collaborate with one another to amplify their voices and expand their reach, powered by social media and technology.”

Climate Tracker sent questions to the Philippine delegation regarding this issue. No response was received from the officials, however.


John is the Deputy Executive Director of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines and a member of the interim Secretariat of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas. He’s been representing the Philippines and civil society in regional and global UN climate and environmental conferences since 2017. As a citizen journalist, he’s written on climate and environmental issues for global and national media platforms since 2016. John earned his MS Atmospheric Science degree from the Ateneo de Manila University in 2018. 

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