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As Typhoon Bopha Wreaks Havoc, Philippine Negotiator Urges Wealthy Nations to Address Global Warming

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A deadly typhoon in the Philippines has killed at least 40 people and displaced thousands of others. Typhoon Bopha is the most southerly typhoon ever recorded in the western Pacific and the strongest to hit the Philippines this year. We’re joined from the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Qatar by Naderev “Yeb” Saño, the lead negotiator for the Philippines delegation in Doha and the commissioner of the Philippines Climate Change Commission. He says Typhoon Bopha and Hurricane Sandy, which recently devastated the U.S. East Coast, “are clear examples that we need to call for urgency and that climate change is really happening.” [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting live from Doha, Qatar, from the U.N. climate change summit. And we’re getting news as we broadcast right now of the number of people who have been killed and displaced in the Philippines. At least 20 people have been killed so far, 40,000 have been evacuated from their homes, in a major typhoon hitting the southern Philippines. Typhoon Bopha is the most southerly typhoon ever recorded in the western Pacific and the strongest to hit the Philippines this year.

We’re joined right now by “Yeb” Saño, head of the Philippines climate delegation.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! This news just came down as we went to air, Yeb. Talk about what’s happening, the news you have of what’s happened in the southern Philippines.

NADEREV SAÑO: Well, a lot of the information that we’re getting is just trickling in. As we try to come to terms with the damage and the impacts of Typhoon Bopha, it is very sobering. But because the areas hit are—the power lines are down and the communications are down, there is certainly an underreporting of the damage and the number of casualties.

AMY GOODMAN: You are here negotiating around the climate. Are you satisfied with what’s taking place here in Doha?

NADEREV SAÑO: Certainly, at this stage we are not very satisfied with what is happening here in Doha. Doha is a very critical juncture in this process. And as we sit here in the second week of this Doha conference, we see very little movement, and the—and parties have not really moved from their red lines.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you want to see?

NADEREV SAÑO: What we want to see, well, we have always asserted that the single biggest measure of success in Doha is, first and foremost, the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. That is something we hold very dearly, because that is the jump-off base for ambition enhance—enhancement of ambition for the whole world.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, you’re speaking to millions of people right now around the world who don’t know U.N. lingo, any of the jargon—”commitment period,” “adaptation,” “mitigation.” So if, in plain English, you can talk even about what is the Kyoto Protocol, why it’s important—the U.S. has not signed onto it—and what the second period means.

NADEREV SAÑO: Yeah. Basically, the Kyoto Protocol is the only legally binding—so it is the only instrument, the only treaty and international agreement, where you have numbers, quantitative numbers, that say this is the amount of emissions that a country must reduce. And so far—and we know that the first period for making that happen will end on December—December 31st. And so, when we—when we reach the first day of 2013, if we don’t have any success here in Doha, then we end up with nothing. We end up with a—with a system where climate change faces a world that has not found the political will to address the climate crisis. So that is the essence of this.

AMY GOODMAN: Who is getting in the way?

NADEREV SAÑO: Climate change is a global problem. It requires a global solution. So everyone must do it. All countries must do—each and every one—

AMY GOODMAN: Here at the Doha summit—

NADEREV SAÑO: Well, here—

AMY GOODMAN: —what countries are—do you—are you finding the greatest obstacles to binding agreements?

NADEREV SAÑO: Well, as we have seen in the past few days, the Philippines, together with many developing countries, have put forward a lot of proposals to move the negotiations. Developed countries—mainly the EU, the U.S.—they are insisting that we need not talk about certain issues that are important for developing countries, and therefore, I would ask, who are the blockers? Who are the deniers in all of this? It is very clear that developed countries do not want to see finance, for example, for developing countries. They don’t want to talk about raised ambition. They don’t want to talk about higher targets. And that leads us to think that the sincerity is not present here in Doha.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the Philippines’ particular vulnerability. Typhoon Bopha struck the southern—the southern island of Mindanao, which is rarely in the direct path of tropical cyclones.


AMY GOODMAN: If you could talk about what this means—last year, more than 1,200 people were killed. And now these numbers you’re hearing, way beyond what we’re hearing in the news, are escalating, as we speak, with Bopha.

NADEREV SAÑO: Yes. The path of Typhoon Bopha is slightly more to the south of what struck Mindanao last year, but it is affecting the same areas. And it is sobering for us to know that a typhoon like this, that normally doesn’t hit that part of the country, in fact, this is a—in half a century, this is the first time that a typhoon that has crossed as south as Bopha.

AMY GOODMAN: What does “climate debt” mean to you?

NADEREV SAÑO: Climate debt is very clear to the Philippine delegation and to me personally. Climate debt is about developed countries, having used up their share of atmospheric space, they’ve developed—they’ve afforded development in the past hundred years, and so they are the main reasons that’s why we have climate change. And now it is time for them to fulfill their legal obligations, which are aptly enshrined in the climate change convention.

AMY GOODMAN: Right now, as the head of the Philippines delegation, how included are you in these negotiations? Last year, or a few years ago in Copenhagen, when Democracy Now! was first broadcasting from these COPs, from these summits, there was negotiations going on all through the weeks, but then, at the last minute, another document was brought out that was negotiated by a very small, select group in some room, that most of even the negotiators like you, especially from developing countries, knew not even where it was. What’s your involvement today?

NADEREV SAÑO: Yes, I am deeply involved in all of the fronts. I look at the big picture, but I am focused, for example, on key main—on two main key issues: the Kyoto Protocol negotiations and the negotiations under the Durban platform. These are very important areas here in Doha. And you’re right, in many instances, developing countries like the Philippines, which is a very small player in all of this, we find ourselves in situations where we are marginalized. And even in Durban, just a case in point, we practically adopted a decision that we did not see. Durban ended on a Sunday, and most of our delegates were—had already flown out of Durban. The decisions that came out of Durban are decisions that we did not even see on paper before it was adopted.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you say to climate change deniers? In the United States, the number of deniers, I think, are going down, especially as we have personally been hit by the fires, by the Hurricane Sandy, the superstorm. But what do you say to them?

NADEREV SAÑO: Well, Hurricane Sandy, and now Typhoon Bopha that’s wreaking havoc in the Philippines right now, these are clear examples that we need to call for urgency and that climate change is really happening. We need not engage in the perpetual debate on whether climate change is happening or not. But what we need to come to terms is how the whole world is pursuing development. Climate change is a development issue more than an environmental issue, or maybe equally an environmental issue and development issue. So, sustainability is the key here. And all of the things that we are seeing around the world, these are manifestations of unsustainability of practices, of short-sighted practices. And we must be able to arrive at a world order that addresses all of these things.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Our condolences on the latest numbers that we’re getting. You’re saying now, one more time, on the southern island of Mindanao, what, some—more than 40 people have been killed?

NADEREV SAÑO: Yes, that’s the latest that we have—we have gotten so far.

AMY GOODMAN: Forty people killed, many, many thousands displaced, missing in flash floods and landslides.

NADEREV SAÑO: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much. We’ve been speaking with Naderev Saño, known as “Yeb” here. He’s the chief climate negotiator, the head of the Philippines climate negotiation here in Doha, Qatar. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.

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