Duterte reminds rich countries of 'moral obligation' to mitigate climate change effects

President Duterte reminded developed countries to do their part in addressing climate change, saying it would be a great injustice for the world to shift to a clean economy at the expense of developing countries' economic vitality.

President Duterte virtually delivers his speech at the 76th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2021 (Manila time). (RTVM/UN/MB Screenshot)

Duterte made the statement as he virtually addressed the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) early Wednesday morning (Manila time), Sept. 22.

The President said in his speech that, like the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, climate change has also exposed the varying vulnerabilities of countries around the globe, with the risks and burdens of the warming climate being not the same for everyone.

"The greatest injustice here is that those who suffer the most are those the least responsible for this existential crisis," Duterte said.

"Our world's transition to a clean economy must not be at the expense of developing countries' economic vitality. It simply cannot be or it will be another travesty of justice," he added.

According to the President, the Philippines has been doing its part to avert the effects of the warming climate.

"We submitted our first nationally determined contribution for the target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2030," he pointed out.

"I issued a moratorium on the construction of new coal power plants and a directive to explore the nuclear energy option," he added.

However, Duterte said the Philippines' contributions are simply not enough. Thus, he prodded the international community for urgent actions to truly address the problem.

"This contribution will be rendered useless if the biggest polluters past and present choose to do business as usual. We, therefore, appeal for urgent climate actions, especially those who can truly tip the balance," he said.

"Developed countries must fulfill their long-standing commitment to climate financing, technology transfer, and capacity-building in the developing world. This is a moral obligation that cannot be avoided," he added.

The Philippine leader warned of severe consequences should the issue of climate change be left unattended.

"Here we are now at a critical tipping point where failure to act leads to cataclysmic consequences for the whole of humankind," he said.

President Duterte has repeatedly stressed the importance of addressing climate change and demanded climate justice from "those who are most responsible for this existential challenge".

In 2018, Duterte blamed climate change on Western countries, saying they only called for a global effort to address climate change only after witnessing their actions' impact on the environment.