MANILA, 27 February 2015 (TSR-AFP) – French President Francois Hollande called Thursday for a climate change “alliance” with the Philippines that could spur similar co-operation between rich and poor nations at a crucial UN summit.
Hollande made the appeal shortly after landing in the Philippines with two of France’s leading actresses for a trip aimed primarily at mobilising global action in the fight against global warming.
“We have a duty to act together and that’s why I came here to the Philippines, to launch an appeal, to seal an alliance,” Hollande told a business forum.
The two-day trip, the first by a French head of state to the Philippines, is part of Hollande’s drive to build diplomatic momentum ahead of the United Nations’ summit in Paris in December.
He said an alliance with the Philippines could be a model of co-operation between traditionally opposed rich and poor nations as they try to seal a global deal on climate change, but gave no specifics.
Hollande will meet with Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Thursday evening, when they are expected to jointly appeal for world leaders to ensure that the Paris talks are a success.
Hollande had previously said he was determined to “leave a mark” on history by brokering an historic pact at the summit that would save the world from the catastrophic impact of climate change.
The Philippines is seen as a frontline state in the battle, as every year it is relentlessly battered by storms that scientists say may be becoming stronger because of global warming.
In November 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the central Philippines with the strongest winds ever recorded on land, claiming more than 7,350 lives.
The goal of the planned Paris pact, which must enter into force by 2020, is to limit warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
Scientists warn that on current trends, Earth is on track for double that or more — a recipe for catastrophic droughts, fiercer storms like Haiyan, and other extreme weather events.
However, most followers of the UN process are skeptical a pact can be secured that will be ambitious enough to achieve the two-degree goal, with rich and poor nations continuing to fight over who should shoulder more of the burden.
In an effort to raise awareness about the climate change fight while in the Philippines, Hollande brought with him Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, who has been a long-time campaigner for environment group Greenpeace.
Melanie Laurent, another French actress who has had big success in Hollywood with films such as “Inglourious Basterds,” is also part of Hollande’s delegation.
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, another prominent global environment campaigner, are also traveling with Hollande.
In what is shaping up to be the most symbolic and emotional leg of the French president’s trip, he will on Friday visit the small town of Guiuan in the eastern Philippines that was devastated when Haiyan hit with winds of up to 315 kilometers (195 miles) an hour.
The Aquino government is also warmly embracing Hollande’s trip, the first by a French head of state since the two nations established diplomatic relations in 1947, 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,” Philippine 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 when she led a “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, have been signed by Filipino and French corporations 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.