Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hollande beats the Drum in Manila

Visiting the Philippines, one of the globe's most devastated places as a result of increasingly violent storms and high seas, French President François Hollande made a strong showing today on behalf of the Climate Change movement. Interestingly he did so as prospective host to the Paris COP 21 conference, assuming some responsibility for the success of the conference. With a glamorous entourage of movie actresses--Marion Cotillard, a Greenpeace activist and Oscar winner, and Mélanie Laurent--as well as the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and UN official Christiana Figueres, Hollande planned to visit the site of Typhoon Haiyan's worst destruction in 2013, in an effort to raise the profile of the climate issue.

At the midpoint of Hollande's less-than-distinguished presidency he has the chance to seize the initiative for France, and for his own legacy, on the world stage, as Le Monde was quick to notice, as well as to cement some climate-related contracts with French businesses in the vulnerable precincts of the Philippines. At the same time the Philippines is asserting its leadership of what an official called the "G-20 of most vulnerable nations."

Meanwhile in the US, the only coverage of Hollande's 'Manila Appeal' (overtones of General DeGaulle?) seems to be the extremely negative account by the AP, calling attention to the limited funds raised so far for mitigation among poorer countries such as the Philippines. Yes, the developed countries will have to pony up much larger sums, as Hollande did note, and yes, those funds may be hard to pry loose (though Environment Minister Ségolène Royal pointed to sources in the financial sector). The importance of Hollande's profile-raising exercise is nonetheless confirmed by the continuing near-blackout of major efforts like this one to build momentum for Paris.

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