France's Hollande visits typhoon-hit Philippine town, sounds alarm on climate change

GUIUAN, Philippines (AFP) - French President Francois Hollande met survivors of one of the world's strongest typhoons in a remote Philippine coastal town on Friday, seeking to sound a global alarm on climate change ahead of a crucial UN summit.

Hollande is on a two-day trip to the archipelago, regarded as a frontline state in the struggle against global warming, as part of his campaign to build diplomatic momentum ahead of the Paris summit in December.

The French president is determined to broker an historic pact in Paris to save the world from catastrophic impacts of climate change, and he went to the storm-battered Philippines to highlight those feared consequences.

"My visit is not only as president of the Republic of France, but also as a member of the international community which is mobilising to succeed at the Paris summit," Hollande said in Guiuan in the far east of the Philippines.

The small fishing community of Guiuan was one of the first towns hit when Super Typhoon Haiyan roared in from the Pacific Ocean 15 months ago with the strongest winds ever recorded on land.

Haiyan then swept across already deeply impoverished farming and fishing communities of the central Philippines, claiming more than 7,350 lives in the world's deadliest natural disaster of 2013.

The Philippines endures about 20 major storms or typhoons every year but scientists say they are getting stronger and more unpredictable because of climate change, and that this will likely mean more Haiyan-like disasters.

In Guiuan, Hollande met fishermen who lost their homes during Haiyan, walked past the remains of a destroyed church and spoke at an elementary school with a roof still missing after being torn off during the typhoon.

"I'm here with you, in Guiuan, to show the entire world the devastation from the typhoon you have suffered," he said.

"But I also want to show the entire world your courage, you strength and your resilience."

Hollande, the first French head of state to visit the Philippines, brought a high-profile delegation with him, including French actresses Marion Cotillard and Melanie Laurent.

The Hollywood stars, as well as Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, travelled with him to Guiuan.


In a joint appeal for climate change action in Manila on Thursday, Hollande and Philippine President Benigno Aquino emphasised that Filipinos had "endured an unprecedented series of extreme weather events in the last few years".

"We are reminded that while the developing countries have contributed least to climate change, they are the ones that suffer the most from climate change impacts," the appeal stated.

The main message in their appeal was for world leaders to secure a "universal, equitable and ambitious climate deal" in Paris to contain climate change.

Hollande sought to present the appeal as a show of unity that could serve as a model in the lead-up to Paris for rich and poor nations, whose divisions led to a similar effort at a UN summit in Copenhagen in 2009 ending in disarray.

The goal of the planned Paris pact, which must enter into force by 2020, is to limit warming to 2 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.


Hollande emphasised on Thursday that a Paris accord could not succeed unless rich nations generously and adequately helped developing nations cope with climate change and build clean energy infrastructure.

After meeting Hollande, Aquino praised France's leadership in the global warming fight, emphasising that its emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming were among the lowest of any developed nation.

"We, as a developing country, welcome that countries like France have emerged as global partners," Aquino said.

In Guiuan, Hollande announced 1.5 million euros (S$2.29 million) in aid for the French non-government organisation ACTED to help local storm-vulnerable communities in the Philippines.

This followed a pledge from Hollande on Thursday of 50 million euros in loans to help prevent future weather-related disasters in the Philippines.

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