Air travel ban for climate change conferences only for DFA personnel, Locsin says

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Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddyboy Locsin (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 10) — Employees of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) may attend conferences on climate change abroad -- but only if they travel by land.

In a series of tweets on Monday, Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr. clarified, however, that the ban on air travel to such conferences does not apply to members of Congress or employees of other departments.

"My ban on air travel to climate change forums is strictly limited to DFA," he tweeted, adding that the other government personnel were free to attend such meetings. "We will accredit them. But we at DFA choose to follow the President's displeasure with more climate talk instead of climate action finally,"

The foreign affairs chief on Thursday explained that the internet woul allow the Philippines' virtual presence in climate action conferences overseas that seek to curb carbon emissions from jet travel. A 2016 report of the United Nations showed that total emission of the aviation industry could reach 56 billion tons by 2050. This is about one-eighth of the 420-gigaton carbon budget for a 66% chance to limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

In a separate tweet, Locsin said land travel -- if possible, by electric train -- will be allowed even to DFA personnel.

President Rodrigo Duterte, in his recent trip to Japan, called conferences on the climate crisis a "waste of time and money." While he endorsed the effort to address this challenge, the President has fired several cabinet members for going on foreign trips to these fora.

The Philippines is one of the 195 signatory countries to the Paris climate deal, which mandates member-countries to set carbon emission targets to limit the rise in world temperature. Higher global temperatures will cause stronger weather disturbances, a rise in sea levels and the flooding of coastal cities, longer heat waves, among many other catastrophic natural events triggered by climate change.

The next round of UN climate talks will be held in Santiago, Chile in December.