ENVIRONMENT Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje will deliver the Philippine statement when he represents President Aquino in the high-level signing ceremony for the historic U.N. climate change agreement adopted in Paris last December.

Paje's attendance to the signing ceremony to be held at the UN headquarters in New York City on April 22, which coincides with the annual global celebration of Earth Day, was due to an invitation sent to the country by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

President Aquino issued a special authority designating and authorizing Paje to sign for and behalf of the Republic of the Philippines the Paris Agreement.

According to Paje, the formal signing of the U.N. climate deal is a victory for the Philippines having been an active player in the seven-year effort to get the world to act on climate change.

“The irony of being among the countries most extremely vulnerable to climate change despite having one of the smallest carbon footprints impelled us to be highly articulate and assertive on the global stage on the need for urgent action against climate change,” Paje said.

The Philippines was among the states that were most insistent on reaching a truly meaningful global compact to limit and reduce the global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Leaders from all over the world are expected to participate in the formal signing so there will be a “smooth finalization of the operational details” to accomplish provisions in the new climate change accord.

The agreement will come into force once signed by at least 55 countries. Climate ambassadors from around the world have until April 17, 2017 to sign the deal.

The Philippines had already submitted its first Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) which serves as the roadmap to actualize the country’s commitments to address climate change.

“Priority mitigation measures will cover 40 of the 70 percent total emission reduction which will include greater use of cleaner and renewable energy, improved mass transport services, more efficient waste management, reforestation and forest protection, and co-firing biomass,” Paje explained.

The INDCs are the submissions prepared by each country to help mitigate climate change, which was formally submitted before the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change last October.

Paje further stated that during the ceremony, the Philippines will manifest its intent to shift from the INDCs to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which will be updated every five years.

The Philippines submitted a goal of 70 percent carbon emissions reduction by 2030 as its contribution to help combat climate change.

Paje, who also represented the Philippines during the high-level signing ceremony for the adoption of the U.N. climate deal in Paris, said the country is already taking steps to perform its commitments.

One of these measures is the National Greening Program (NGP), which has been bringing positive impacts in mitigating climate change.

NGP is the flagship reforestation program of the Aquino administration that seeks to cover 1.5 million hectares of denuded forest with trees from 2011 to 2016.

As of December 2015, a total of 1.35 million hectares have been planted with trees in various parts of the country.

In November last year, President Benigno Aquino signed an Executive Order extending the NGP until 2028 to cover 7 million hectares more of forestland.

According to Paje, President Aquino has given the assurance that the country will continue to work with the U.N. and other countries against global warming for the benefit of climate vulnerable communities around the world. ###