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Hollande enlists film stars for climate change push in Manila

French President François Hollande arrives in Manila on the start of a two-day visit to the Philippines on Thursday February 26, 2015
French President François Hollande arrives in Manila on the start of a two-day visit to the Philippines on Thursday February 26, 2015 Noël Celis / AFP

French President François Hollande arrived in the Philippines Thursday accompanied by two of France’s leading actresses, Marion Cotillard and Mélanie Laurent, to promote the fight against climate change ahead of a crucial summit later this year.

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Hollande is using the two-day trip, the first by a French president to the Philippines, to attempt to build diplomatic momentum for December’s UN summit of world leaders in Paris.

In a joint statement with his Philippine counterpart Benigno Aquino, delivered by Cotillard, the French president called for the international community to reach a “universal, equitable and ambitious climate deal,” at the talks.

“We hope that together we will write history in Paris in December and we will not be content to watch events unfold as simple spectators," said the statement, dubbed a “call from Manila”.

The Philippines, often seen as being on the frontline in the battle against climate change, has been battered by relentless storms in recent years that have emerged from the Pacific Ocean and claimed many thousands of lives.

These included Super Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm ever recorded on land, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing in November 2013 and which scientists have linked to climate change.

And in what is shaping up to be the most symbolic and emotional leg of Hollande'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 kilometres (195 miles) an hour.

Star power

Hollande says he is determined to "leave a mark" on history at the Paris talks by brokering an historic agreement to contain climate change that would make up for the failure to reach such an accord in Copenhagen in 2009.

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 climate change diplomatic process are sceptical that 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.

But with the aid of the star power of Cotillard and Laurent, Hollande is hoping to raise awareness about the need for a global solution on climate change while in the Philippines.

© Alain Jocard / AFP
© Alain Jocard / AFP

Both actresses have long been involved in campaigning on environmental issues. Oscar winner Cotillard is known for her work with Greenpeace while Laurent, star of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, is an ambassador for the Global Humanitarian Forum's "Tck Tck Tck" climate change campaign.

“I'm really happy that France is stepping up to the plate to push things through quickly. And that France is supporting a important country like the Philippines, which has really felt the effects of climate change," Cotillard told reporters as she arrived in Manila.

'Shared democratic values'

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 recognise 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, are also expected to be signed 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.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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