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Georgia’s Honorary Consular Dean Shares Tbilisi Flood Story at COP21 in Paris

Consul (a.h.) of Georgia in the Philippines and Corps of Honorary Consuls of Georgia Dean Thelmo Cunanan Jr participated in the twenty-first session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) to the1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that was held on November 30 – December 11, 2015 in Paris, France. The theme of this year’s conference was “Sustainable Innovation.”

The conference negotiated the Paris Agreement, a global agreement on the reduction of climate change effects, the text of which represented a consensus of the representatives of the 196 parties attending it. COP21 attracted close to 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.

Consul Cunanan, who was an official delegate and representative of non- government organization Earthsavers Movement, presented his programs aimed at increasing environment cooperation and climate change awareness between the Philippines and Georgia. In July, Consul Cunanan cemented the friendship and cooperation agreement between the Agency for Protected Areas of Georgia and the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Philippines—the first such relationship between Georgia and the entire Asia. He is also currently working with Caucasus University, the West Point Society of Georgia, and various Philippine and Georgian government agencies to draft the Georgia Statement on Disaster Risk Management (DRM) that will help the country mitigate the effects of climate change and global warming. The Georgia DRM is the first such document of the country that will involve multi-sector stakeholder participationand input and will be officially presented to the government in May 2016.

At the closing of COP21, Consul Cunanan addressed the international media in a packed press conference and narrated the story of the Tbilisi flood in June 2015, which devastated large parts of the capital and destroyed Tbilisi Zoo. “We in the Philippines know all too well about the disastrous effects of climate change as the country is recognized as one of the most severely threatened nations from global warming,” he stressed. “But as the Tbilisi

flood experience demonstrates, no one is immune. All countries are at risk”. Consul Cunanan, who is personally involved in activities to rehabilitate Tbilisi Zoo and is working closely with Zoo Director Zurab Gurelidze, cited ongoing efforts to help the Georgian capital city recover from last June’s tragedy.

Consul Cunanan also presented to the media the Georgian-inspired art pieces from the “Colors of Hope: The European Roadshow” which toured three European cities (Innsbruck, Bratislava, and Paris), whose themes are the preservation of the environment and the need for climate change awareness.

In his final statement, Consul Cunanan stressed the importance of using arts as a means for social change. “It is truly inspiring to be here at COP21 and to listen to and work with so many people from all sectors who have come together to help save the planet,” he said. “There is still plenty of work to be done. We must continue to raise awareness of this problem with our fellowman and, in this regard, the arts can and will play a significant role in opening people’s eyes to the harsh realities of climate change. I am deeply confident that, despite the odds, humanity will prevail.”

ABOUT THE CONSUL (A.H.) Thelmo Cunanan Jr. has been Honorary Consul of Georgia in the Philippines since early 2011. He is a businessman, sportsman, television talkshow host, writer, amateur aviator, and philanthropist. He laid the groundwork for socio-cultural and economic relations between the two countries by founding the Philippines–Georgia Business and Friendship Association, Inc. in 2003 and was the first Filipino citizen to formally engage the Georgian government. Consul Cunanan has worked tirelessly to promote Georgia–Philippines relations and regularly gives radio and television interviews about the subject. He has written numerous articles about Georgia and is often invited by colleges, universities, and organizations all over the Philippines to talk about the country’s culture and heritage. Consul Cunanan is the FOUNDING DEAN of the Corps of Honorary Consuls of Georgia.