By Imelda V. Abano
MADRID–Equity and bold action to tackle the threat of climate-related disasters hitting developing countries like the Philippines must figure prominently at the United Nations climate change conference here in Madrid where world leaders from more than 190 nations converge to review and finalize goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
But Filipino climate activists have been frustrated over the slow progress of the talks and struggled to have their voices heard along with other civil society groups within and outside the conference halls where the negotiations are being held.
” Climate change is already affecting us all and will continue to get worse especially for those on the frontlines. This new normal is unacceptable not just for the Filipinos, but for all other countries that have been hit hard by its impacts. We seek climate justice now,” said Rodne Galicha, Executive Director of the Living Laudato Si Philippines.
Galicha said industrialized countries must urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions by phasing out fossil fuels, particularly coal, and enact a just transition towards renewable energy. He said other issues must be addressed at COP25 such as the mechanism on loss and damage to help communities avoid or minimize loss and damage or properties, lives and the environment. Climate finance, he said, is an urgent issue for richer countries such as in mobilizing the US$100 billion every year Green Climate Fund (GCF).
” We are one with the faith communities, the indigenous peoples, the youth and the most vulnerable in emphasizing the need for true change in an era of climate emergency. We refuse to accept that once again we are paying the price of carbon,” Galicha said.
The GCF is part of the financial mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and serves the Paris Agreement. Last month, the GCF recently approved a US$10 million grant to the Philippines for the establishment of a multi-hazard, impact-based forecasting and early warning system for more proactive and inclusive climate risk management tool for saving lives and resources.
According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2020 released this month by the international environmental think tank Germanwatch, the Philippines was the second most climate-affected country in 2018, after Japan. It was followed by Madagascar, India and Sri Lanka. The report published its results after assessing 181 countries and quantifying the impacts of climate change through economic fatalities.
The Philippines was hit by Typhoon Mangkhut in September 2018, which was categorized as a category 5 typhoon, the most powerful typhoon recorded worldwide in 2018. The typhoon affected more than 250,000 people across the country.
A human rights issue
” The climate talks has failed us. We stand in solidarity with people in the communities who are already bearing the brunt from the climate crisis. We are here to raise the issues of climate justice and human rights,” Naderev “Yeb” Sano, said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director.
Sano added that raising their voices and taking a strong stand against fossil fuel companies is already a landmark victory for climate justice.
At the COP25, Sano announced that the Philippines Commission on Human Rights found that 47 of the biggest fossil fuel companies have played a significant role in creating the climate crisis.
” This is a landmark victory for climate justice. The massive body of scientific data, documentary evidence and legal analysis amassed during this 3 years inquiry is unparalleled in its depth and scope,” Sano said. “The body of evidence and the Commission’s findings will be useful for future litigants seeking to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the impacts of climate change and force the rapid phase-out of coal, oil and gas.”
Sano said that while the Commission cannot award damages under investigatory, recommendatory and monitoring powers, the recommendations may spur legislative action in the Philippines and support international efforts to regulate businesses.
“ We are the ones who are suffering the most, and yet we are the least responsible for causing climate change. This is unacceptable,” said Red Constantino, the Executive Director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC) “ We need to transition to renewables and deeply cut carbon dioxide emissions as fast as we possibly can. We have long time under climate emergency and we have to act now.”
Constantino said leaders of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a group of 48 countries mostly affected by climate change, specifically has called on industrialized countries to fulfill their commitments in terms of finance, technology transfer and support climate adaptation measures of the poorest and most vulnerable countries.
“ The survival of the most vulnerable countries rely on the full and urgent implementation of the Paris Agreement, enhanced 2020 action by all countries and robust international cooperation and partnership. We must act decisively now in order for us to survive and thrive,” Constantino said.
At the COP25, leaders of the CVF launched the social media campaign led by the Marshall Islands to get behind the “ Madrid Ambition Drive for Survival” or #MAD4survival initiative. The initiative which already involves some 70 parties to the Paris Agreement committed to ambition, called upon all other parties to indicate where they stand with respect to ambition.
In a statement, Deputy Speaker and Lone District of Antique Representative Loren Legarda said, “We come to this year’s UN climate talks to unite our voices with our fellow developing countries in the urgent call for climate justice. We maintain the resolve to urge developed nations to provide us sufficient climate finance, technologies and means for capacity building to aid us as we face the intensifying impacts of climate change.
Legarda, who leads a slim country delegation, said in her speech at the high-level segment that the 2015 Paris Agreement ratified by 187 countries must be fully enforced in 2016. The agreement sets out the global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In the past climate talks, the Philippines has a strong voice in the negotiations process. Sano, a former Climate Change Commissioner who became the face of the UN climate talks in Poland in 2013 when he wept and fasted for two weeks, said that “while there are brave souls to represent the country in the COP25, it is a far cry from the days when the Philippines negotiating panel was respected and even feared by the rich countries.”
” This is a negotiations process that needs the best and the brightest from the country to sit at the negotiations table to defend its interests and fight for climate justice, on every substantive issue that affects us,” Sano said.