By Purple Chrystyl Romero
If you don’t know the connection or the common denominators between the Bonn climate change intersessionals and the recently-concluded barangay or village elections in the Philippines, then it’s our job as journalists to explain to you what they are.
The challenge of doing so represents, in a nutshell, what reporting about climate change is all about: establishing the link between international policies and local actions, showing the relevance of hifalutin pronouncements to everyday life and making the story of climate change matter to all.
In this post, we will explore how best we can do that by looking at the factors that connect the two events which I mentioned above:
- Conflict of interest
The Bonn climate talks, conducted from April 30-May 10, 2018 touched on the thorny subject of conflict of interest in the negotiations. This stems from the presence of fossil fuel firms in the talks, whether through funding any element of it or by being represented by business and industry non-government organizations in the deliberations. Any patina of influence from the dirty industry should be subverted because it may result in watered-down provisions.
The effort to include conflict of interest in the UN formal text has been blocked, however, putting a damper over serious attempts to actually have it tackled.
The issue of conflict of interest – and how it muddles policymaking – is also a grave problem in local leadership at the community level. Barangay or village officials who work for fossil fuel companies and have accepted campaign funds from the same make themselves vulnerable to pressure from these firms. They cannot be expected to pass or support critical ordinances or regulations pushing for climate change mitigation. In both events, therefore, transparency is non-negotiable.
Developed nations are hesitant to fund loss and damage, which refer to the impacts of extreme and slow onset weather events. People vying for local posts should be alarmed over this – why? Communities which suffer the brunt of climate change will need considerable money for rehabilitation and we are not just talking about insurance here.
Not much progress has been achieved in this arena in the Bonn intersessionals and the same can be said about the overall discussions on finance – the replenishment of the Green Climate Fund, the main funding vehicle for climate actions and the raising of climate finance for 2025 beyond the annual $100-billion mark.
But here’s the thing: even if the discussions on money may not be as dynamic or promising on the international plane, this does not mean your local leaders should not be doing anything. Local government units down to the villages are mandated to allocate 5 percent of their total budget for disaster risk reduction and management and are also required to climate-proof their funds.
Hence, ask your local leaders what projects will be funded by the said taxpayers’ money. Make them accountable for it. Any amount for climate change mitigation or adaptation – big or small – should be spent prudently. Corruption has no place in climate actions.
Implementing the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement will be guided by the Rulebook. This is why this document is very important – it answers a lot of how’s: how countries will report on what they have done to minimize the impacts of climate change, how will adaptation, mitigation and loss and damage be funded, how will the efforts of each party will be monitored.
The drafting of the Rulebook is one bright spot in the Bonn climate talks, though more has to be threshed out before it can be completed.
It is not only the Paris Agreement which has a Rulebook, however. At the local level, elected leaders also have their own “rulebook” – and this is the Local Government Code. The said code mandates that all elected officials have the duty to protect the environment as well as the welfare and well-being of their constituents. This code can therefore be invoked whenever a local official votes to approve the application for permits of coal-fired power plants or allows the clearing of forests for the construction of commercial establishments.
These three components are strands to the continuing climate change story, where global priorities are reflective of local realities and where local realities are shaped by personal contexts. Journalists must be able to tell the whole narrative to elucidate why when it comes to addressing climate change, actions and decisions at all levels count.
photo credit: UNFCCC