MANILA — Social movements, religious associations, and other civil society groups across the Philippines have united to call for a strong and fair global climate agreement ahead of the international climate talks that will start on November 30.
The Paris talks, the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), is expected to come out with a new international legally-binding agreement on climate change, in compliance with the UN Framework convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The groups announced that they will hold a week of action for climate justice from November 23 to 30 across the country, which are all part of mobilizations across the world.
A 20,000-strong “March for Climate Justice Pilipinas”on Nov. 28 at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Metro Manila, the highlight of the week;
A Nov. 26-28 caravan across Luzon coal hotspots, from Semirara island in Antique to Quezon and Batangas, going to Manila;
A Nov. 29 march led by the Archdiocese of Manila to Rajah Sulayman Park, across Malate Church, followed by an ecumenical service and a Catholic mass;
A Nov. 30 Bonifacio Day mobilization by labor groups which will include a call for climate justice; and
Various actions in between in Tacloban, Iligan, Metro Cebu, Davao, General Santos, Malaybalay, Ozamis, Pagadian, and Tangub.
Haiyan and record global warming
The Philippines, a tropical archipelago besieged by no less than 20 storms yearly, is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. In recent years it has been experiencing significant climate change impacts such as supertyphoons and other extreme weather events when the average global temperature rise reached 0.8⁰C above pre-industrial levels.
Recently, the UK Meteorological Office announced that this 2015, the world experienced global temperature increase of up to 1⁰C above pre-industrial levels.
In November 2013, Yolanda (Haiyan) claimed more than 6,000 lives and left thousands more homeless and without livelihood. The super typhoon also wrought over USD 14 billion in economic damages.
Emissions cuts overdue from rich countries
Climate action targets pledged by over 140 countries in recent weeks in preparation for Paris indicate that the world is still headed for at least 3⁰C of warming, according to recent reports from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UN Environment Programme, and a broad group of civil society organizations across the globe.
"World governments, including ours, through their recent pledges are condemning again the fate of humanity in the face of climate change. A 3 to 4 degree world to us Filipinos is death. This is a fight for our survival and future. Either we change the system and seek climate justice or face our death,” said Gerry Arances, national coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.
The March for Climate Justice movement says that the main onus is on developed countries. The groups also stated that developing country governments should also deliver on their fair share and be firm in demanding climate finance from developed countries in order to do more mitigation actions.
“Pledges of the governments of the wealthy industrialized countries are far below their fair shares, based on their historical responsibility and capacity,” said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development and the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice. “They have also pledged very little in terms of finance for developing countries like the Philippines, contrary to their obligations enshrined in the climate convention.”
“Developed countries’ fair share are far beyond what is possible to do inside their countries, therefore, to fulfil their fair shares, they have to enable more actions in developing countries by delivering finance for mitigation,” Nacpil added.
Philippine mitigation pledge vs. coal plans
The Philippines pledged to reduce its emissions by 70% by 2030 in its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution submission to the UNFCCC, but this pledge is dependent on international climate finance and other support. The groups said that the Philippine government should not only offer conditional pledges. It should also offer unconditional targets based on its fair share of the global efforts.
"Aksyon Klima supports the Philippine INDC position but calls on the government to show seriousness on the targets by defining the extent of what the country can do on its own and what more can be done when enabled. Marching orders should be issued to all agencies to adjust plans, projects, programs and activities, with the meaningful consultations and participation of all stakeholders, to make sure that we are on target by 2030," said Ruel Cabile, Aksyon Klima Pilipinas national coordinator.
It should be noted that the Aquino administration is approving the building of more than 50 coal-fired power plants in the next few years.
“The Philippines sits at a crossroads. Do we veer away from expensive and dirty fossil fuels and make use of our locally-abundant renewable energy resources? Or do we continue with a business-as-usual mindset and continue contributing to the global temperature increase?” asked Joel Palma, president and CEO of WWF-Philippines.
Carbon majors also liable
The groups are also holding the fossil fuel industry accountable for climate change. Fifty companies dubbed as the world’s “carbon majors” — including Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and ConocoPhillips — are a subset of the 90 legal entities that have contributed the lion's share of cumulative global carbon dioxide and methane emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere, as identified by peer-reviewed research.
“The fight against climate change and the fight for the protection of human rights are two sides of the same coin. We have to remind these big polluters that their carbon emissions are affecting vulnerable countries like the Philippines. They should be held liable for endangering the lives and livelihoods of the present and future generations,” said Anna Abad, Climate Justice Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines.
“We hope that the Commission on Human Rights take the bold step in pursuing a full and immediate investigation against those responsible, in the interest of justice, for the protection of our basic human rights,” Abad added.
Faithful asked to ‘protect our common home’
The Catholic Church is a strong champion in the climate justice movement especially with Pope Francis’s encyclical “Laudato Si.” Catholic and other religious groups in the Philippines and around the world have created coalitions and released statements in response to the Pope’s challenge for the faithful to “heed the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” Clergy and laypeople alike will be at the frontlines of several of the above-mentioned mobilizations, joining other activists and sectors.
“Pope Francis has always insisted on the need to come up with a common plan that would address the issue of climate change. The time to act is now. What is needed is a strong political will that is geared towards the protection of our common home,” said Fr. Dexter Toledo, national coordinator of the Ecological Justice Interfaith Movement.
“It’s hard to get our heads around the reality that we intelligent, generally well-meaning people are hell-bent on destroying the future for our children. Hopefully the climate justice movement will wake us up from this nightmarish trance before it’s too late,” added Fr. John Leydon, a convenor of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.