Two Filipinos are 'must-hears' in climate discussion – global org

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Who in the world can talk knowledgeably about climate change?

The International Council for Science (ICSU), a global organization of scientific bodies, along with some of the world's top climate experts, came up with a list of 20 people they want to hear talk about climate change in the upcoming 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, France.

There are two Filipinos in the scientific organization's wishlist – one an advocate of indigenous peoples (IPs), and another, one of the most vocal advocates of climate change in the country.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz had been in the NGO movement since the end of the Marcos regime, and was an activist even when she was a student of the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) prior to the signing of Martial Law.

Tauli-Corpuz is a Cordilleran, but she speaks for the millions of indigenous peoples all over the world and what she has to say about IP and climate change means a lot.

The ICSU calls her a champion of IP rights.

"A community leader from the Kankanaey Igorot people of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines, Tauli-Corpuz initially trained as a nurse in Manila in the 1970s. In June this year, she assumed responsibilities as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, citing biodiversity and climate change as key priorities," they said.

"[As] Tauli argues... indigenous peoples are amongst those most likely to suffer from impacts of climate change, and also some of the solutions to climate change too (displacement from land for dams, for example), and yet haven’t contributed to it, and may be custodians of solutions," they added.

Tauli-Corpuz, in an interview, said that respecting the IPs is the key to mitigating climate change.

"Deforestation should be addressed. In the rush for climate change prevention, countries would justify the building of huge dams and deforestation of natural forests to plant palm oil and soya, for example," she said.

Tauli-Corpuz said that the IPs are the stewards of the forest and the forests remain the lungs of the planet, making us breathe and also sequestering greenhouse gases.

For the past years, she was among those who concretized the monetization of carbon trading so that those who preserve the forests can be paid by developed nations who have huge carbon footprint (produce a lot of greenhouse gases).

She said that it will take years before the forest stewards, who are essentially the IPs, will finally be paid in this "carbon trading" but at least the stage had been set.

Non-carbon benefits of forests

Tauli-Corpuz is also seeking the recognition of non-carbon benefits of forests as a carbon sink but a source of biodiversity and culture of the IPs.

She said that countries should make a resource inventory first, before carbon trading can be formalized.

Being the only UN Rapporteur for IPs, Tauli-Corpuz will have her hands full talking to different IP communities and agencies working with them to ensure their protection.

She also remains as the executive director of Tebtebba Foundation in Baguio City, which means she would be working on the local and international levels.

The other one is Naderev "Yeb" Saño. Saño was a Philippine delegate to the United Nations Climate Talks in Warsaw, one of the thousands who attended the talk last November, when he was propelled into the international limelight.

During the same time, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) wrought havoc on his hometown. He was made to speak and he cried in front of an international audience, talking about Haiyan and his hometown and the apparent apathy of developed nations to arrest climate change. He then announced that he will go into hunger strike and 200 of the delegates followed him. Since then, a growing number of Saño supporters would fast at the start of every month to dramatize the need for action.

Tauli-Corpuz and Saño are joined in the ICSU wishlist by celebrity advocates Malala Yousafzai, Desmond Tutu and Amartya Sen.

The others on the list are Mark Watts, Claudia Salerno, Suntia Narain, Kumi Naidoo, Malini Mehra, Michael Liebrich, Melissa Leach, Crystal Lameman, Winnie Byanyima, Kevin Anderson, Van Jones, Jeremy Farrar and Li Keqiang.

If you consider yourself a "grassroots activist," then ICSU said that you, too, is among the influential climate experts. –