[OPINION] The climate emergency challenge: It's time
A global climate emergency is upon us.
UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston recently reported that the climate crisis will push 120 million people into poverty by 2030. Alston said we have a virtual "climate apartheid" where the poor are disproportionately affected, while the rich are able to buy their way out of its impacts.
Scientists also note that climate disruption is a significant driver of the ongoing 6th mass extinction event, where roughly a million species of plants and animals are expected to perish, many within the next few decades.
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report reveals that we have as little as 11 years left before we start experiencing catastrophic consequences of fisheries degradation, coastal flooding, and extreme weather events, among others.
Time to declare an emergency
More and more people are describing this "11th hour" situation as a full-blown "climate emergency." It is an urgent situation that requires urgent action – a Climate Emergency Declaration.
Over 1,000 local governments and other political jurisdictions representing 222 million citizens across the world have already declared a climate emergency. The idea is to recognize the crisis situation we are confronting, and institute fast-track actions and programs on renewable energy, fossil fuel divestment, and adaptation and resilience, among others.
It is high time for the Philippines, consistently ranked as among the top countries most vulnerable to climate change and already experiencing catastrophic climate impacts such as 2013’s Super Typhoon Yolanda, to finally declare a climate emergency.
Our Climate Emergency Declaration should translate into a climate resilience program for the farming and working-class communities who constitute the overwhelming majority and the most vulnerable of our populace.
Our forests, farmlands, and coasts – our natural defenses to extreme weather events and our lifelines for food security – should be protected from destructive projects such as large-scale mines, mega dams, agribusiness plantations, and land reclamations.
There should be a master plan for the just transition of our economy towards securing and enhancing the jobs and livelihoods of our citizens, establishing strategic basic industries, while offsetting our carbon emissions such as through a moratorium on coal power plants and greater state subsidies in our public mass transportation systems.
A diplomatic program should be instituted to demand climate justice from the top carbon emission-contributing countries and companies. Developed nations such as the USA and Japan account for 70% of global carbon emissions. The 2017 Carbon Majors report also revealed that just 100 fossil fuel corporations are linked to 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. They must be held accountable.
Time to take the challenge
Make no mistake – such an ambitious declaration will be met with tooth-and-nail resistance from the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte’s energy secretary, Alfonso Cusi, has already rejected the proposition of imposing a moratorium on new coal power projects. His finance secretary, Carlos Dominguez, is a mining mogul who seeks to overturn mining closures and suspensions.
Duterte himself has repeatedly declared his intention to snub the upcoming 25th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
But it’s high time for the Davids to bring down the Goliaths. It is high time for everyone to take the Climate Emergency Challenge.
First, we need to adopt a vision for system change to combat climate change. If there is anything we have learned from the studies of scientists down to the concrete experiences of frontline communities, it is that the global system of corporate greed that drives the exploitation of our people, environment, and climate.
We need to undo the centuries of laws, policies, and practices of our governments and societies that have wreaked havoc on our planet.
Second, we need to recognize that it takes everyone to change everything. The enormity of the tasks at hand require people to work together – from crafting innovative climate solutions to mobilizing thousands upon thousands to protest climate injustice. Get yourself organized by joining the nearest climate activist movement.
Last, we need to show the powers that be that people power is alive and kicking. On September 20, millions of people from all walks of life across generations will be pouring into the streets for the Global Climate Strike. It is the collective ultimatum of everyone, everywhere, for everything that needs to be done to save our planet from this climate emergency.
Join us at the University of the Philippines – Diliman Campus College of Science Amphitheater, 2:00 to 6:00 PM, as we aim to set the world record for the biggest number of people to make a human earth formation. You can also check out this list of climate strikes around the country as well.
It is our message to President Duterte, and to all the leaders of the world: there is no Planet B. If you will not act to protect our common home, get out of the way. We will. – Rappler.com
Leon Dulce is the national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), a national environmental campaign center established in 1997 to enable the coordination and complementation of people’s struggles for the environment. Kalikasan PNE is one of the co-organizers of the Global Climate Strike in the Philippines.