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Climate Justice: Paying for the destruction of climate change

Published on 12 October 2015 Philippines

Developed countries which releases much carbon emissions into the environment should be held accountable for the harm that climate change has caused in the poor countries; such is climate justice.

That was the general sentiment voiced by participants in the Road to Paris Starts in Manila conference held last week at the Ateneo Professional Schools in Makati.

The conference was organized by the Embassy of France to the Philippines.

Anna Abad, who leads the climate justice campaign of the Greenpeace Southeast Asia, quoted the Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index 2015 which stated that the Philippines is the most affected country in 2013, followed by Cambodia and India.

The Philippines’ ranking had risen from No. 2 in 2012 to No. 1 in 2013 because of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) which caused damage of over US$ 13 billion, and the death of more than 6,000.

The same study also disclosed that in the last two decades, the Philippines was consistently among the top countries greatly affected by climate change.

According to an SWS survey in 2013, 85 percent, or eight out of 10 Filipinos, experience moderate to severe impacts of climate change, Abad said.

Lawyer Joyce Melcar-Tan, disaster risk reduction and management consultant at the Ateneo de Manila University-Institute of Sustainability, said that while climate change can be attributed to the industrialization of countries from Global North (North America, Western Europe and developed parts of East Asia), its effects are “unevenly spread” across the globe.

“Developed countries from the Global North have been responsible for the historical emissions, but the least responsible countries – generally, countries in Pacific islands, Southeast Asia and agricultural economies such as the Philippines – are most vulnerable to its effects,” she said.

Tan said that the most vulnerable countries have the least capacity to cope because of the lack in technology and finance.

The solution to climate change, said Elsie Delfin of the Philippine Movement of Climate Justice, is by using renewable energy which is a needs-driven, community-based energy sourcing system.

“We need a more democratic system which will benefit the communities within energy sourcing projects, in contrast with today’s energy sources controlled by few corporations. We need something that is not profit-driven and will answer to the needs of the community and the environment,” she said.

The speakers called for the commitment of countries in the global agreement of reducing the effects of climate change, saying that this “collective action against climate change” is the road to climate justice.

A revolution – not by violence – but a collective effort of all countries, particularly to reduce carbon emissions is the key to achieve climate justice, the environmentalists said.

“It’s time for a climate revolution, we need all countries to commit to zero-carbon emission, adapt to climate change and change the whole system,” said Renee Julienne Karunungan, communications director of Dakila.

“We need a revolution for climate justice to happen. We need a systemic change. The carbon-based, fuel-based economy is not sustainable and has been damaging lives and livelihood,” she added.


Abad blamed oil, coal and gas companies, or what she referred as “corporate polluters,” for the onset of climate change.

“We know, and it is established, that the burning of fossil fuels by these corporations is primarily responsible for emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases,” she said.

Citing another study, she said that the corporate polluters are responsible for 65 percent or over two-thirds of the all man-made carbon emissions in 2013.

“These big corporate polluters should be condemned for the harm brought by their products that cause massive threats to human rights and survival, the same way that tobacco companies were condemned for the hazards of smoking,” she said.

Last Sept. 22, members of the Greenpeace and other environment groups marched to the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) to file a petition “requesting for the investigation of the responsibility of carbon majors for human rights violations or threats of violation resulting from the impacts of climate change.”

The 40-page petition submitted to the CHR seeks to scrutinize the accountability of the corporations against their duty to respect human rights as articulated in the UN Guiding Principles on Businesses and Human Rights, Abad said.

“The corporate polluters should be held accountable for the human rights implications of climate change. Its threats must be addressed, remedied and prevented,” Abad continued.


The weeklong conference is in preparation for the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change where the European Union (EU) will gather negotiators from 195 countries of the world for an “ambitious, universal and legally-binding agreement to limit the warming of the Earth” in Paris, France on Nov. 30 to Dec. 11. (VANNE ELAINE P. TERRAZOLA)



Source: Manila Bulletin | 10 October 2015