By Isagani R Serrano
President & Country Coordinator, Earth Day Network Philippines
It’s been many, many years ago since the French mathematician Fourier introduced us to his discovery of an atmospheric planetary mirror that lets sunlight in easily but traps it when radiating back to outer space. That trick mirror we now know has been causing the so-called greenhouse effect and the global warming that for a good time up till so far had spared humanity from cringing and dying of freezing cold. That good time might soon be gone because the planetary warming is rising 1 or 2 degrees much too much for our level of comfort.
In December of 2015 members of the UN community signed up to an agreement in Paris to try, and try hard, hopefully enough, to prevent the global warming trajectory from going out of hand. Today, as we celebrate Earth Day, a big UN conference is happening in New York to kick off a formal signing process for that Paris Agreement. The Philippines is signing up and DENR Secretary Mon Paje and Climate Change Commission Vice Chair Manny de Guzman are there to represent us.
But Paris Agreement is only one of the agreements we have signed up to. In 2015, the Philippines, together with the UN community, committed anew to put an end to poverty, reduce inequality, share prosperity to everyone, on top of trying to save humanity from climate change catastrophe.
The pile of commitments the Philippines signed up to are contained in the outcome documents of a stream of UN events in 2015: the Addis Ababa Action Agenda from the Third UN Conference on Financing for Development (FFD3) in Addis Ababa; the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York; the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction from the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan; and the Paris Agreement from the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC COP21 in Paris.
There had been so many such commitments since the Earth Day movement came into being 46 years ago on April 22, 1970. Those had been commitments to build a better world, a world where there is no poverty and hunger, where there is more fairness, a world out of harm’s way from natural and. especially, man-made disasters.
here had been so many such commitments since environment and climate change got into the development agenda in the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. We had all or most of these commitments translated into our own policies and legislations. All we need now is to see how these commitments get delivered to improve people’s lives.
All these may not mean much if you live in the middle of a vast ocean whose home might one day disappear because of sea level rise. They may not mean much to many of our people who continue to suffer the consequences of the monster Yolanda disaster. Or, if you are the farmer in Cotabato who could not grow anything because of searing drought and intensifying land degradation.
Imagine yourself in those situations and I’m sure you’ll see the urgency of delivering results from all those promises. Remember those promises had been made by a succession of political regimes from Marcos time when our first environmental policies and legislations were crafted.
We cannot go on the way we have been doing in the past up till now. We cannot continue with development that degrades the environment and leaves so many behind. We cannot go on seeing more than a third of over 100 million Filipinos live in poverty while the wealth of our nation gets more and more concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Something’s got to give here.
The times demand big changes. The coming May elections might just be the opportunity we have been waiting for to finally see them. Just might, I really hope so. It’s about time, and we have waited much too long.
For the Earth Day Network, we really hope to find game-changing ways beyond planting a billion trees that would capture and store carbon and give us back clean air.
As we celebrate Mother Earth today, let’s together confront the problems before us as we try to build a better future for our children.
22 April 2016, DENR Social Hall