What Paris means for every Filipino

The Conference of Parties (COP) 21, a yearly conference of countries that tackle climate change, is happening in less than 100 days in Paris and countries are preparing for what could be the biggest decision to be made both for the planet and humanity’s survival.

The COP21 hopes for countries to sign a legally binding agreement that will keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius from the pre-industrial period. So far, the world has warmed at 0.8 degrees Celsius.

Small island-nations, including the Philippines, have proposed a 1.5 degrees Celsius target. And this is not surprising, given that the impacts of climate change have affected these nations most. At 0.8 degrees Celsius of warming, the Philippines has experienced devastation from extreme weather events, including Yolanda (Haiyan) that claimed more than 6,000 lives and left thousands more homeless and without livelihood.

A successful agreement in Paris means commitments from countries in reducing carbon emissions and commitments in ensuring better adaptation measures are put up, especially for countries that are already suffering from climate change impacts.

The prospects are promising, especially because many countries including the G7, the industrialized bloc inlcuding Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the United States, have already made a bold statement about decarbonization of economy. If these industrialized countries that are mostly reponsible for the climate change we know today, are committing to end the use of fossil fuel, then we are off to a good start in finally addressing climate change.

And Paris will just be a start, as it hopes to address climate change in the long term. But what will a successful agreement in Paris mean for every Filipino?

Every Filipino has experienced climate change impacts. We have all been through strong typhoons and intense heat. Our farmers and fishers have suffered from loss of crops and less fish catch due to El Nino and warmer waters. According to the Asian Development Bank, the Philippines loses $1.6B of gross domestic product (GDP) every year because of typhoons and earthquakes.

We have all lost something and the damage is more than economic. After Ondoy and Yolanda, we have learned to fear every typhoon that comes our way. We fear the water that was once our source of life. The “new normal” brought about by climate change has changed the way we live.

Will Paris give us back what we have lost? The answer is no. But with a successful agreement in Paris, we will have a better chance at saving ourselves from more losses. Paris will help every Filipino cope with the “new normal.” Paris will help strengthen every Filipino in the face of climate change impacts so that when another Yolanda comes, there will be no more 6,000 deaths. Paris will help ensure that we will not have to face more damages from climate change impacts as we try to stop global warming at less than 2 degrees celsius.

And this is why countries must be ambitious in their commitments in Paris, including our commitments as a country. We need to have targets that speak of both lessening our carbon emissions and building every Filipinos’ capacity to adapt to climate change. This means that we need to work harder on investing in cleaner energy and less on fossil fuel and coal power plants. We need to work harder on educating Filipinos about what climate change is about.

We have less than 100 days to agree on commitments that will ensure concrete action is taken on climate change and that we will protect our planet from further destruction. Is the Philippines ready to commit to this too? We hope so, for every Filipino looking for justice from losing their homes, livelihoods, and loved ones because of climate change.


This article was originally published at ABS-CBN.