Environmental advocates call for less talk, more action in COP27 climate talks

November 7, 2022

As States around the world gather for the climate change talks or the Conference of Parties 27 (COP 27) in Egypt, the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines Inc. (CEC), along with fellow environmental human rights defenders and advocates, call for the government to fulfill its mandate of promoting the right to a healthy environment. The current administration must address the unheeded clamor to improve climate change adaptation and mitigation, and consider environmental human rights defenders as allies in the fight against climate change. 

The Philippines is one of the most at-risk and vulnerable countries to climate change. According to the Asian Disaster Reduction Center, the country faces an average of twenty typhoons annually, five of which are considered destructive. These super typhoons endanger the lives of the country’s most vulnerable populations, which include farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous people, and women and children. The Philippines’ agricultural sector faces an enormous threat.  Reports by the International Food Policy Research Institute state that the country stands to lose 4.7 billion USD (around Php 26 billion) annually through 2050 if the situation continues. 

COP 27 brings world government delegations together to jointly address the impacts of climate change and give an update on their previous commitments made last COP 26 and the Paris Agreement. Last COP 26, world leaders finalized the Glasgow Climate Pact. It focused on four key aspects – climate adaptation, climate mitigation, finance and collaboration. It also reiterated the need to keep global warming to only 1.5℃ and “phase down” the use of coal. However, the commitments of the Philippine government fall short in achieving these targets.

For a developing country, climate adaptation and mitigation policies should remain at the forefront of the Philippines’ battle against climate change with the priority of supporting the country’s most vulnerable populations. To adapt to the catastrophic impacts of climate change, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. must stop climate-risk projects. Large-scale mining operations, the building of large dams and land reclamation cause excessive pollution and require the clearing of vital forests and ecosystems, which only exacerbate the country’s climate vulnerability. Restoring critical ecosystems such as forests and mangrove areas should also be prioritized to strengthen the country’s natural protection against climate disasters.

Mitigation plans require an immediate turnaround regarding the Philippines’ energy policies. The current administration must reconsider the initially proposed solutions such as using nuclear power plants and natural gas, and operate from the lens of social accountability as it scales up its transition from the use of coal-dependent energy. The administration must look towards the vast potential of the Philippines’ renewable energy sources as the future of its energy policy and pave the way for sustainability in the energy sector, while ensuring that environmentally destructive and harmful false climate solutions like the Bataan Nuclear Power Plan and megadams are stopped. 

In the recent Typhoon Karding, we have seen the disastrous impacts of extreme weather events that will potentially continue in the coming years with the lack of disaster risk reduction and management efforts and with the predicted frequency of typhoons.

In addition, the rampant threats, harassment, killings, criminalization, red-tagging and other attacks against environmental human rights defenders received no attention from the current administration. The Philippines is the deadliest country in Asia for environmental defenders, according to GlobalWitness for the past decade. These stewards of the environment are tagged as rebels, terrorists, and communists by the state for calling for accountability against the environmentally destructive profit-oriented business activities of the business sector and the government. 

Therefore, we are calling on the current administration to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and scrap the Anti-Terrorism Act. Both policies are tools for institutionalized state repression that silence critics and oppositions, including environmental human rights defenders, which have caused unjust and unnecessary casualties and injuries. 

We, along with our fellow environmental human rights defenders and advocates, encourage the international community, private sector, civil society organizations and fellow Filipinos to join us in addressing the impacts of climate change, pollution and loss of biodiversity. The united efforts we make today will be the defining moment of our future. 

We call for the defense of our environmental and human rights. Stop the draconian measures that perpetuate the attacks on environmental human rights defenders in the pursuit of profit-oriented environmentally harmful activities, projects and policies now.