No other time but now to act against climate crisis

August 18, 2021

Clean water becomes scarce after a typhoon left a community in the northern Philippines flooded for days. (Photo by Mark Z. Saludes)

Reading the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is devastating for young people. A lot of us are feeling depressed, frustrated, angry, and disappointed. 

Some are freaking out, not like the kind of freak out we feel when we are on the verge of a thesis deadline. But that kind of freak out when you realize that your present and future are uncertain. 

The collective reaction we see from the youth is, in a way, paralyzing. 

The sea level will rise at an unprecedented rate, which would result in the drowning of coastal communities. In the coming years, people will have to migrate to safer locations. 

But this is like uprooting them on the land where they grew up, on a place that they called home, and a place where their livelihood is. This would entail vast deprivation of basic human rights and child rights. 

Women and girls will have to drop out of school to help their families survive in their day-to-day living. It would increase the displacement of families who don’t have anywhere else to go, especially those families of fishermen and farmers who are almost entirely relying on what the environment could give them. 

This would also mean an increase in gender-based violence in homes, schools, communities, and society as a whole. This would make a huge gap in the gender balance of the society and how the society sees the role of women, girls, and children. 

This would make the poor poorer.

File photo by OeconoMedia

The IPCC report is giving us a glimpse of what the future of young people will be. The question that’s on my mind is: Is this what adults have imagined for us? 

I know it is not the time to put the blame, because we are all in this together. But the report gives us no choice, but to look backward on what should have been done back then to avoid what is happening today. 

It is already a cliche to say that science is clear. We are fueling climate change. We are in a Code Red and extreme weather events will be worse in the coming years. 

Sometimes, I feel as if I regret being born in an era when the climate has changed drastically. People are not ready for this IPCC report, but who is?

Yet, we are seeing climate crises everywhere; we are witnessing new occurrences, the flood in Germany, wildfires in the US, it has been a year of record-breaking extreme weather, from heatwaves to torrential rain and flooding. 

The Philippines emits an average of 1.98 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita in 2020, or way below the global average of four metric tons per capita.  

We commit to a projected greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions reduction and avoidance of 75 percent, of which only 2.71 percent is unconditional and 72.29 percent is conditional. 

In solving the crisis that we are in, we have to treat the climate crisis as a crisis. Individual contributions matter, but what we need most is an abrupt systemic change to mitigate this crisis.

With this report, I hope this could be a wake-up call not just for us but to our leaders and to those corporations profiting from the suffering of people in vulnerable communities. 

Stop making money in exchange for our future. This is not the future you want, and definitely not the present and the future the young generations want. 

File photo by OeconoMedia

Climate Justice will not be served if people continue to suffer. We are all interconnected and our actions affect one another.  

For young people out there who are in the frontline of this fight, though depressing, this report should not discourage you. 

We should acknowledge those feelings with a grasp that “this is why we are fighting this fight.” Do not feel as if all the efforts you’ve made in saving your future and the life here on Earth have been wasted. 

Now, with this reality, all the more that we should collectively fight for the present and the future that we deserve.

Never feel alone in this fight, we have a great support system from our mentors in civil society. They have been a true ally of the Filipino youth in this advocacy. 

They are always ready to provide both technical and moral support to the Filipino youth who are leading local actions in their communities.

The Filipino youth is in a favorable and enabling environment with the civil society organizations as they help us build our capacities as young leaders of today. It is our hope that we can expect the same from our global leaders. 

As youth, we should continue asking for accountability. Again, it is cliche to say that we don’t have any time for negotiations. 

Two things are clear, first, we have to act, and second, we have to act now. There is no other time. I know it is depressing that our leaders get to decide on what the future will look like for us.

As I said earlier, the IPCC report is paralyzing, yet we should not be paralyzed. We should become more active and make sure we do everything we can to help combat this crisis. 

Though, some would ask, how? How do we stay hopeful, helpful, happy, motivated, when we see our future so dim. We should face it nevertheless. 

We have to turn the grief that we feel into action. Our emotions are energy and we should transform that into something useful. 

And, lastly, we know that we have solutions. Though the damage has been done and irreversible, there are a lot of things that we can do to mitigate and adapt to climatic effects and prevent other things from happening altogether. Let’s stay focused on solutions.

Indigenous communities are the most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis. File photo.

Some of the things that I and my other friends in our small Asian climate activists community have observed in the report is that only one-third of the report consists of regional information with an interactive atlas to better inform our local leaders on decision making, especially on managing infrastructure. 

In the shown five scenarios of carbon emission (the very low, low, intermediate, high, very high) go beyond 1.5 degrees warming by mid-century, however, those very low and low scenarios are able to control warming within 2 degrees, given rapid, ambitious and large scale reductions in our greenhouse gases emissions. 

The frequency and intensity of extreme events induced by climate change have been quantified. For coastal areas, previously once per century, extreme events due to sea-level rise will happen once to twice per decade by mid-century. This allows decision-makers to factor in this information and prepare for adaptation.

We only hope that COP26 would be an opportunity for our world leaders to agree on actions that we desperately need to address climate change. We have to stay out of the “business as usual,” end fossil fuel extraction, support lower-income in those vulnerable countries in the transition to a green economy, and create more spaces for inclusive youth participation in the climate negotiation.

As a representative of the youth sector, I strongly believe that coming up with strong action points at the climate negotiations is greatly important. 

While we recognize that there are many issues that our global leaders need to iron out during the Climate Conference, it is equally important that we have concrete ways forward that we can implement in our countries and local communities. 

We heard your amazing plans on achieving net-zero, if these remain as ideas and on paper, all our efforts will be futile. We need these to be operationalized and be funded to increase the resilience of our local communities and reduce their vulnerabilities.  

If we continue to remain on the negotiating table without implementing these plans on the ground, this will just jeopardize our future.

To our young ones, who are and will be living their lives fighting and surviving climatic disasters. Continue being curious, get educated, be inspired, register to vote, and choose the leader that would better represent us and our demands to a safe and nurturing environment. 

Always remember this mantra from Wael Ghonim, “The power of the people is stronger than the people in power,” If the system is just working for a few, we need to build a system that works for us all.

Ms. Marinel Ubaldo is the Advocacy Officer for Ecological Justice and Youth Engagement of Living Laudato Si Philippines. She is a Registered Social Worker, and one of the Founders of the Youth Leaders Environmental Action Federation. She has spoken to world leaders on behalf of Filipinos during the opening of the UNFCCC COP 21 in Paris and in UNFCCC COP 25 in Madrid. She has recently been trained by former US Vice-President Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader.

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