Church, green groups call for clean energy plans as Philippines mark Haiyan anniversary

November 8, 2021

Faith-based and pro-environment groups mark the eight anniversary of the landfall of super typhoon Haiyan in a Manila church by offering flowers arranged to spell out “6,000+”, the number of lives lost to the typhoon according to official government count. (Photo supplied)

Church leaders, faith-based groups, climate advocates, and frontline communities called to mind the devastation wreaked by super typhoon “Yolanda (Haiyan)” in 2013 as they questioned the Philippines’ energy and development decisions in recent months.

“Let us not forget super typhoon Yolanda that woke up our unity and woke up all of us to care for nature,” said Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice, and Peace of the Catholic bishops’ conference.

“Let us take care of our environment, and mother nature will take care of us,” said the prelate in his message during the anniversary of Yolanda’s landfall on Monday, November 8.

The typhoon’s eighth anniversary marked the opening of the second week of negotiations at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow that has so far produced landmark new agreements against coal development and public finance for fossil fuels.

“Yolanda” left thousands dead or missing and millions displaced and its furious onslaught in 2013 has been recognized as a key trigger of calls to rethink climate-destructive practices, especially the use of highly polluting fossil fuels for energy needs.

“Our people still nurse stinging wounds from ‘Yolanda’ long after its last drop of rainfall, the last tree it uprooted, or the last roof it detached hit the ground,” said Gerry Arances, convenor of the group Power for People Coalition.

“These wounds never get to fully heal thanks to the many disasters that come for us and other climate-vulnerable peoples each year,” he said in a statement.

“Those should have been enough for the world, especially historically polluting nations, to realize that by not ending the lifeline of coal and other fossil fuels, they are easily ending ours. Apparently that’s not so,” Arances said.

He said pledges like the ones made in the COP26 summit “are welcome,” but he said “they are long-overdue” and “leave loopholes open for forms of fossil fuels finance.”

“What we need are energy transition and climate action plans that are fully aligned to the 1.5°C Paris goal, not watered down versions of such,” he said.

Arances, who is among the few Filipino civil society members to make it to COP 26, also raised alarm over the Philippines’ performance in securing most ambitious commitments from global leaders.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has signed on to the coal pledge but skipped important commitments on actually ending its use and expansion.

“DOE blew off a chance to show that we are serious about not letting developed countries off their responsibility of transferring financial, technological, and other resources we need in climate mitigation through strong commitments against coal,” said Arances.

He said the Philippines’ Energy department should know that “bringing home anything less than the promise of a swift and just clean energy transition is a shame for them and the rest of the delegation.”

More than 20 church-based groups and social action centers across the country joined on Monday in remembering the devastation brought about by “Yolanda” through various activities.

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