“Pursuing Climate Justice means putting People and Planet Over Profit”—CPDG on COP26

November 5, 2021

Environmental and indigenous activists hold climate strike protest action, Sept. 20, 2019, in Quezon City. Photo by DARREN LANGIT

November 5, 2021

From October 31 until November 12, 2021, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) takes place in Glasgow, UK. Officials from different political parties and representatives of observer organizations across the world shall convene and put forward strategies and positions in fighting climate change and its adverse ecological, economic, and social impacts especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Critical environmental defenders, however, warn that international conferences like the COP26—being dominated by powerful countries with vast economic interests—might not provide the space for the civil society’s democratic alternatives. Leon Dulce, National Coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, asserted that the People and the Planet must be put first over Profit in a speech delivered at the ‘People’s Struggles and Priorities on the Road to COP26’ webinar last October 22, 2021.

In response, environment defenders together with sectoral organizations will hold the Philippine expression of the World Climate March themed “#KliMalaya” on November 6, 2021, 2:30pm at the University Avenue in University of the Philippines Diliman Campus. Led by Youth Advocate for Climate Action – Philippines, the action will amplify and reiterate the call for people and planet-centered alternatives over business interests in combating climate change.

Across the country, indigenous peoples communities have been opposing mega infrastructure projects like large dams that will submerge their communities and ancestral lands. Large dams have long been blamed for adverse environmental effects that can lead to massive disasters. Under the Build-Build-Build program of the Duterte administration, several dams are to be constructed. Scores of indigenous communities are now under threat of displacement. This coming November 21, Lapat Apayao: Movement Against Apayao Dams will hold a solidarity event themed “Ta’deran! A Day of Solidarity Against Apayao Dams” to raise public awareness on the displacement threat posed by the .Gened 1 Dam in Kabugao town, Apayao province in the Cordillera Administrative Region. Three more dams are planned to be built in the province. Tyrone Beyer of the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous People’s Rights said “these development projects, even though beneficial, should not be an agent of massive environmental destruction, displacement and ethnocide”.

The Stop Golden Rice Network (SGRN), an alliance of various organizations and advocates, on the other hand, recently launched “Sari-saring Solusyon, Sama-samang Aksyon para Tutulan ang GM Yellow Rice”, a campaign to gather public support in calling for the revocation of the biosafety permits it issued by PhilRice as it celebrates its 36th anniversary on November 7, 2021.

Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) spokesperson Liza Maza said that all these programs only show the duplicity of the Philippine government in its commitments on COP26.

“Sec. Dominguez takes pride in the Sustainable Finance Roadmap and even declares concern about the marginalized sectors vulnerability in climate and ecological disasters. But the construction of large destructive dams and the continuance of chemical-intensive farming through GMOs defeats the purpose of climate action,” she further added.

For CPDG and its member organizations, a paradigm shift is urgent in combating the climate crisis, not tokenistic and “greenwashed” programs that puts premium on profit over people’s wellbeing and sustainable use of the environment and resources found therein.

There are many alternatives proposed by different sectors and civil society. Peasant organizations have been pushing the streamlining of agroecological practices and the implementation of genuine agrarian reform. Green groups call for the rehabilitation of coastlines against reclamation. Community-based sustainable water and energy services, instead of dams, are being implemented by NGOs. Advocates cite the neoliberal orientation of the government as a hindrance to the promotion of these initiatives. 

“Policy proposals and community-led practices from the grassroots is the key in ensuring the protection of the planet and the interests of the people. Sustainability and climate justice can only be achieved through a truly-democratic and people-centered approach.” Maza ended. #