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PCWA, CEC hold forum on COP 14 talks: Global climate talks should prioritize people's welfare

Communities are now taking action on the issue of climate change and asserting that their voices be heards in the global climate negotiations between states.

In response to the need for updates on the recently-concluded inter-governmental Conference of Parties 14 on climate change convened by the United Nations in Poznan, Poland last 1-12 December, the Philippine Climate Watch Alliance (PCWA) and the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (CEC-Philippines) organized a forum to give an overview of what transpired during the Poznan round and bring these to the attention of grassroots and people's organizations.

Entitled Probing the UN Climate Change Negotiations in Poznan: Prospects for Philippine Communities and CSOs, the forum was held last 20 January, 9 a.m. To 1 p.m. at the Balai Kalinaw, University of the Philippines was attended by around 60 participants from CSOs, POs, and the academe.

The forum was attended by representatives from Peace for Life, Agham, UP NIGS, Council for Peoples Development and Governance, Anido, Citizens Disaster Response Center, NNARA-Youth, PISTON, KMP, MASAI, Philippine Network on Climate Change, the Office of Senator Ma. Ana Consuelo Madrigal, UP Manila University Student Council, Pamalakaya, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, EMPD, Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment, TAKDER, FSSI, Earth Savers Movement, UP Green League and students from UP Diliman.

Dominant agendas

Speakers noted the pervasiveness of corporate influence within the climate negotiations. Athena Peralta, Consultant on Women and Economy for the World Council of Churches (WCC), gave an update on the outcomes of the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change (UN FCCC) and its implications for women and rural communities.

Peralta spoke about the context and political and economic backdrop of the negotiations and gave an overview critique of COP 14's “achievements”, including contentious issues of work programme, technology transfer, adaptation and mitigation, and finance. She also explained the concepts of ecological debt and engendering climate change, ending her presentation with a call for ecological and economic justice.

Paul Quintos, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) and PCWA representative to the CSO actions for the Poznan round, shared his experience as an observers outside the Poznan round and identified grassroots prospects for engagement in the upcoming COP 15 in Copenhagen.

He also elaborated on the extent of corporate influence in the Poznan talks, and compared the people's agenda with the “northern elite” agenda within key issues within the negotiations.

This was followed by the input of Neth Dano, Associate of the Third World Network (TWN), on the issue and implications of carbon trading, which was among the corporate proposals being discussed. Dano explained the basic concept of carbon and emissions trading and offsetting, its history, and problematic areas. She concluded that it was an ineffective mechanism for as far as climate change mitigation is concerned, diverting from sustainable solutions and a becoming potential source of corruption.

Scientists, grassroots leaders speak up

Participants, coming from both the academe and people's organizations, raised various concerns during the open forum.

Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo of the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences raised the concern of nuclear energy as a problematic option to carbon-based energy supplies. Noting that the global nuclear lobby claims that nuclear energy does not have any carbon emissions and is therefore “clean”, Rodolfo clarified that nuclear technologies also indirectly contribute to carbon dioxide emissions, as the latter is also emitted in the process of producing the fuel for nuclear reactors.

Carmelito Tatlonghari from Agham raised the need to prepare for Copenhagen 2009, and to prepare for the three aspects related to the issue: science, politics and economics. Tatlonghari added that despite the creation of many administrative bodies dealing with climate change, there should be emphasis on public participation.

Representatives of grassroots organizations also aired their concerns during the forum.

Willy Marbella of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines) spoke of the ongoing environmental and agricultural crisis that the country has been facing, even before climate change became a national issue.

While Filipino farmers have for decades faced difficulties in the areas of production costs, control of farm inputs, and trading prices, Marbella added that the effects of climate change which include calamities, typhoons, destruction or degradation of crops, declining production, increased soil erosion and landslides and drought would further aggravate these difficulties.

Fernando Hicap of the Pamalakaya (Philippine Federation of Fisherfolks) said that many of the fisherfolk communities initially find it hard to understand the issue of climate change because they are not too familiar with the terminologies used, and because many are busy with survival and earning a livelihood in this difficult time. Nonetheless, Hicap said that climate change will have a great impact on the livelihoods of fisherfolk, especially considering that many now are experiencing declines in fish catch due to a host of factors, such as decreasing access to fishing grounds, and displacement and coastal degradation caused by government-initiated development projects.

Hicap stressed the need to review policies on fisheries, particularly on the conversion and privatization of fishing grounds and study the impacts of climate changes, such as coral bleaching, rise in sea levels, stronger waves. He said that the fisherfolks sector is among the most vulnerable to these changes and at the same time the least equipped in terms of access to resources, social services, and support.

Hicap cited cases of fisherfolk communities who wish to practice mangrove conservation and protection, but are unable to continue developing these once they are displaced from their traditional fishing grounds, and are subjected to harassment by military forces if they resist such displacement due to development aggression, citing the recent experiences of fisherfolk communities in Cavite and Manila Bay facing displacement. They are also oftentimes excluded from vital policy-making processes.

Hicap supported Marbella's proposal for the need for PCWA to conduct a massive education campaign among peasant communities.

Joan Jaime of KAMP (Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas) shared the efforts of IP organizations to bring the issue of climate change to the United Nations, stressing that IP rights should be recognized, particularly in relation to extractive industries such as mining and logging.

Jaime noted that while many are trying to talk about solutions to climate change and its impacts, national policies that aggravate the vulnerability of IPs to climate change continue, airing concerns over the implications of several proposals on climate change, such as reforestation, declaration of protected areas, and agrofuel plantations. In reforestation projects and protected areas, it should be considered that there are communities, especially IPs, who live in these areas.

Bea Arellano of Kadamay (Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap), an urban poor organization, said that the problem of waste management has effects on the health of communities and continuing construction of factories has displaced urban poor settlers through demolitions.

Felina Mendres of Amihan (National Federation of Peasant Women of the Philippines), shared updates and recent photo-documentation by one of its chapters in a coastal community affected by rising sea levels and landslides in Barangay Bunal, Salay municipality, Misamis Oriental.

George San Mateo of PISTON, a nationwide transport group, also expressed solidarity for PCWA. Public utility drivers, he said, are also interested in learning how to raise awareness and to contribute to efforts to address climate change. Among the related issues their sector faces is the fact that the Philippines has no comprehensive mass transport system and national industrialization. Current public utility vehicles such as buses and jeeps are often reassembled and secondhand. The country is also tied to the use of diesel as a primary source of fuel.

Frances Quimpo, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (CEC-Phils) finally capped the forum by emphasizing the need for more solidarity and dialogue, calls for accountability addressed to governments, rich countries and corporate interests, widespread environmental education among basic social sectors, and collective action among grassroots sectors, environmental movements, and the academe to address the impacts of climate change on the poorest of the poor.

pcwaThe Philippine Climate Watch Alliance (PCWA) is a broad network of non-government organizations, grassroots and people's organizations, and individuals aiming to examine and address the impacts of climate change on marginalized communities within the country.