Climate justice now!

Beyond COP 21: Struggle for Right to Food, Land and Life

(This is a Unity Statement released after the Consultation on Right to Food and Life in the Context of Climate Change organized by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance of the World Council of Churches together with Kalikasan and Stewards of Creation. It was held last December 11, 2015, at CICM Provincial House, 14th Street, New Manila, Quezon City and was attended by over seventy participants.)

The Spirit of the Creator God that infuses the whole inhabited earth impels us to realize that the present global economic system that puts a premium on profit rather than people, that fails to respect ecology and is blind to human limitations, has imperiled humanity and all life. As the 21st Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris hammers out a new climate agreement, our planet sits on the brink of catastrophe – indeed, our Philippine islands are already experiencing the destructive impacts of climate-induced disasters. Acknowledging that the “earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” it is our urgent and common responsibility to care for and defend God’s good creation. This entails nothing less than “system change” (deep-seated transformations in economic policies, institutions and structures) and begins with the understanding that climate change is not merely an environmental concern, but is also a matter of justice. Therefore, the following are our calls.

We call on the international community to:

  1. Implement a comprehensive, legally-binding, and equitable global climate agreement containing the following principles:

    a. Drastic, binding, and obligatory commitments to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of stabilizing CO2 concentrations at 350 parts per million or less and to keep global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Rich and industrialized countries like the US, Japan, European Union members, China and the rest of the top 25 polluting countries who have emitted 90% of historic and present emissions should account for the majority of emissions cuts.

    b. Assertion of common but differentiated responsibilities and respect of poor and vulnerable countries’ national patrimony, sovereignty and right to sustainable development in strategies for climate mitigation, adaptation, and justice.

    c. The provision of climate reparations as a primary responsibility of developed nations and their transnational corporations (TNCs) that have historically contributed to climate change, and the development of an accountability mechanism for loss and damages arising from climate change. This entails the institutionalization of equitable, transparent, and unconditional mechanisms for funding, knowledge, and technology transfer that will facilitate reparations and assistance to enable people to cope with the effects of climate change.

We call on the Philippine government to:

  1. Uphold the country’s right to sustainable development towards strengthening the people’s climate resilience. Reverse the neoliberal economic policies, such as the Mining Act of 1995 and Electric Power Industry Reform Act, that have distorted the country’s economy in favor of the already wealthy, opened the nation’s natural resources to exploitation by global corporate interests, and transformed public services into privatized enterprises to the detriment of the people, especially the poorest.
  2. Institute policies that will genuinely address the climate and ecological crisis we face, such as the proposed People’s Mining Bill, Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, and Coal Moratorium Resolution, and exhibit the political will to prioritize and stand up for the safety and welfare of the people.
  3. Increase the capacity of our citizens to adapt to climate change impacts. Declare climate adaptation as a primary pillar of the country’s climate solutions as it is among the most climate vulnerable countries.
  4. Provide adequate funds and establish an institutional mechanism which will provide financial, educational and technical support to climate adaptation and mitigation efforts of local government units, community-based and sectoral organizations. Ensure transparency, accountability and accessibility of the People’s Survival Fund, the country’s climate adaptation fund.
  5. Implement a genuine agrarian reform program so that those who toil the land are given their due as responsible stewards, thereby effecting a primary redistribution of land, the source of food for life. Halt rampant land grabbing, the conversion of agricultural lands into plantations and golf courses, and other forms of development aggression.
  6. Promote the right to food and invest in building climate resilience in the agriculture and fisheries sector by providing financial and other forms of assistance especially to small-scale farmers and fisher folk and by supporting community-based, low-carbon agricultural initiatives.
  7. Amend the country’s disaster risk management system vis-à-vis the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, towards one which is civilian-led, de-clogged of political and bureaucratic red tape and vested private interests. Empower regional and local government units to develop disaster risk reduction strategies together with their respective constituencies.
  8. Declare a framework and establish a mechanism to demand reparations from the top polluter and plunderer countries and corporations. Prevent corporations with dirty and destructive track records from operating in the country.
  9. Reject the use of market-based mitigation solutions such as carbon trading, Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM), and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) schemes as these are manipulated by corporations and other capitalist interests, rendering them ineffective in genuinely reducing carbon emissions.
  10. Formulate a national sustainable development roadmap that will ensure the Filipino people’s right to develop in transitioning towards a low-carbon economy premised on needs-based extraction and production, and people’s management. Promote nationalization and community-based management of energy, transportation, and other strategic industries and public utilities.
  11. Promote technology development and transfer, tapping local scientists, engineers and technologists and ensuring appropriateness and adaptability to local culture and geophysical conditions of the country and communities. Prioritize clean and renewable energy technologies. Harness indigenous knowledge systems and practices in climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. Implement the Environmental Education Act as a medium in advancing climate knowledge, research, and sustainable development.
  12. Stop the killing and harassment of environmental and human rights defenders and frontline communities facing the adverse impacts of environmental destruction, resource plunder, and climate-induced disasters; and hold accountable perpetrators of human rights abuses.

We call on the churches to:

  1. Proclaim climate justice by critiquing the neo-liberal economic policies that accelerate climate change; advocating for the recognition and compensation of climate debts; lifting up the voices and accompanying the struggles of those most impacted by a warming climate (Indigenous Peoples, peasants, fisher folk and coastal communities); and offering a ministry of service to meet the needs of climate change victims.
  2. Critique anthropocentric or human-centered theologies that justify the exploitation of nature and learn deeply from the spirituality, traditional wisdom and practices of Indigenous Peoples which are based on the understanding that we are all interconnected in the web of life.
  3. Educate our members on the roots and impacts of climate change through Sunday schools, liturgies, bible studies and prayers; to speak out locally and globally for climate justice; and to provide services which meet the needs of the most vulnerable and respect their rights.
  4. Build awareness of and preparedness for climate-related disaster risks; provide the necessary skills for church people to become first responders during times of emergencies; and encourage more churches to open up their facilities to become sanctuaries for people affected by disasters.
  5. Campaign against TNCs’ control of the food chain and the monocultural and agro-industrial model of food production and distribution which is carbon-intensive; as well as support and practice low-carbon alternatives such as community-based organic farming cooperatives, land trusts and local distribution systems.

We call upon all like-minded people to join in the urgent task of holding our government and corporations accountable for protecting and respecting people’s right to food, land and life in the context of climate change.