The environment must be part of the election conversation

Published April 7, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

With more or less 30 days before the national elections, the campaign season is hotter than the rising temperature of summer. With the open space provided by social media, various online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and even TikTok are filled with political content — some are true but most often than not, a lot are misinformation, deliberately done to sow false or inaccurate reports.

There is a lot of “noise” filling up our screens and everywhere we look, the noise sounds louder and more glaring. Of course, in an election cycle, these political antics and gimmicks are unavoidable. But, what if we momentarily shut off the noise and talk about issues?

One of the alarming things that a lot of civic-minded citizens and people’s organizations have raised is the lack of conversation about the environment. Right now, it seems that there is no one among the 10 presidential candidates who has laid down an encompassing environment agenda aimed at committing to the 1.5 degree Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement.  To put it simply, the voters haven’t been fully informed by the presidentiables of their plans to combat climate change and to make our country climate resilient.

In interviews and debates held in the past few weeks, some presidentiables have already shared snippets of their stand on some environmental issues, such as open-pit mining, clean energy, or sourcing of water. Since these television or online interviews are targeting more viewers and higher ratings, questions to the candidates tend to be more TV-friendly in order to elicit answers that are ideal for soundbites and social media artcards.

Talking about climate is not “easy” — it is a complex and multifaceted issue that touches on economics, urban development, resource management, and, of course, our survival as a nation.  Climate is not just about tree-planting, estero cleanup, and the use of an eco-bag.  That is just the tip of an iceberg. Below it is a whole spectrum of issues such as renewable energy, carbon emissions, mining inside a protected area, wildlife protection, land reclamation, even the legality of a dam in an ancestral domain and the feasibility of a dolomite beach.

Early this week, climate experts from the United Nations (UN) sounded an alarm that, hopefully, will reach the ears of our presidentiables.  The experts said that “humanity has less than three years to halt the rise of planet-warming carbon emissions and less than a decade to slash them by nearly half.”  They warned that the world will face “a last-gasp race to ensure a liveable future.”

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a 2,800-page report — the most comprehensive assessment of how to halt global heating ever produced — which showed the importance of government decisions.

“We are at a crossroads,” said IPCC chief Hoesung Lee. “The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming.” The UN panel cited some examples that can be done, first of which is to stop greenhouse gas emissions from rising any further.

The report also made clear that investments to cut emissions will be far less expensive than the cost of failing to limit warming. And scientists warn that any rise above 1.5 degree Celsius risks the collapse of ecosystems and the triggering of irreversible shifts in the climate system.

Since time is running out, whoever the electorate will choose as the next president should have an immediate plan to address climate change, and a clear policy on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The presidency is not for the faint-hearted, nor is it for the uninitiated. Only a fully informed president can make a wise decision for our future. With that, the electorate deserves to be fully informed right now of a candidate’s green agenda.