Setting a green agenda

Published May 13, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Johannes Chua


The next administration is starting to form its identity, which can be gleaned from the chosen members of the Cabinet. Environment groups and advocates are waiting with bated breath to see who will be placed in various departments that would oversee the protection and sustainable utilization of our natural resources — earth, water, air, caves, mines, deep sea, etc. Like what happened during the 2016 election of then President-elect Duterte, the fact that he chose the late Gina Lopez for the environment portfolio was a signal of a green agenda that highlighted sustainable and community-based eco programs rather than the exploration of more mining sites.

This early, various groups have called on the next administration to “immediately act on climate change.” They said that a strong climate leadership is an imperative in this critical decade for climate action — our last window of opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5-degree celsius.

One of these groups is Love 52, a youth movement that demands our next leaders for a green and just future through better governance. Joanna Sustento, the co-lead of Love 52, emphasized the need for the government to take action and hold the entities and corporations that are mostly responsible for the climate crisis accountable.

“We will lose our future if the climate crisis is not addressed, if our leaders won’t take action,” Sustento said. “We are not the ones handing out licenses to companies whose business practices destruct the environment. We’re not the ones who invented single-use plastic that is closely related to fossil fuel… There are powerful people and entities who have the greater responsibility because they created and continue to perpetuate the broken system.”

Another youth group, called the Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP), said that the youth is at the receiving end of the repercussions of the current extractive economic system. “It doesn’t make sense if your solution to climate change ends up undermining the well-being of the Filipino people. We need leadership that is vocal about the situation of the country and a leader who is willing to hold the industrialized, the Global North, and the Annex 1 countries accountable for their emissions that contribute to the climate crisis,” said Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of YACAP.

“This big problem needs to be solved by genuine leaders who would respond to the root causes of climate change and would bring forth proper changes to this system that is breaking our planet,” Jedryc Romero, executive director and founder of youth-led environmental organization KalikaSan Pablo added.

“We need leaders who have the humility to listen to experts, scientists, environmental defenders, and advocates,” Romero said, adding that this is the only way to ensure climate actions that are based on evidence and actual truth on the ground.

So, why did I mention all these youth eco groups? It is for the simple reason that they will be the ones who will inherit this planet — and, sad to say, would be the ones who will be most affected if any careless or irresponsible decisions will be made by the next administration.

I’m now, I like to believe, in the “middle” of my life but the youth still have a long, long way to go. And they can’t live on a planet marred by climate change — where typhoons are always at categories four or five, where heat breaches 39 degrees, and where microplastics are now contaminating their food.

There are so many environmental issues that must be faced soon. Yes, there are issues on national security, health and pandemic response, foreign affairs, employment and the economy, and so on. But I hope and pray that environment concerns will not be set aside and be placed among the top agendas. I hope that it will receive the utmost attention of our leaders not only those at the national level but also those who were elected in our cities and municipalities. For without this planet, where would Filipinos live and thrive? Last I checked, we only have one Philippines.  

(Johannes L. Chua is the editor of the Environment and Sustainability Section of Manila Bulletin.)