‘Fighting climate change means changing the system’

Instead of taking action to bring down their GHG emissions, these developed countries are even “blurring the line” between themselves and the developing countries, by putting the weight of responsibility equally to all.


MANILA – A year after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Philippines, climate activists are calling for “climate justice.”

But more than just demanding rehabilitation and reconstruction for the disaster victims, they say that the fight should extend up to changing the system.

Meanwhile, the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – a world body of scientists endorsed by the United Nations – released its Synthesis Report, echoing calls for “substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” to limit climate change risks.

“Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” said the IPCC synthesis report, which came out Nov. 2. The report however, merely provides a “roadmap” for policy makers.

(Photo by Dee Ayroso / Bulatlat.com)
(Photo by Dee Ayroso / Bulatlat.com)

Climate justice

At the forum “The climate crisis: shifting the tides for climate justice,” environmentalists say it’s about time to hold accountable the biggest Western polluter countries led by the US as the ones responsible for climate change. It is these countries which increased people’s vulnerabilities to hazards, and has caused disasters.

The forum was held Oct. 28 at the College of Mass Communication at the University of the Philippines, sponsored by Ibon International and the Manila embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

“In honor of all victims of climate injustice, we demand government’s urgent action on people’s demands, not just for protection, rehabilitation and relief, but also for reparations,” Ibon International said in a statement. “The principle of justice requires that those responsible for climate change foot the bill.”

“The advanced capitalist countries have the historical responsibility to undertake more ambitions climate actions for having contributed most to global warming,” Ibon International said in its statement.


Dr. Giovanni Tapang, of the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham), said the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) radically increased during the Industrial Revolution in the western countries in the 1750s. Capitalist production, which is production for profit, has created waste and pollution. The biggest emitter of GHGs is the US, he said.

“The capitalists have been producing more than what is needed because they want profits,” he said. This kind of production has increased GHG levels, which has caused global warming, melting glaciers and increasing the sea level as well as the acidity of sea water.

Tapang said that hazards, such as typhoons and droughts, occur naturally. People’s vulnerability to hazards increases because of contributing factors such as poverty, landlessness, joblessness, government corruption. Disasters happen when people can no longer cope with hazards.

Tapang said these factors boil down to ownership of resources, which, in the Philippines, is controlled by the landlords, big businessmen in partnership with foreign investors.

Ibon International said “The richest one per cent of people now own nearly half of the global wealth.” But it is the poor, like the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, who are “paying for the top one per cent’s greed.”

“This madness is the direct result of the global capitalist system that is predicated on uneding growth in extraction, production, consumption and waste for unending growth in profits.

Margarita Declaration

Meanwhile, a landmark document called the Margarita Declaration gives hope for developing nations to assert their rights – as well as Mother Nature’s – against the big Western polluter countries.

The Margarita Convention for Climate Change or the “Margarita Declaration” was signed by environmentalist NGOs and civil society groups in a gathering in the Isle of Margarita in Venezuela in July. Some governments, like Venezuela, were also signatories.

Climate activists say the declaration affirms their tenet that the fight to protect the environment should be within the frame of the struggle to change the socio-political system.

“The structural causes for climate change are linked to the current capitalist hegemonic system. Fighting climate change involves changing the system,” said the Margarita Declaration.

Leon Dulce, the campaign coordinator for Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said the declaration affirms that “the environment is a political issue,” adding that “the existing economic and political system is the root of climate change.”

“Only through the militant struggle of the people can we defend our environment,” Dulce said.

He said development aggression of private foreign corporations, such as mining, logging and megadam projects destroy the environment, steal the nation’s resources and leave the Filipino people impoverished.

The Margarita Declaration came out five months before the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). The COP 20 will be held in Lima, Peru in December this year.

Ma. Theresa Lauron of Ibon International and the People’s Movement on Climate Change (PMCC) decried that the COPs held in the past 19 years have not resulted to concrete action that decreases the level of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

She said the “Annex 1 countries,” referring to the Western developed countries, have been getting away with non-commitment, and insist on “pledge and review” agreement, instead of a globally-binding one, which would compel them to bring down their GHG emission levels.

Lauron said that sadly, those who are least capable of stopping climate change are the ones most affected by it.

Instead of taking action to bring down their GHG emissions, these developed countries are even “blurring the line” between themselves and the developing countries, by putting the weight of responsibility equally to all, Lauron said. “They (the developed countries) say: ‘We should all contribute to making solutions,’” she said.

Lauron said there are serious discussions about “geo-engineering” solutions, or manipulating the environment to reduce global warming. For example, she cited artificial spraying of dust in the atmosphere to screen the heat of the sun. This, however, will still not curb carbon emission levels.

Lauron also mentioned how European countries claim to have reduced their carbon levels by the use of biofuels. But biofuel production comes at the expense of agricultural production and food security of developing nations such as the Philippines.


The climate activists at the forum said that Venezuela’s efforts “give hope” that something can be done for climate change.

Natalie Natera Valdiviezo, the First Secretary at the Manila embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, spoke about how Venezuela, the fifth largest producer of oil in the world, had adapted laws to mitigate climate change for the past 15 years under its late President Hugo Chavez.

Valdiviezo said Venezuela produces 27 million barrels of day for local consumption, as well as for export to assist other countries. Although the country can actually produce more, it limits its production to keep its GHG emissions low. The oil industry is state-owned, thus its production is not motivated by profit.

She also said the government had pushed for awareness-building and education of the people on the environment, which helps to lessen their vulnerability to hazards.


Meanwhile, a 2010 research by couple UP broadcaster Edgie Francis Uyanguren and Glennis showed how a community in San Mateo, Rizal province was able to survive typhoon Ketsana in 2009, because of the people’s preparedness and cooperation.

Uyanguren presented the research in the forum, and showed that South Libis village was sandwiched by two rivers, but in spite of its hazardous location, the community had zero casualty – an exception to the case of majority of the areas within and nearby Metro Manila. He said the village did not receive any relief assistance from the government, even after the typhoon.

The Uyangurens’ research showed that even before the typhoon struck, the people had organized themselves, and had practice “sharing and reciprocity,” which became crucial when they had to rescue and help each other at the height of the typhoon.

This, he said, showed how people can overcome vulnerabilities by educating and helping themselves.


Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chair, said in his remarks at the synthesis report launch: “The window of action is really closing very rapidly. If you look at the total carbon budget to ensure that temperature increase by the end of the century will not exceed 2 degrees celsius, we’ve already used up a substantial share of this. What’s remaining for us is only 275 gigatons of carbon.”

Pachauri said the sources of emissions are: 35 percent from the energy sector, 24 percent from agriculture, forestry and other land uses, 21 percent from industry, 14 percent from transport, and 6.4 percent from the building sector.

“We have little time before the window of opportunity to stay within 2ºC of warming closes. To keep a good chance of staying below 2ºC, and at manageable costs, our emissions should drop by 40 to 70 percent globally between 2010 and 2050, falling to zero or below by 2100. We have that opportunity, and the choice is in our hands,” he said.

An IPCC press statement said: “Many adaptation and mitigation options can help address climate change, but no single option is sufficient by itself. Effective implementation depends on policies and cooperation at all scales, and can be enhanced through integrated responses that link adaptation and mitigation with other societal objectives.”

The IPCC is “the world body for assessing the science related to climate change” and was set up by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The IPCC synthesis report was authored by 800 scientists, with 1,000 others reviewing 30,000 scientific documents. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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  1. This article prompted me to reread Monthly Review’s “Global Resource Depletion, Is Population the Problem (January, 2013) written by Fred Magdoff. It concurs with the analysis that capitalism lies at the root of the major problems, such as human-induced global warming powering the long term climate change that is upon us. More important than this observation is Fred Magdoff’s conclusion that replacing the socio-economic system of capitalism will not be enough. Here’s why:

    Data from the World Bank’s 2008 World Development Index shows that:
    1. 10% of the world’s population with the highest incomes is responsible for 59% of world consumption of resources, that is some 700 million people.
    2. The poorest 40% of the people on Earth (2.8 billion people) consume less than 5% of the natural resources.
    3. The poorest 20% (1.4 billion people) consume less than 2% of natural resources.

    Note that in this data set, the category of rich or poor refer to people, not countries (there are rich Filipinos, as there are rich Chinese, Japanese, Americans, Saudis, Qataris, etc.)

    It is a given that poor people have “low carbon footprints,” and this is well illustrated in Fred Magdoff’s quip that “even if the poorest billion people were to disappear (magically, I hope), it won’t matter much, in terms of natural resource use.” Mr. Magdoff cleverly observes something that should be obvious already, saying that “the population problem is not about too many poor people, but too many rich people living “high on the hog” and consuming too much.”

    Fred Magdoff describes the socio-economic system that must replace capitalism as one whose purpose is fulfilling everyone’s material and nonmaterial needs, along democratic principles, consistent with “substantive equality among people and a healthy biosphere for all the Earth’s inhabitants.” From the data set presented above, he further concludes that this will require modest living standards—an idea that’s anathema to capitalism, yet a natural quality of socialism.

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