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Privilege Speech: Why Do I Care? – A Report on the Summit of the Consciences for the Climate

July 29, 2015

Senator Loren Legarda’s Privilege Speech
Why Do I Care? – A Report on the Summit of the Consciences for the Climate
28 July 2015 | Senate Session Hall

Mr. President,

Exactly a week ago, on July 21, more than 40 religious, environmental, cultural and political leaders gathered in Paris, France for a Summit of the Consciences for the Climate, convened by French President FranÇois Hollande whose state visit to the Philippines in February highlighted the need for urgent climate action.

The Summit was a prelude to the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21), which will also be hosted by the French Government in December this year.

“Why do I care for the planet?”

This was the question asked from each of the participants in the Summit, including this representation who was invited to participate as a panelist speaker.

Before we even talk about what nations must do to save the world from the threats of climate change and agree on a universal climate deal on greenhouse gas emissions, each of us should have a personal reflection on what we can do to contribute to protecting the planet. We can no longer delay action because that would mean tragedy for our children and our children’s children. We are the custodians of the Earth and stewards of its natural resources, thus, it is our responsibility to ensure that future generations will continue to live in a green, healthy and resilient world.

If many are not yet convinced why we should care for our planet, let me share with you why we should.

French President Hollande said: “There are refugees of wars, refugees fleeing terrorism, but there are also displaced and climate refugees, forced to leave their homes, to leave their villages, sometimes to separate from their families because it is no longer possible to live there and feed themselves. That is what is at stake in Paris in December. This challenge is so great that it requires the mobilization of all.”

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan stressed that we must address climate change now for the sake of our grandchildren, “We have the duty to bequeath to them a world where all of mankind lives in peace and harmony with nature.”

Irish President Michael Higgins warns that “ours may be the final generation with the opportunity to effectively respond to the urgent, uncontested effects of climate change.”

Prince Albert of Monaco said that we need a lifestyle change, one that does not prey on the Earth’s resources and cause deterioration of ecosystems, the land and the seas. He said “fighting against climate change is to reconnect to authentic progress, progress which is shared among all.”

Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the French President for the Protection of the Planet, who initiated the Summit said, “Behind the general term of climate change we have here a profound civilization and cultural crisis. We have men, women and children who are waiting in despair for us to deal with the causes of their suffering. The climate crisis is the ultimate injustice.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, stated that “the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. Yet the costs of climate change are being borne disproportionately by those least responsible for it and least able to adapt to it — the poor.”

France’s Minister for Ecology, Segolene Royal, said “Man is the only living being with a conscience, capable of expressing its conscience, but this means human beings have responsibility towards other living beings and the planet itself.”

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, through a message delivered by Janos Pasztor, Assistant-Secretary-General on Climate Change, said “Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. It affects us all, but it does not affect us all equally. We have a profound responsibility to protect and assist the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people and to pass on to future generations a planet that is thriving and healthy.”

Many more leaders of various faith, religions and cultural affiliations shared meaningful and powerful statements about the need to combat climate change. But I wish to stress the common messages during the said Summit.

First, climate change is one of the greatest challenges, if not the greatest, humanity is facing today. Second, in order to effectively combat climate change, we need to progressively decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, especially coal, and shift to renewable energy. Finally, no effort will be successful unless all of us work together, not just governments, but also businesses, civil society, and every individual in this planet.

At the end of the Summit, the Call to Consciences for the Climate, which all the participants, including this representation, signed, was launched and will be presented to each Head of Delegation at the COP21 in December.

This documents invites leaders attending the COP21 to reflect and answer the question “Why Do I Care?” with the hope that they will come to the conference “primarily as a conscious human being not just a representative of a Government or agency.”

Mr. President,

I was also able to share my views during the Summit and I said that the Philippines is only a 0.3 percent emitter of carbon in the world and yet we are one of the most vulnerable nations affected by the extreme weather events caused by the changing climate. Being a vulnerable nation that has done the least to cause this vulnerability, we hope that the Philippines will be the first to show a positive outcome of the said Summit. With that I declared my commitment to convince the President to convene a Summit of Consciences in the Philippines.

I hope we could all ask ourselves, ‘Why do I care?’ so that we can dig deeper into our mind, heart and conscience. Because until we have taken it upon ourselves that the key to addressing climate change and its threats lies in each and every person’s effort to be part of the solution, then the greatest challenge we will have to fight is our own apathy and our own indifference.

Climate change goes beyond science, beyond politics, beyond territorial boundaries. Inaction and apathy will spell death and loss. The state of our environment is precarious and we need a call of conscience. But while climate change is a complex challenge, it is not impossible to address. The solution can be found in each one of us. All we need is to be responsible and to take urgent action.

We all need to embrace meaningful change—change in the way we think, change in the way we live, and change in the way we pursue the development and the future we long for—for all of humanity.

Thank you, Mr. President.