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Legarda calls for youth empowerment on climate action, urges stronger involvement in solving plastic pollution

March 19, 2021

Three-term Senator, now Deputy Speaker, Loren Legarda today called on the youth to become more involved in environmental initiatives, especially solving problems on plastic waste, noting that they have the greatest stake in the sustainability of the environment.

Legarda, UNISDR Global Champion for Resilience and Commissioner of the Global Commission on Adaptation, made the call during her keynote speech at the Consumer Youth e-Forum facilitated by the Department of Trade and Industry – Consumer Policy and Advocacy Bureau (DTI-CPAB) in collaboration with the National Youth Commission as part of the annual celebration of the World Consumer Rights Day with the theme, Tackling Plastic Pollution.

“I have always been firm in my belief that you, our youth, are key partners in climate action—which is why I always reiterate the need to empower you by giving you the space and the capacity to be heard, to decide, and take meaningful action. The fresh perspectives, the energy, the innovative actions that only young people like you can bring might be exactly what we need to break this cycle of unsustainability by changing long-standing behaviors and patterns of consumption, systems of production, and ways of living,” Legarda said.

Legarda lamented the report from the World Economic Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and McKinsey & Company in 2016 that revealed that the world produced 20 times more plastic in 2014, around 311 million tonnes, than it did in 1964 at 15 million tonnes. The report warns that if this continues, our oceans would have more plastic than fish by 2050.

“We have to remember that plastics may be easily thrown away, but we cannot rid ourselves of the consequences just as easily. These consequences, as you know, include its effects on the environment. The amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by the production of plastics threatens the planet’s ability to keep global temperature rise below 1.5˚C—the threshold beyond which vulnerable countries like the Philippines cannot thrive, and may not even survive,” Legarda said.

On her part as legislator and an environment warrior, Legarda filed the proposed Single-use Plastics Regulation and Management Act, which calls for the strict regulation of plastic production and aims to phase out single-use plastics and encourages the use of native reusable bags made of organic or recycled materials, and reusable containers made of glass or non-toxic and non-hazardous materials.

Legarda further noted that the Philippines remains as one of the world’s worst plastic polluters, despite the fact that we are among the most vulnerable to the severe consequences of the unbridled production, thoughtless consumption, and wanton disposal of plastics. Unless the quality of waste management and implementation of Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Waste Management Act, which she authored and sponsored, increases in a meaningful way, we would be responsible for much more plastic waste in the coming years and we will have to hand down an irreparably damaged world to our future generations.

“Plastics are also a waste management nightmare—especially because roughly two-thirds of all the plastic the world has ever produced has been released back into the environment. It is unfortunate that despite our best efforts, despite having one of the best and most eco-friendly solid waste management laws, we still ranked third among the countries with the highest source of plastic ocean pollution, generating 1.88 million metric tonnes of mismanaged plastic garbage annually,” Legarda said.

Moreover, Legarda recognized the role of youth as drivers of environmental change and as leaders in solving the problem of plastic waste. She noted that the younger generation knows better that the world needs more than 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse Recycle and is aware that we need to work on a wider scale if we want to tackle the problem of plastics, especially since most governments, particularly in less developed countries, do not have efficient recovery systems.

“Younger people are more exposed to environmental education, and they have better means of accessing and sharing information about the environment. Older generations might think of climate action only in terms of the 3 Rs—Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but your generation is right from thinking that we actually need 7: Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair, and Replace, to keep our environment healthy, our planet alive, and our future secure,” Legarda said.

“Today you are called to respond to the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. The challenge for you now is to pull together more of your fellow young Filipinos to make sure your actions can have a wider reach and a greater impact. My hope for you is to continue taking steps that will raise awareness and find solutions to the challenges we face today through collaboration with like-minded groups and link up with more young people so you can speed up and scale up your initiatives, and inspire many more to act for the sake of our planet. I have hope that together, the Filipino youth can tip the balance in favor of a safer, greener, more prosperous world,” Legarda concluded.

Legarda, who has been strictly implementing segregation of waste in her home and workplace, has always urged everyone in the society to act with dispatch to reduce wastage and veer away from a throwaway culture. She discouraged the use of plastic bags and other disposable utensils and encourages the use of cloth bags, native reusable bags made of organic or recycled materials, and reusable containers made of non-toxic and non-hazardous materials. She also ensured that guidelines of environmental laws that mandates the proper segregation, collection and disposal of solid waste through the adoption of environmental practices in ecological waste management excluding incineration are observed and properly implemented.***