Legarda to Asian Judges: We Must Uphold the Rule of Law for the Sake of the Planet

September 26, 2016

“Do the future generations, our children and grandchildren, deserve the Earth we are leaving behind for them?” asked Senator Loren Legarda as she stressed the importance of upholding the rule of law in addressing climate change during the Third Asian Judges Symposium on Law, Policy and Climate Change organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), together with the Supreme Court of the Philippines and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).


The Senator cited a 1993 ruling of the Philippine Supreme Court, which said:  “The day would not be too far when all else would be lost not only for the present generation, but also for those to come—generations which stand to inherit nothing but parched earth incapable of sustaining life. 


Legarda, the forum’s keynote speaker, said, “Who would have thought that such prophecy would happen in our lifetime? We see it now unraveling right before our very eyes—sea level rise threatens to submerge island nations; ocean acidification is causing irreversible damage to our coral reefs, while the sudden shifts from hot temperatures to incessant rains pose uncertainties to agriculture, greatly affecting our food security.”


Legarda, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Climate Change and Global Champion for Resilience of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), stressed that taking the path of low carbon development is the just and right way as it presents enormous opportunities for green growth, green jobs and ensures a sustainable, secure and resilient future for all.


She added that the Philippine Development Plan should define clearly how the country will tread the low carbon development pathway and how the various sectors will pursue the transition our sustainable development goals entail.


“While the Paris Agreement acknowledges that developing nations like the Philippines will take time to decarbonize and will be able to do so only with external support, we should not stick to ‘business as usual’ in the way we pursue development,” she said.


Legarda explained that the Philippines can take advantage of its abundant sources of renewable energy—the amount of sun and wind is more than enough to power our entire country many times over. “We have the Renewable Energy Law of 2008 and though we may not totally ban coal, we should have a good energy mix where there is a bias for renewables.”


The Senator also noted that while the Philippines has numerous laws and policies focused on addressing issues on environment, public health and disaster resilience, these do not guarantee effective action.


“The presence of international agreements and local laws may not be enough to keep us alive. We need effective and fair enforcement of our environmental laws for the Earth to be able to sustain life in the succeeding centuries. We must uphold the rule of law for the sake of the planet,” she said.


“The future of humanity and of the Earth depends on what we do now and what we will fail to do. Let us not make failure an option. Let us make resilience and sustainability our future,” Legarda concluded.


The Third Asian Judges Symposium, from September 26-27, 2016 at the ADB Headquarters in Mandaluyong City, brings together senior judges, legal professionals, experts on climate change, and other participants to focus on the core theme and to explore the role that the rule of law can play in responding to climate change. It aims to inspire powerful thoughts and discussions on how judiciaries in Asia and the Pacific can work with their governments and people on climate change mitigation and adaptation.[1]***

[1] Third Asian Judges Symposium on Law, Policy and Climate Change Concept Paper