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Legarda: Uphold Human Rights through Climate Justice

December 9, 2017

In observance of the International Human Rights Day (December 10) and the anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement  (December 12), Senator Loren Legarda expressed how important it is for the Philippines, which remains to be one of the highly vulnerable countries to climate change, to pursue climate justice in the international arena for the millions of Filipinos whose basic human rights are curtailed because of prevailing climate change risks and impacts.

Legarda, Chair of Senate Committees on Climate Change, Finance, and Foreign Relations, UNISDR Global Champion for Resilience, and UNFCCC Adaptation Champion, said that the Philippines must amplify the demand for pre-2020 commitments from the developed countries—such as the discussion on loss and damage for the irreparable effects of climate change and the provision of finance through the Green Climate Fund and Adaptation Fund—in anticipation of the full implementation of the Paris Agreement by 2020.

“We always need to contextualize the discussion on climate change with the issue of human rights. We cannot truly address climate change if we do not recognize the fact that climate change impinges on our very basic human rights, such as access to food, water, shelter, livelihood, and the right to life itself,” Legarda said.

“Compared to industrialized countries, the Philippines barely contributes to global warming, and yet we bear its brunt. Every year, millions of families get displaced, thousands of lives and livelihoods are lost, and billions worth of agriculture and infrastructure are damaged because of climate change. It is time that we seek justice for these tragedies,” Legarda added.

According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), disasters cost the Philippine economy Php206 billion annually, cutting the country’s GDP by 0.3 to 0.4%. Between 2011 and 2015 alone, the agriculture sector in the Philippines suffered production losses of Php163.6 billion due to climate change.

Legarda added that the Philippines also experiences increases in school dropout rates, mental and psychological issues, outbreak of communicable diseases, and malnutrition, among others, due to climate change impacts on the health and education sectors.

The Senator also cited the global climate deal Paris Agreement, which acknowledges climate change as “a common concern of humankind, [and that] Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.”

“The Paris Agreement charters a new path for the fate of humanity—one that protects our rights, safeguards our environment, and secures the future for our children. We must ensure commitment from all countries and foster global solidarity in order to realize this goal,” Legarda said.

Legarda said that it is also important for the Philippines to promote climate justice in our own country by advancing climate change adaptation and mitigation at the national and local level.

She said that she is proud that we have been able to make our national budget a climate budget for institutionalizing adaptation measures, as well as including special and general provisions that will ensure ecological integrity, clean and healthy environment, risk-sensitive investments, and disaster preparedness.

She added that realigning our efforts to achieve our mitigation goals, which is essentially 1.5˚C, through our Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), is equally important for the Philippines in order to usher in a low carbon economy.

“Climate justice is to demand for what is right and just for the Filipinos who everyday fall victim to climate change. It is to improve our capacity to adapt and mitigate. It is to commit to upholding the right of every Filipino to a better life,” Legarda concluded.