MANILA, Philippines – Two days before US President Barack Obama's visit to the Philippines, local environmentalists called on the world leader to lead efforts to combat climate change.
“Obama’s upcoming visit is expected to focus on security, but he himself has talked about how climate change is now a top threat to human security worldwide. He must curb the US dependence on coal and hasten the shift to renewable energy,” said Melvin Purzuelo, convenor of the climate action group Aksyon Klima Pilipinas (AKP).
The US is recognized by United Nations scientists as having emitted the most greenhouse gases in the world throughout history.
As such, the country, led by Obama, should commit to drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
The US so far has only promised to reduce its emissions by 17%, a far cry from the needed 40 to 70% emission cuts, said Gerry Arances, National Coordinator of Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ).
Effects of such temperatures include severe droughts, more super typhoons, and sea level rise that could inundate human settlements.
Climate pledges from two presidents
The world is only 0.85 degrees Celsius warmer but, already, many countries are experiencing severe weather events unseen before.
“The Philippines and other poorer countries are already bearing the brunt of the problem without the means to confront it,” said Purzuelo.
“The US with other richer countries must honor their responsibility not only to mitigate but also to provide finance and technology transfer to poorer countries.”
Climate action advocates hope for strong pledges and actions from both Presidents Obama and Benigno Aquino III in the lead up to the new global climate treaty in 2015.
For his part, Aquino should champion the shift from coal to renewable energy dependence. The administration has built 17 coal plants all over the country and has approved 24 more. (READ: Green groups to DOE: What happened to renewable energy?)
Aquino should also mobilize the country's own resources for climate change adaptation, said AKP. (INFOGRAPHIC: Grading Aquino: Climate change action needs improvement)
The People’s Survival Fund (PSF), which, by law, allocates at least P1 billion for the adaptation initiatives of local governments, is one avenue.
“This is why we continue calling on President Aquino to sign the revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Climate Change Act, so that the PSF can be mobilized. More importantly, it is high time for the PSF to be funded by the national budget, as it has been languishing with unprogrammed funds in the past two years,” Purzuelo said. (READ: P500M allotted for People's Survival Fund, ecotowns)
'War on coal'
Obama should reject the Keystone XL pipeline project, an almost 2,000-kilometer US-Canada pipeline that will carry crude oil from Canada's tar sands across the continental United States to Texas.
But environmentalists have protested the project because producing the oil is said to release 3 times as much carbon dioxide as regular oil.
Carbon dioxide is the greenhouse gas most responsible for global warming.
On April 18, the Obama administration put the pipeline project on hold, citing legal issues over the pipeline passing an aquifer in Nebraska.
“We stand in solidarity with communities and fellow activists not only in the US, but also around the world in opposing Keystone XL. Obama should stop dilly-dallying over the pipeline if he really wants to leave behind a climate legacy,” Purzuelo said.
AKP hailed the Obama administration’s “war on coal,” referring to its moves to regulate emissions from power plants under the US Clean Air Act and to limit their funding of coal plants in other countries. (READ: Obama vows US 'will do more' against climate change)
Obama has "laid the framework for climate action" in his own backyard, said Purzuelo. Hopefully, he can convince Aquino to do the same in the Philippines. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.