...when a relentless downpour engulfed Metro Manila, in a deluge never before seen or felt by majority of its inhabitants.
September 26, 2009: Typhoon Ondoy (international code name Ketsana) dumped 334 millimeters of rain in the first six hours, the highest ever recorded rainfall in the metropolis. The previous record was 341 millimeters over a 24 hour period 42 years ago. Ondoy submerged up to 80% of the city, and covered areas that never experienced flooding before, stranding people on rooftops and bringing death and misery to rich and poor alike. Even after the waters subsided, Metro Manila and the outlying regions were largely unprepared to handle the evacuees, the injured, and much less the contamination that the floodwaters brought.
Climate experts say that unless decisive solutions are immediately put on the table, the worst is yet to come. However, industrialized countries, which account for most of the world's carbon emissions - the greatest contributor to climate change – are still yet to take responsibility and show leadership towards genuine solutions.
The Philippines, like many other island nations, contributes to less than 1% of the world’s total carbon emissions, but is expected to be one of the countries to be hardest hit by the impacts of climate change. Around the world this scenarios is being repeated over and over. Poor countries are suffering disproportionately from the effects of human-induced carbon emissions that mostly come from the developed nations.
Whether it’s about water access, drought, flooding, vulnerability to more frequent and ever intensifying storms and other extreme weather events or exposure to diseases that the rising temperatures have encouraged to grow, the story remains the same: the poor people are yet to have the means to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
That is why we believe that beyond all the environmental concerns of climate change’s impacts lies the need also to look at the issue from the perspective of justice. Because climate change causes drought, floods and other natural disasters that affect food production, it has become one of the greatest threats to reducing poverty, advancing global development and realizing human rights that the world has ever seen, and if we do not take urgent and immediate action to stop global warming, by means of mitigating the increase of carbon dioxide emissions as well as in putting into place strong adaptation measures to those vulnerable to its impacts, the damage could become irreversible.
Climate justice is a response that equates human rights and development with a human-centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly.
We believe that equating justice with climate change means a fundamental change in the way we produce, use, and distribute energy, so that countries like the Philippines can respond to the most pressing energy challenges, such as climate change and energy security, which the world currently faces. This involves the massive uptake of renewable energy, as well as the comprehensive use of energy efficiency measures in household and industry, and the transformation of the energy grid to allow for more flexible distribution of energy, to which we have persistently been calling the government to act upon.
Our International Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, once said that “history teaches us that when decent people take risks and engage in struggle for principles, peacefully and courageously, pursuing civil disobedience where necessary, then those who occupy the instruments of power, whether in government or in the financial sectors, will listen and understand.”
That is perhaps what we need to face up to, as we remember what happened here in Manila 2 years ago: we need to claim Ondoy’s lessons as well as its challenge for us to make conscious decisions in our lifestyles as well as in our engagement with the systems that are in place in our society to demand actions that would go beyond words...