The other night I listened intently to President Aquino’s speech at the UN Climate Summit convened by Ban Ki Moon. Four minutes in, I was dumbfounded by statements like: “Nations should not engage in another protracted debate over the individual commitments of countries...” and “Let the first concrete commitment we make be a change in mindset...” without mentioning any form of tangible pledge to curb the Philippines’ greenhouse gas emissions.

What Pres. Noynoy Aquino said and didIn his speech, the president also mentioned the initiatives that the Philippines is doing to adapt to impacts of climate change, as well as its measures at promoting environmental practices in the development pathway of the country. What is ironic, though, is that his words vary greatly from what he has done.

I’m certainly not a policy expert, but after coming back from the well attended People’s Climate March in Jakarta, which supported the New York March I find the president’s statement (or lack of thereof) alarming. By not providing concrete and quantifiable targets in terms of emissions reductions from developing countries like the Philippines (who was represented by the president in the summit), he has done a great disservice to those who have been victimized by the impacts of climate change. The lack of any tangible obligation from our end has legitimized the very injustice that has brought us every extreme weather event that has devastated our country in recent years.

It has always been said that the Philippines is among the ‘most vulnerable and least prepared’ to face the impacts of extreme weather events brought about by the rapidly changing climate. What is ironic about this is that when it comes to the per capita greenhouse gas contributions the Philippines contributes less than 1% to the global figures of greenhouse gasses that causes global warming that induces climate change. This is nothing compared to the emissions of industrialized countries like the United States – it has historically contributed more than half of the global greenhouse gas emissions that brought us to this crisis.

The reality is though climate change affects everyone, the impacts are not evenly distributed, especially if those greatly impacted are countries that have no major historic contribution to the buildup of carbon emissions in our atmosphere.

A change in mindset is not a proportionate response to the gravity of the climate crisis. It is much the same as saying that all was done in good faith. As good as that may sound, intentions alone cannot stop climate change. Consistency is a matter of showing in concrete terms rather than speaking motherhood statements that makes one credible. That is why we need leaders that demand action, while at the same time acting upon the need to provide leadership in matters related to climate change.

Less than a year ago today, Typhoon Haiyan - one of the biggest storms recorded in human history - made landfall in the Philippines causing unparalleled destruction to which the Filipino peopls are still reeling from up to now. This, and the many other deadly storms that have in recent years wreaked havoc in the Philippines, served as warning signs that we should usher in leadership in emissions reduction and building resilience. More importantly, we should demand justice from countries whose development is built around the wanton burning of fossil fuels.

Even though we are not a big emitter, we should provide leadership in making dramatic cuts in our carbon footprints to send a clear message that we refuse to accept our climate’s present state as a new norm for our children. By not pledging cuts, we legitimize the inaction that has been blocking drastic ways to move forward with solutions to the climate crisis.

Faced with the prospect of our collective extinction as a specie, we are given the mandate to persevere in our struggle to stop runaway climate change by demanding actions not words from everyone, everywhere. To save everything we hold dear, we need to take tangible steps to radically change the way we use, produce and distribute energy, and set the scene for renewable energy, sustainable living and a socially just world.