MANILA, Philippines — Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the likely winner of the presidential elections, will be tasked with leading the Philippines through a crucial period that will determine the future of humanity on an overheated planet.
Science has made it clear: time is running out to secure a viable future for the planet, and nations must implement deep and immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Celsius. Any rise above this threshold will trigger the worst effects of the climate crisis.
In a nation battered by an average of 20 tropical cyclones each year and threatened by rising sea levels, climate change did not feature as a major issue during the 90-day election campaign.
Ruth Lusterio-Rico, a political scientist specializing in environmental policy, explained that voter awareness of the impacts of climate change is quite low despite it being a cross-cutting issue.
“They still can’t relate the climate crisis to their experiences, even to poverty. So those running for political office don’t grasp the issue,” University of the Philippines professor Diliman said. Philstar.com.
Harvard Humanitarian research published in 2020 found that 60% of respondents said they had not heard of and did not feel well informed about climate change. But the study also found that 71% of Filipinos feared being affected by its impacts.
Lusterio-Rico added that election campaigns in the country focus on personalities, not issues.
“In fact, very few candidates run under an environmental and climate program.”
Unclear adaptation and mitigation plans
The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of human-induced climate change, which disproportionately affects the poor.
The candidates pledged to fight poverty and corruption, provide jobs and livelihoods, improve the country’s health system and even unify the nation. But their plans to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change were largely absent from the election campaign.
In a report released days before the May 9 election, the Commission on Human Rights stressed that individual efforts to tackle climate change will be wasted if leaders are blind to the plight of the planet.
Greenpeace activist Virginia Benosa-Llorin observed that candidates’ usual responses in debates and interviews focused on energy development and disaster response.
“Generally, there have been no clear and specific plans to address climate change mitigation and adaptation concerns among applicants,” she said.
Almost all candidates mentioned the need to seek clean and cheap renewable energy sources.
Marcos and his closest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo, said they plan to tap into geothermal, hydroelectric, wind and solar power sources. Robredo also highlighted the need for a clear roadmap to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Throughout the campaign period, labor leader Leody de Guzman has been consistent in his positions: pushing for clean energy technologies and rejecting the use of planet-warming fossil fuels. He placed eighth in the presidential race.
“The interest in mitigation is there. In many ways this reflects the policies of the current administration which also seem to be focusing more on mitigation,” said Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of Youth Advocates for Climate Action. Philippines.
To bring the climate agenda to the fore, Lusterio-Rico said environmental groups should “make voters and candidates aware that environmental and climate issues are critical right now” by having champions among government officials in the national and local levels, and strengthening environmental education through informal channels.
Climate change plan
Several climate activists and conservationists have backed the duo of Robredo and his running mate, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, saying they offer “knowledgeable, responsive and firm leadership” in tackling climate change. and solve the country’s environmental problems.
The administrative tandem of Marcos and Duterte-Carpio landed the nation’s top two jobs by wide margins.
As the likely next president, Marcos will lead the direction of the country’s policy to tackle climate change.
But for Leon Dulce, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, another presidency of Marcos “augurs a return to the dark ages”.
“[Marcos] has no plan, and that includes climate action and environmental protection. It will be a blind leading a blind under a presidency of Marcos,” Dulce said.
Greenpeace’s Benosa-Llorin said the next administration should halt the expansion of fossil gas projects, scrap plans to expand nuclear power and ensure that renewables make up half of the country’s energy mix.
The presumptive elected president supports the inclusion of nuclear energy in the energy mix. Marcos also intends to revive the Bataan nuclear power plant, the project of his dictator father which has been mothballed since the 1980s due to safety concerns. Environmentalists call nuclear energy a “false climate solution”, expensive and dangerous.
Benosa-Llorin also urged the new leaders to hold the world’s biggest polluters accountable for human rights abuses linked to climate change and to act on the recommendations of the National Climate Change Inquiry report of the Commission on Climate Change. human rights.
Its recommendations include declaring a climate and environmental alert, reviewing the country’s climate pledges, and amending the Climate Change Act and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act.
In an interview with CNN Philippines last week, sociologist Nicole Curato said whoever wins the election is “the person who will decide who lives and dies in this country.”
“This president will decide our climate policy. This person will decide how we respond to disasters and how we respond to COVID-19.”