By Leslie J. Batallones
DUMAGUETE CITY – Thousands of people from civil society groups, religious associations, and local government representatives of Dumaguete marched around the city for climate change justice last Nov. 29.
The march took place ahead of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris. COP21 aims to come up with a new deal on climate change that would limit carbon emissions.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, global average temperatures in 2015 are likely to be warmest on record. The march for climate justice calls for governments of developed countries to financially assist developing countries in dealing with climate change.
The march also pushes for fair actions to keep 80 percent of known fossil fuel to limit warming below 2 degree Celsius. Burning fossil fuel is among the human activities that cause greenhouse effect.
“We demand for a more ambitious target from countries historically responsible for climate change. COP21 must ensure we limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said Zephanie Repollo, Campaigns Coordinator of 350.org.
Repollo added that the march calls governments from the United States, Europe, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom, and China to cut their carbon emissions because developing countries like the Philippines “suffer most from the pollution.”
“We need renewable technology that uplifts peoples and our right to a healthy environment, not the kind that cuts our century old trees, contaminate our waters, and destroys our ecosystem. We need an economy that works for our people and the environment,” Repollo said.
Repollo stressed that some of the effects of global warming by greenhouse gases include extreme weather, rising sea levels, major shifts in climate, and unusual social disorder.
Among those who marched the streets of Dumaguete are the survivors of Typhoon Sendong last December 2011. Sendong left people homeless and claimed 36 lives, including children.
Before Sendong, 55-year-old victim Helen Torres lived in Cadawinonan. She urged people to listen to “nature’s call [for] action.”
“Kung dili ka maminaw sa kalihukan sa kalibutan, ang tanan madaot gyud. Kinakahanglan gyud ta maminaw,” Torres said. (If we don’t listen to the earth’s movements, everything will be broken. We really need to listen.)
Torres also said that there were illegal logging activities that caused flooding in her place before. Torres, with her family, now lives in a relocation site.
The climate mobilization also called for voters to choose leaders with environmental priorities.
“The march signifies the people’s readiness to be part of the solutions, making sure our 2016 electoral candidates understand the scale needed to respond to the climate crisis. We need the leadership and political will to put climate solutions on top of their agenda,” said Fr. Burton Villarmente, the Social Action Director to the diocese.
A group of five children called people to protect the earth so they will see “the kind of world they deserve.”
Meanwhile, Negrenses continue the call to save the remaining forest of Mt. Talinis.
“Mt. Talinis is providing us water. If we don’t act, we will wake up one day with no water in our faucet. Save Mt. Talinis, for our survival is non-negotiable,” said Aidalyn Arabe, an environmental advocate.
Last year, hundreds of environmental advocates gathered to urge provincial government to protect Mt. Talinis against the geothermal expansion project of Energy Development Company.
To support for a strong and fair global climate agreement, cities around the Philippines held a week of climate justice marches, which is part of all mobilizations across the world led by Paris.