Public urged to stand with environmental defenders in the face of climate emergency

Youth activists and environmental advocates issued a symbolic ‘notice of strike’ today addressed to the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, to formally announce the upcoming major satellite action at the University of the Philippines – Diliman of the Global Climate Strikes on September 20.

“We will be on strike to demand the Duterte administration to come out with a Climate Emergency Declaration that will address our needs for climate resilience and mitigation, and demand climate justice,” said Gia Glarino, research and communications officer and climate strike campaigner of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).

“We have less than 11 years left until intensified coastal floods and extreme weather events spurred by climate change comes into full effect in the Philippines. But the Duterte government’s actions within the next 15 months will make or break our climate situation,” Glarino furthered.

The global climate strikes are being organized around important UN climate talks leading to the 26th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to urge nations to deliver on commitments for carbon emission cuts and climate fund pledges.

Environmental defenders
The green group called for greater recognition and respect for the rights of environmental defenders in the country, saying that “the most effective climate solutions are already in the hands of grassroots environmental defenders across the forests, fields and coasts.”

“Globally, small farmers are relied on for the management of 80% of our agricultural lands. Studies have shown that landscapes with the best preserved biodiversity can be found in lands managed by indigenous people. But in the Philippines, they constitute more than 70% of environmental defenders killed since 2001,” explained Glarino.

In a report delivered by Kalikasan PNE to the recently held National Inquiry on Human Rights Defenders by the Commission on Human Rights, it was revealed that a total of 225 environmental defenders were killed from 2001 to 2018.

The group said these martyred defenders were working on the protection of conservation areas, mineralized lands, agricultural lands, and other environmentally critical landscapes and seascapes amounting to 2,670,850 hectares.

A major driver of environmental defender killings under the Duterte administration is the aggressive expansion of plantations and other agribusiness venture arrangements, accounting for 50% of the killings under his term. Agribusiness plantations aim to cover 1.6 million hectares of fertile lands, which are mostly in ancestral domains or are up for agrarian reform land distribution.

“A Philippine Climate Emergency Declaration should have a program dedicated to improving the safety and security of environmental defenders. Areas where human rights atrocities have been perpetrated against environmental defenders should be declared as ‘no go’ zones for agribusiness plantations and other extractive and destructive projects,” Glarino ended.#