Bonn and barangays: telling the climate change story

Purple Romero
Posted May 16, 2018 from Philippines

 

 

If you don't know the connection or the common denominators between the Bonn climate change intersessionals and the recently-concluded barangay or village elections in the Philippines, then it's our job as journalists to explain to you what they are. 

The challenge of doing so represents, in a nutshell, what reporting about climate change is all about: establishing the link between international policies and local actions, showing the relevance of highfalutin pronouncements to everyday life and making the story of climate change matter to all.

In this post, we will explore how best we can do that by looking at the factors that connect the two events which I mentioned above:

1. Conflict of interest

The Bonn climate talks, conducted from April 30-May 10, 2018 touched on the thorny subject of conflict of interest in the negotiations. This stems from the presence of fossil fuel firms in the talks, whether through funding any element of it or by being represented by business and industry non-government organizations in the deliberations. Any patina of influence from the dirty industry should be subverted because it may result in watered-down provisions. 

The effort to include conflict of interest in the UN formal text has been blocked, however, putting a damper over serious attempts to actually have it tackled.

The issue of conflict of interest - and how it muddles policymaking - is also a grave problem in local leadership at the community level. Barangay or village officials who work for fossil fuel companies and have accepted campaign funds from the same make themselves vulnerable to pressure from these firms. They cannot be expected to pass or support critical ordinances or regulations pushing for climate change mitigation. In both events, therefore, transparency is non-negotiable.

2. Money 

Developed nations are hesitant to fund loss and damage, which refers to the impacts of extreme and slow onset weather events. People vying for local posts should be alarmed over this - why? Communities which suffer the brunt of the consequences of climate change will need considerable money for rehabilitation and we are not just talking about insurance here. 

Not much progress has been achieved in this arena in the Bonn intersessionals and the same can be said about the overall discussions on finance - the replenishment of the Green Climate Fund, the main funding vehicle for climate actions and the raising of climate finance for 2025 beyond the annual $100-billion mark.

But here's the thing: even if the discussions on money may not be as dynamic or promising on the international plane, this does not mean your local leaders should not be doing anything. Local government units down to the villages are mandated to allocate 5 percent of their total budget for disaster risk reduction and management and are also required to climate-proof their funds. 

Hence, ask your local leaders what projects will be funded by the said taxpayers' money. Make them accountable for it. Any amount for climate change mitigation or adaptation - big or small - should be spent prudently. Corruption has no place in climate actions.

3. Rulebook

Implementing the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement will be guided by the Rulebook. This is why this document is very important - it answers a lot of how's: how countries will report on what they have done to minimize the impacts of climate change, how will adaptation, mitigation and loss and damage be funded, how will the efforts of each party will be monitored. 

The drafting of the Rulebook is one bright spot in the Bonn climate talks, though more has to be threshed out before it can be completed. 

 It is not only the Paris Agreement which has a Rulebook, however. At the local level, elected leaders also have their own "rulebook" - and this is the Local Government Code. The said code mandates that all elected officials have the duty to protect the environment as well as the welfare and well-being of their constituents. This code can therefore be invoked whenever a local official votes to approve the application for permits of coal-fired power plants or allows the clearing of forests for the construction of commercial establishments. 

These three components are strands to the continuing climate change story, where global priorities are reflective of local realities and where local realities are shaped by personal contexts.  Journalists must be able to tell the whole narrative to elucidate why when it comes to addressing climate change, actions and decisions at all levels count.

Comments 10

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Jill Langhus
May 16, 2018
May 16, 2018

Hi Purple. Thanks for sharing your post about the challenges concerning climate change in your country. I'm really not even sure why there still exist conflicts of interest still with politics and the climate. I feel like most people still behave as if there is another Earth to go to. Very troubling to me. I agree that voters/citizens alike need to know exactly where the taxpayers money is being allocated to. Also, what is the Rulebook? I've never heard of this Rulebook. Where can I learn more about it?

Purple Romero
May 16, 2018
May 16, 2018

Hi Jlanghus! It also perturbs me that there's still a debate on whether we need urgent and ambitious climate actions or not - while I do understand that economic and geopolitical considerations should also be given weight by our leaders, isolating these matters from environmental protection is quite counterintuitive. Regarding the Rulebook, here's a comprehensive take on it from WRI: http://www.wri.org/blog/2016/11/insider-crafting-paris-agreements-rule-b.... Enjoy!

Jill Langhus
May 17, 2018
May 17, 2018

Hi Purple. Indeed. Thanks for sharing the Rulebook:-)

QueenVirtuous
May 16, 2018
May 16, 2018

Hi Purple Romero.

First of all, I like your name.

I am also of the opinion that local governments and villages really do not have to wait for international organizations and developed countries before they can join the fight to mitigate climate change.

The question is, do the local people know about the mandatory 5 percent allocation of the budget that should be geared towards disaster risk reduction and management? Do they know about the "rulebook"?

If they are ignorant of these things, they will be incapable of holding their leaders accountable to that effect. Knowledge is power and I think that besides just knowing about the effects of climate change, locals should be helped to understand the Local Government Code and to understand that their local government authorities are under compulsion to do something about it.

I totally agree with you on the matters about which you have written.

I love your work. You have a strong voice. You make us proud. And I love this piece which you have written. Please, keep us updated on your work.

One love in sisterhood.

Purple Romero
May 16, 2018
May 16, 2018

Hi QueenVirtuous!

You raised such a good point - the public must also learn more about the Local Government Code and other laws which define their power and responsibilities i.e. required funding for development and disaster risk reduction and management. The media have reported about this but it does need more vigorous and consistent coverage in order to contribute to the public's meaningful edification.

Thanks again for taking the time to read my post and for sharing your insights about it. I look forward to reading your articles too and knowing more about your own advocacy. YOU make us proud too!

QueenVirtuous
May 16, 2018
May 16, 2018

My dear Purple Romero,

I like the part about vigour and consistency. Those are truly key to getting everyone involved in the work.

Thanks for the compliments. You made me blush! Sure, I'll post a story soon.

coolasas
May 16, 2018
May 16, 2018

Hello Purple,
Don't stop telling your narrative until people take notice, that's the way stories get traction but as stories this controversial it will take its sweet time that's why we need people like you.
On community development perspective, the grassroots movement can work side by side with international and national players but will require commitment, accompaniment concerning budget and technique and of course recognition of the efforts being done. That way hopefully, eventually, maybe it will meet half-way, and we can have a semblance of success in the fight against climate change.
Keep it up kabayan!

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Jun 01, 2018
Jun 01, 2018

Climate Change is no longer a topic to be discussedor debated upon in the Philippines. We know it is real. We feel it.

We have stronger typhoons and even experiencing hailstorms in the North. Our summer produces a record-breaking heat index.

But sadly, there isn't much actions for disaster preparedness and mitigations initiated by local governments. We still tend to be reactive than proactive.

After Yolanda, we thought infrastructures of good quality are built in the affected areas, but surprisingly, Urduja happened and it flooded Tacloban City making us wonder what happened to foreign donations for the Yolanda rehabilitations.

But I agree with you, Kabayan, we should keep raising awareness on this topic because we are a living exhibit of its harmful, deadly effects.

Kudos to your information drive!

Sister Zeph
Jun 19, 2018
Jun 19, 2018

Dear Purple thank you for sharing on such an important topic actually this is a most concerning thing for our world but there are few people who care about it, politicians do not want to talk about it, media also does not give it a priority, I think we should focus on common people to give them awareness and we need more people like you who have this much wisdom and courage to speak on this topic, thank you very much for being who you are, God bless you

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