Sins of commission and omission: Aquino’s climate policies

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III delivers his 2nd State of the Nation Address (SONA) during the joint Senate and House session of Congress at the Plenary Hall, House of Representatives Complex, Constitution Hills, Quezon City Monday July 25, 2011. (Photo by Robert Vinas/ Malacanang Photo Bureau)
President Aquino delivers his 2nd State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25, 2011. (Photo by Robert Vinas/ Malacanang Photo Bureau)

KALIBUTAN
By LEON DULCE

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Third of four parts
First part: A deluge of crises: the roots of our climate vulnerability
Second part: Polluters not paying: privatization as root of the energy crisis

Fourth part: A world to win: people’s actions on climate change

The guiding policy of the Aquino administration’s strategy to confront the climate crisis is the Climate Change Act of 2009 (RA 9729), which created the Climate Change Commission (CCC) as the sole policy making body tasked to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate the programs and action plans related to climate change.

The CCC was mandated to formulate the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change (NFSCC), which served as the basis for the formulation of the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP). With the passage of the People’s Survival Fund Act (RA 10174), the CCC was given the additional duty of managing a fund allocated for climate adaptation projects and programs.

Aside from the Climate Change Act, there are various other executive and legislative policies related to climate change, including the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 and various environmental laws. The monitoring and evaluation of these policies are also within the ambit of the CCC.

The national framework strategy on climate change

The NFSCC hinges on conducting comprehensive vulnerability and risk assessments across all identified climate-sensitive sectors. It also integrates climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in the country’s overall development plans.

The general perspective of the NFSCC, however, is based on the assumption that the Philippine climate crisis merely consists of technical problems that require technology, information, education and communications, and capacity building interventions. It ignores the concrete systemic problems of the country’s economy, society and politics that has led to the people’s worsening vulnerability in the face of intensifying plunder, pollution and climate disruption.

It is silent on the country’s development model that promotes globalization policies in which the privatization of energy, liberalization of agriculture, mining, fisheries, and other extractives, and the state abandonment of social services, public utilities, and other basic people’s needs are rooted.

It is also silent on in asserting common but differentiated responsibilities from developed nations and transnational corporations that historically contributed not only to climate pollution, but also to environmental destruction, social injustice, and economic inequities towards underdeveloped and vulnerable nations. It finds inadequate expression only in its strategy on climate financing.

OUR LIVES ARE NOT REPLACEABLE.  Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors marched in their thousands to decry the various continuing injustice wrought upon their communities. (Photo from People Surge facebook page)
OUR LIVES ARE NOT REPLACEABLE. Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors marched in their thousands to decry the various continuing injustice wrought upon their communities. (Photo from People Surge facebook page)

The national climate change action plan

The NCCAP applies the NFSCC on identified major thematic clusters: food security, water sufficiency, environmental and ecological stability, human security, climate-friendly industries and services, sustainable energy, and knowledge and capacity development.

Its main strategy is largely focused on various approaches to financing climate-related projects, followed by the formation of national and local implementation mechanisms. This reflects the analysis framework that requires only technology, information and education, and capacity building interventions. The concrete projects under these strategies, overseen by the CCC, are categorized between adaptation and mitigation pillars.

The adaptation pillar is focused on assessing the risks and vulnerabilities of different sectors of society and the economy, and in building the knowledge and capacities of government agencies. The CCC has an Eco-Towns project that seeks to establish certain demonstration municipalities as model ecosystem-based planning units.

The mitigation pillar is focused on building the capacities of government institutions in minimizing greenhouse gas emissions produced by its development projects and programs, including a greenhouse gas inventory, the promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and the promotion of ‘carbon credit’ schemes, which will allow developed nations to continue utilizing fossil fuels in exchange for various forms of support to underdeveloped nations.

Recently, the CCC also submitted the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), a system for countries to voluntarily commit their emissions cuts, that pledged to cut 70 percent of its carbon emissions in the energy, transport, waste, forestry and industry sectors by the year 2030, premised on the condition that it will receive assistance from the international community.

The core problem of the NCCAP is its promotion of market-based climate strategies that put the profit motive of private interests over the people’s interests. These mitigation strategies include environmental and natural resource accounting that is dangerously bordering on the monetization of our ecosystems, and carbon credit trading, REDD schemes, and clean development mechanisms that have been used by developed nations and corporations to continue with their ‘more business than usual’ pollution.

The NCCAP has no teeth as its outputs are merely advisory and recommendatory to all other government agencies implementing the different aspects of the country’s climate change strategies. Even existing policies that are known to be diametrically opposed to the objectives of the Climate Change Act, such as the country’s mining policy and energy policy regimes, have been left virtually unaddressed.

The Philippines’ subscription to the INDC scheme also runs the risk of playing into the intent of top polluter countries to distribute among underdeveloped nations what should be mandatory deep and drastic emissions cuts. In the process, the poorest countries are imposed with restrictions to their industries, hampering their right to develop. The INDCs are also focused on emissions cuts, neglecting the need for other much-needed pledges on climate reparations, technology transfers, and structural policy reforms.

With clear adverse impacts already being felt by grassroots communities everywhere in the Philippines, there are still no immediate adaptation programs outside of the People’s Survival Fund, which only recently had its implementing rules and regulations approved. The PSF itself has been criticized as a potential lump-sum fund that can function as a pork barrel mechanism, and in fact could be abused as a campaign kitty for the upcoming 2016 national elections.

Environmental activists decried the various attacks of Pres. Aquino’s pro-globalization policies to the environment during Earth Day 2015. (Photo by Loi Manalansan/Bulatlat.com)
Environmental activists decried the various attacks of Pres. Aquino’s pro-globalization policies to the environment during Earth Day 2015. (Photo by Loi Manalansan/Bulatlat.com)

Sins of Omission: Unaddressed Climate Issues

The underlying problem of the NCCAP and all other climate policies is in the enormity of what it has failed to address. The Aquino’s climate policy regime made no dent whatsoever in longstanding anti-people and anti-environment laws and programs that have condemned the Filipino people to a perpetual state of vulnerability and crisis.

The continuing liberalization of agriculture, mining, and other extractive industries have led to the rapid depletion of our natural resources, degradation of our environment, and displacement of grassroots communities in the country.

The country’s longstanding promotion of privatization in strategic public utilities and industries, including the energy and transportation sectors, is leaving these various climate-sensitive sectors at the mercy of corporate and other capitalist interests. In the energy industry, it has led to skyrocketing power rates and the unabated and aggressive expansionism of destructive energy projects, ranging from coal-fired power plants to land-grabbing renewable energy projects.

The Filipino people’s intrinsic poverty, shaped by the globalization policies that have rendered social services and public utilities inaccessible to common citizens, imposed slave wages and contractualization on workers, and perpetuated landlessness among peasants, have made the grassroots communities extremely vulnerable to disasters and other climate impacts.

We witnessed the full disconnect of the national government’s rhetoric on climate change from how they criminally neglected the victims of Yolanda and other increasingly frequent and powerful climate-exacerbated typhoons, which has been a growing trend over the past six years. Survivors are not receiving sufficient aid, are being displaced by no-dwelling zones, and are being subjected to intensifying militarization and human rights violations.

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Leon Dulce is the campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.
This is the third of four parts of a series on the Filipino people’s struggle to confront the climate crisis on the road to the APEC and COP 21 international summits.

Please read also First part: A deluge of crises: the roots of our climate vulnerability
Second part: Polluters not paying: privatization as root of the energy crisis
Fourth part: A world to win: people’s actions on climate change
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