EYC 2016: Youth against Climate Change in the Philippines
The Environmental Youth Conference (EYC) 2016 was a one-day conference organized by the University of the Philippines Society of Human Settlements Planners (UP HSP SOC) with the help of the Department of Community and Environmental Resource Planning (DCERP) and HUMEIN Philippines Inc. It was held on the 23rd of January 2016 at the SMX Convention Center.
The event was aimed to educate the youth on the realities of climate change with a specific lens on the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris with guest speakers from the government and civil sector. In hopes of developing a youth-driven movement for climate action, EYC was able to assemble and engage over 200 youth delegates from different parts of the country to draft various climate action proposals.
Climate change is a difficult phenomenon to understand let alone discuss, especially with the youth of today’s society. The movement for climate action and climate justice is usually taken up by scientists, academics and research institutions. To get a grasp of these concepts, data and a plethora of information need to be presented. During EYC 2016, the audience was lucky to have speakers who did not need any scientific jargon but spoke from their experiences and more importantly, from the heart.
“Kapag naramdaman niyo na yun, gagalaw kayo para magkaroon ng pagbabago.” (When it [climate change] has made a great impact in your life, that’s the time you will move for change.) – AG Sano, artist and climate advocate
This emotional sentiment was shared by speaker Mr. AG Sano, famous for his dolphin paintings and murals across the globe. His artworks, including photos from his adventures, have become his tools to spread the advocacy of protecting wildlife and saving the environment, speaking to the curious members of the Filipino youth on contemporary means of advocating climate actions. Sharing his personal experience of losing a friend to Typhoon Yolanda, he said, “My fight against climate change is personal, that is because I know the feeling of desperation and hopelessness from the ill-effects of climate change.” AG wanted to set the path for the Filipino youth that unless they understand the situation, of themselves and those most vulnerable, fighting climate change will be difficult to do.
“Conservation is a daily lifestyle choice.” – Anna Oposa, cofounder of Save the Philippine Seas.
Ms. Anna Oposa, co-founder of Save the Philippine Seas, expressed that she also realized her calling to advocate for marine conservation at a very young age. She explained that being part of this movement to address environmental concerns is simple. You have to start with caring about the environment and then enabling yourself to be the voice of the environment. She then challenged the youth to make the conscious decision of being the agents of change.
Are we really serious in this fight against climate change?
Speaking for the Climate Change Commission (CCC), Ms. Kat Firmeza spoke briefly on the Philippine Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDC) presented in Paris at the 21st United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties. She stressed the need to take climate action now despite an ambitious goal of 70% carbon-emission deduction by 2030 stated in the NDC. The youth should take charge of climate action, and the Climate Change Commission (CCC) is preparing activities and opportunities to enable the young people to do just that.
With other speakers, Dr. Alfredo Lagmay of DOST-Project NOAH, Mr. Cris Rollo from UN- HABITAT Philippines, Mr. Nelson Devanadera from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, the delegates were more than excited to learn more about climate change. Although all had spoken about different aspects of the climate change issue, disaster response and risk reduction, urban planning and climate-resiliency, there was disappointment from the audience as most of the college-level students wanted to know more about climate change per se. This reaction just points that talking about climate change and its complexities is still a challenge our society has to deal with. There is a willingness to try and address climate change amongst the youth but on how to equip today’s youth the knowledge and expertise to speak, discuss, and educate others about it has more areas of improvement. This need was made more evident with the action plans presented by delegates who echoed the need to spread awareness and further educate the youth on climate change.
In perhaps the most important moment of that day, Ms. Firmeza of the CCC was asked about the inconsistency between the words and actions of the Philippine government. A student from the University of Los Banos asked, “If we are serious in this fight against climate change, then why did President Aquino inaugurate a coal-power plant in Davao the moment he got back to the Philippines?”
The answer really did not matter, what mattered was in that brief moment, the room full of students knew that it was indeed time for them to take the lead against climate change.