“Why us? What did we ever do to deserve this?”
These were the words said by Claire Anterea, from Kiribati, as she narrated her terrifying experience of Cyclone Pam during a recent climate justice and human rights workshop held in Vanuatu. Claire was joined by other Pam survivors from Pacific Island countries like Kiribati, Tuvalu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Representatives from the Philippines were also there as they have had more than their fair share of devastating super typhoons.
Claire fought back tears. Earlier, she had only intended to listen, but changed her mind after learning about the latest science that paints a grim picture for vulnerable countries like Kiribati. This was followed by images and accounts of the Philippine’s experience with extreme weather events like 2013’s super typhoon Haiyan.
I noted how Claire shifted her composure from anguish to grit when she said, “It is our basic human rights that are now threatened by climate change.” Her words were powerful. I paused to reflect on what she said: Freedom. Survival. Self-determination.
I vividly recall our very own history in the Philippines, which is filled with human rights struggles across three generations. It is disheartening that in this modern era our basic human rights, such as freedom and survival, are still being infringed upon and continue to be threatened by man-made climate change.
For a long time, no one could pinpoint who exactly was causing the climate to change and how to hold them accountable. This is no longer the case.
In a groundbreaking study by scientist Richard Heede, just 90 carbon major entities – including the worlds’ largest fossil fuel companies – are responsible for an estimated 65% of all anthropogenic CO2 between 1751 and 2013. The 50 investor-owned carbon major companies contributed 315 Gt CO2e, equivalent to 21.72% of estimated global industrial emissions through 2010.
“I have been to four climate negotiations and nothing has happened. As a mother, I want to secure my children’s freedom and survival, and the rest of humanity. If world leaders can’t even make a commitment in these negotiations, then it would be up to citizens like myself who must take action and fight for our continued existence on this planet,” concluded Claire. She later signed a People’s Declaration for Climate Justice along with other workshop participants.
Climate change has become the synonymous for extreme weather events that batter vulnerable countries that have contributed very little in their creation but are facing its disproportionate impacts. It is high time to expose those liable and hold them to account for their irresponsible activities. This is an injustice that should not be inherited by our children and future generations.
The people of the Philippines are now taking climate action by holding the big carbon polluters accountable for their role in the climate crisis. In fact, today, Dutch courts, in a worldwide landmark ruling, ordered the state to reduce carbon emissions to protect its citizens from climate change.
This is a big step for a Climate Justice movement that is growing and gaining ground. Soon, many other people will follow suit in the fight to reclaim the climate and ensure humanity’s own survival.
Anna Abad is a Climate Justice Campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
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