Activists to PH gov’t: Declare ‘climate emergency’ amid Australia bushfires

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 07 2020 08:09 PM

Activists to PH gov’t: Declare ‘climate emergency’ amid Australia bushfires 1
An Adelaide wildlife rescuer is seen with a koala rescued at a burning forest near Cape Borda on Kangaroo Island, southwest of Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday. David Mariuz, AAP Image via Reuters

Local environmental groups on Tuesday said the Philippines should learn from the bushfires that are ravaging Australia by declaring a climate emergency in the country.

“The unprecedented Australian bushfires is the strongest warning yet that the impacts of climate change we thought we will be facing 20 or 50 years later is already a catastrophic reality today,” Leon Dulce, national coordinator at Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) said in a statement.

Dulce said previous studies “already predicted that the shift in fire weather patterns and intensity would be directly observable this year.”

The bushfires have destroyed five million hectares of land, killing 24 people and millions of animals. 

The recent blaze has reached 6,000 hectares or the size of Manila and Mandaluyong combined.

Filipinos living in Australia were also affected with five losing their homes and 300 more evacuated.


Experts have said climate change is worsening the wildfires by lengthening the fire season, which is characterized by decreasing rainfall and warmer temperatures. 

Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Yeb Sano said the devastating typhoons experienced by the Philippines and the wildfires affecting Australia, Asia and the Amazon “are manifestations of climate extreme events that scientists have clearly identified in their latest reports on the catastrophic impacts of an increasingly warmer and climate-constrained world.”

“Coming from a region on the frontlines of the climate crisis, our hearts go out to Australia, its people, and its biodiversity,” Asia campaigner Chuck Baclagon told ABS-CBN. 

“Every part of the world has its own impacts to consider: the melting Arctic and alpine areas, the impacts of typhoons, floods, hurricanes, cyclones and rising sea levels on coastal communities; and expanding deserts in already arid lands.”

Mitzi Jonelle Tan, lead convener of the Youth Advocates for Climate Action in the Philippines (Yacap), also criticized those who claim that the bushfires are not connected to climate change.

“We condemn the Australian Prime Minister for his inaction and call for immediate and long-lasting action from the Australian government, such as more adequate funding for fire services, reviewing current land management practices, and learning from the traditional ecological knowledge by listening to those at the frontline of defending the environment, the indigenous people,” she said. 

“The youth are fed up with the insufficient plans, empty promises, and willful ignorance of world leaders, including President Rodrigo Duterte, but especially those that are contributing the most to environmental degradation and the climate crisis like the US and China.”

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All four groups called on the Philippine government to declare a “climate emergency.”

“This is a climate emergency. Our house is clearly literally on fire and we must push our governments to act knowing that our lives are in danger due to the climate crisis,” Sano said.

Dulce said declaring a climate emergency would entail convening “frontline communities, local governments, and civil society to thresh out a climate resilience package of programs to adapt our communities and their environs to the impending consequences of the climate crisis.”

Kalikasan PNE also called for a moratorium on coal-fired power plants to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming.

Tan said “climate monsters” or those contributing to global warming should be “be held accountable and drastically reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.”

“The fires in Australia must drive home the urgency to work on all fronts to mobilize people and shift financial flows towards building a low-carbon, resilient and sustainable future that will keep global warming well below 1.5 degrees Celsius. We must do so to ensure our collective survival,” Baclagon said.

Four years ago, world leaders agreed on the historic Paris climate agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Beyond that, scientists expect that climate impacts will be catastrophic, with heat waves causing widespread deaths and other climate events drastically affecting animals.