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Youth leaders call on candidates to act on climate change

27 April 2022, Quezon City—Strong climate leadership is an imperative in this critical decade for climate action—our last window of opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5˚C.

This was emphasized by youth leaders and climate advocates in the 27th episode of The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ Klimatotohanan webcast series entitled “Boto ng Kabataan para sa Klima at Kinabukasan.”

In partnership with the Love 52 movement, the episode zeroed in on the power of young people to change the narrative and convince candidates in the upcoming May 2022 Elections to put climate and environmental action front and center of their plans and platforms for the country.

Love 52 is a youth movement that demands future leaders for a green and just future through better governance. The movement encourages young Filipinos to write love letters to national candidates about issues that matter to them and the planet.

Joanna Sustento, the co-lead of Love 52, emphasized the need for the government to take action and hold the entities and corporations that are mostly responsible for the climate crisis accountable.

“We will lose our future if the climate crisis is not addressed, if our leaders won’t take action,” Sustento said. “We are not the ones handing out licenses to companies whose business practices destruct the environment. We’re not the ones who invented single-use plastic that is closely related to fossil fuel… There are powerful people and entities who have the greater responsibility because they created and continue to perpetuate the broken system,” she explained.

Jon Bonifacio, the National Coordinator of Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP), agreed with Sustento. The youth, according to him, sits at the receiving end of the repercussions of the current extractive economic system.

“This big problem needs to be solved by genuine leaders who would respond to the root causes of climate change and would forth proper changes to this system that is breaking our planet,” Jedryc Romero, Executive Director and Founder of youth-led environmental organization KalikaSan Pablo, added.

The kind of leader PH needs in this critical decade for climate action

As the 2022 Election fast approaches, Bonifacio advised young people to vote with the well-being of the future generations and the most vulnerable sectors of society in mind.

“It doesn’t make sense if your solution to climate change ends up undermining the well-being of the Filipino people. We need leadership that is vocal about the situation of the country and a leader who is willing to hold the industrialized, the Global North, and the Annex 1 countries accountable for their emissions that contribute to the climate crisis,” Bonifacio explained.

“We need leaders who have the humility to listen [to] experts, scientists, environmental defenders, and advocates,” Romero said, adding that this is the only way to ensure climate actions that are based on evidence and actual truth on the ground.

Sustento, on the other hand, said that the country needs leaders who have a meaningful and transformative agenda on the climate and environmental crises and concrete strategies to address them.

“Will climate action be at the forefront of their policy agenda? How can they ensure that climate action is at the heart of our post-recovery plan,” Sustento said, noting that the country is also facing the COVID-19 pandemic on top of the climate and environmental crises.

Role of the youth in the election process

“Election is not just an opportunity to shape the country. It is also an opportunity for young people to shape themselves,” said Atty. Carlo Africa as he discussed the role of youth in the upcoming 2022 National and Local Elections. 

Africa was the co-founder of LENTE, the first and only non-partisan nationwide network of lawyers, paralegals, and volunteers engaged to monitor the election process where he was able to observe low political engagement from the young people.

Youth participation, Africa noted, should not end with voting because most of the work lies post-election.

“Young Filipinos are not just voters, they can be leaders too,” he added, saying that the mindset of the youth during elections should not just be on voting but on making change.

In line with this, Bonifacio urged young people to learn and relearn things related to climate and the environment so they would know what and where is lacking.

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