Various environmental and rights groups held an online forum entitled “On Climate Imperialism and Its Effects on Human Rights” to echo their call to fight against various issues related to climate imperialism on November 17, Friday.

The event was organized by Karapatan, Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN), and Asia Pacific Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (APCHRP), and attended by local and foreign environmental activists.

Global Disparities

Providing an insightful discourse about climate imperialism and the essence of climate justice, Mitzi Jonelle Tan of Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP) expounded on the disparity that the global north countries were often the least vulnerable despite being the most responsible while the least responsible ones were the most susceptible in times of crisis.

Global North countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, Hong Kong, Macau, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States and all of Europe including Russia are known to be high contributors of greenhouse gasses in the world thus providing around half of all emissions since the Industrial Revolution, said Tan.

The large-scale extraction of resources, deforestation to take wood and minerals, and over-processing for the profit of wealthy nations emerge as pivotal factors contributing to the rapid and severe emissions responsible for the present climate crisis.

In the Philippine context, Tan stated that small farmers have been one of the most exploited workers as their harvested crops were being exported for the benefit of the Global North, resulting in environmental issues in their land. 

With this, Tan asserted the significance of implementing genuine land reform to protect peasants from excessive exploitation and reduce the factors contributing to emissions.

“When small farmers are fighting for their land, landlords are exporting all our crops to the global north, which is causing emissions and causing these kinds of agriculture. But when you transfer and have genuine land reform to the peasantry. It’s natural for small farmers to plant and farm according to the planetary boundaries because they see what’s healthy for their soil. They see land as life and understand the need to have a relationship with plants.” said Tan.

IP communities vs mega-development projects

When it comes to mega-development projects, indigenous communities are at stake at the expense of losing their ancestral lands to make way for such ambitious “sustainable initiatives”.

Jiten Yumnam, a journalist, human rights advocate, and environmental activist, stated that unsustainable development aggression such as mining, extractive industries, dams, and plantation economies not only destroys indigenous lands but also exacerbates the climate crisis.

He also pointed out the impact of false climate solutions such as large dams funded by imperialist and capitalist countries not only cause climate change through their large hydropower but also induce conflict and human rights violations.

Case in point, last September 2023, two environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano were presented in a press conference led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist and Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as rebel surrenderees only to find out and expose that they were abducted by the military in a van and were forced to surrender under duress because of death threats.

Yumnam’s statement was seconded by Beverly Longid of the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination & Liberation (IPMSDL), stating that such projects often lead to the displacement of indigenous people from their lands, territories, and waters leads to gross human rights violations including but not limited to arrests, killings, or disappearances similar to Castro and Tamano.

“Military presence leads to criminalization and violence including linking indigenous people’s activities, institutions, or organizations with terrorism or other illegal activities, hindering indigenous efforts to tackle climate change,” Longid further said.

Similarly, the case of leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) like Windel Bolinget, Stephen Tauli, Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa, and Sarah Abellon-Alikes, who had been arbitrarily designated by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) and alleged them as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

The CPA condemned this designation, viewing it as a “relentless attack against indigenous peoples” activists.

Greenwashing of oil companies

Deceptive marketing strategies employed by companies to portray themselves as environmentally friendly became the topic of Disha Ravi, a youth climate activist from India, who delved into the issue of greenwashing.

Accordingly, a new study found mentions of climate–related keywords in annual reports rose sharply from 2009 to 2020.

Ravi highlighted that oil companies were the ones using this kind of deception and started changing and rebranding themselves as climate-friendly while their actual practices contradict such claims.

According to a comprehensive study, researchers who analyzed data spanning 12 years up to 2020, found a misalignment between oil company claims and actions including an increase in exploration rather than a decrease.

The study noted a notable rise in mentions of “climate”, “low-carbon” and “transition” in annual reports in recent years, especially for oil companies like Shell and BP. However, concrete actions were rare and the researchers’ financial analysis reveals a continuing business model dependence on fossil fuels along with insignificant and opaque spending on clean energy.

Ravi further contended the public should recognize greenwashing and stressed the importance of paying attention to wording and becoming familiar with certifications to avoid being deceived by big oil companies.

Collective efforts demanding accountability

“We have to make sure that development, sustainability, a safe present, and a green future isn’t just for a few but for everyone,” Tan added.

Tan stressed that climate justice must be amplified against oppression and injustice in these global disparities.

Meanwhile, Longid emphasized the need to acknowledge the urgency of supporting IP communities in their struggle for environmental justice and land rights.

“Let us amplify their voices on their traditions and learn from their profound connection to the land. By doing so, we can contribute to a more just and sustainable world where the rights of all, especially those who have been historically marginalized are respected and protected.”

United Nations special rapporteur Dr. Ian Fry emphasized in his initial recommendations that the government should disband NTF-ELCAC and repeal the Anti-Terrorism Act being used to systematically target activists and environmentalists.

The climate expert added that the Marcos administration must formulate a strategic implementation plan and recommended revising the Climate Change Act, or Republic Act No. 9729, to develop and execute plans aimed at mitigating the impact of natural disasters in the country.

The findings and recommendations of Fry’s 10-day mission will be presented in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2024.


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