Climate change and social change: A CEC volunteer's testimony
After having studied and worked in the environmental and international development sector in Europe for several years, I had the opportunity to learn more about on-the-ground environmental problems in the Philippines. By volunteering for the Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines, I got a unique insight into the current climate change and climate change adaptation debate not just in the Philippines but also the whole Southeast Asian region. Since I am writing my dissertation on climate change adaptation in the Philippines, the CEC team has been very supportive and helped me a lot with my research while at the same time integrating this into the work I could do for CEC.
The Philippines is one of the countries that is the most prone to natural disasters increasingly due to the adverse effects of climate change. Due to its vulnerability to climate change, the Philippines has been dealing with this topic and various adaptation measures long before it climbed up on the agenda of international climate negotiations.
After several institutions that have been dealing with climate change topics over the last decades in 2010 the Climate Change Commission has been formed and as part of the Presidential office. It is responsible for coordinating all action plans and policies of the government concerning climate change and adaptation. After the implementation of the National Framework on Climate Change the Climate Change Commission has worked on the very comprehensive and extensive National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP).
By helping CEC work on their strategic position paper on the NCCAP, I had the possibility to design questionnaires for governmental institutions, NGOs and People's Organisations as part of the quantitative research. Working on the questionnaire and helping with the research on the first draft version of the NCCAP allowed me to get important insights into Philippine climate change adaptation policies, the institutions involved in the drafting of the NCCAP and local climate change partnerships and therefore contributed to my own research.
The work at CEC has been very diverse and I got to participate at climate change and international development conferences, policy debates and internal environmental education courses. I got a better understanding of the bigger picture involved in climate change adaptation in the Philippines.
Even though the NCCAP consists of very comprehensive policies to adapt to climate change and make Philippine communities more resilient by reducing their vulnerability, there are still other national policies that contradict with these aims. The Philippine Mining Act and much needed land reform policy are posing a threat to the adaptation and development efforts of the country.
The Philippines is a very resource rich country that certainly has the capability to become a good example for other countries in terms of conservation, climate change adaptation and community resilience. Through the work of organisations like CEC, more and more people are getting educated on global warming and other environmental problems. At the same time, they are gaining the capacity and knowledge to efficiently adapt to climate change alongside improving their livelihood without depleting the natural resources on which they are dependent.
It was very interesting for me to experience how CEC, rather than just opposing the Mining Act, came up with a whole new alternative policy document with suggestions to propose a new policy and not just condemning the existing one.
Volunteering for CEC was not only interesting in terms of the work I was doing there but also the many things I got to experience in terms of Filipino food and culture. It was a pleasure walking up to the little food place just off the street every lunch time and tasting new authentic Filipino food varieties. Sharing a huge pot of rice and exchanging stories from the countries where we are from every lunch time was as informative and interesting as participating in conferences.
Towards the end of my stay at CEC, I gave a presentation on an environmental concern in Austria, which is PM10 or particulate matter. These are small particulates that are amongst other sources are emitted through traffic emissions. The ensuing discussion showed how much both countries, Austria and the Philippines, could learn from each other. By asking questions from a very different perspective a new light can be shed on environmental problems in Europe.
Getting first hand experience on environmental and climate change problems in developing countries has changed the way I look at the actions, or rather non-actions of developed countries. Developed countries have consistently failed to stick to their emissions reduction targets, putting more pressure on the already constrained developing nations. Endless climate negotiations all around the world have not lead to any comprehensive and compulsory climate action, leaving the poorest and most vulnerable communities struggling to maintain their livelihoods on a daily basis.
Climate change is already and is going to affect everyone on the planet. Through environmental education, actions and forming more ties between developing and developed countries, it is possible to find solutions for climate change and in particular adaptation together. If mitigation and adaptation efforts are combined around the world, a better environment for everyone can be created.