By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
SAN FRANCISCO –Thousands of state and local government leaders, CEOs and citizens from around the world gather here this week to come up with more ambitious commitments to achieve the goals set by the Paris climate agreement.
“We have seen the unprecedented effects of climate change from wildfires to droughts, powerful cyclones and extreme heat in many parts of the world. All these have been predicted by climate scientists. We should all be prepared so the damage will be lesser and we will be able to handle it better,” United Nations (UN) Environment Executive Director and Undersecretary General Erik Solheim said.
“Environment debate has been a little bit different from the past, which has been very negative rather than seeing the positive opportunities. If it changed into a more environment-friendly policy, we can see the creation of a significant number of jobs, economic prosperity gains, and better natural, healthy and sustainable society,” he added.
Solheim urged all stakeholders to take the opportunity to prosper and inspire deeper national commitments in support of the Paris Agreement through the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit happening in San Francisco on Sept. 12-14.
The Summit will showcase climate action around the world, along with bold new commitments, to give world leaders the confidence that they can go even further by 2020.
Its five headline challenge areas are healthy energy systems, inclusive economic growth, sustainable communities, land and ocean stewardship and transformative climate investments.
“We need to do a lot more to fight climate change, but we have seen a lot of progress in key areas, particularly in three areas namely energy, agriculture and urban planning,” Solheim pointed out. One of the most significant improvements in the energy sector is the establishment of solar-powered technologies.
Indigenous Peoples and renewable energy
In an event organized by the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) Major Group for Sustainable Development on the sidelines of the Global Climate Action Summit, it discussed how IPs are involved in the establishment of renewable energy technologies in off-grid communities.
UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of IPs Vicky Tauli-Corpuz emphasized the need to have a rights-based renewable energy program for IPs to be able to truly contribute to global climate action and achieve the sustainable development goal on energy.
She pointed out as an example the community-based energy systems (CBRES) in the Cordillera Administrative Region. CBRES are small and decentralized energy supply systems usually built in poorest communities with significant participation of organized communities and multi-stakeholder support, which are owned, managed and sustained by local organizations.
According to IPs Major Group for Sustainable Development co-convenor Joan Carling, “a number of micro-hydro projects have been established especially in mountainous areas using available sources, such as rivers for some time now.”
“For example, CBRES have been established in Cordillera, along the Chico River and its tributaries, to provide electricity in areas that were not yet reached by electricity,’ she said. Some of these projects have been established in Mountain Province, Abra and Kalinga.
In many off-grid areas in the Philippines, CBRES, such as micro-hydro, hydraulic ramp pumps, wind, solar and biomass-fired systems have been established for community and household use.
“We are looking into expanding the initiative in other areas in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao, as more communities are asking for assistance to establish CBRES,” Carling said.
However, one of the challenges they are experiencing in implementing the project is the maintenance of the technology.
“We have to ensure that there are community members trained to the maintenance of the technology. Community-organizing and strengthening should be continuous to ensure ownership. The communities should also be responsible in running and maintaining this kind of projects.
IPs as partners against climate change
Carling said the contribution of IPs in the global fight against climate change should not be taken for granted.
“IPs have the lowest carbon footprint so they have the lowest contribution to climate change. We are also the most resilient because of the condition of our communities, (which taught us) how to adapt. We have a lot of traditional knowledge on adaptation and resilience that we can share to the world. Mostly, IPs are capable of sustainable resource management and conservation,” she said.
“We have to see where the frontiers of natural resources are. It is in the indigenous territories and that is not a coincidence. It is because of our lifestyle, culture, and sustainable practices. We have to protect those because if not, the impact of climate change could worsen,” she added.
“Those are the contributions of IPs that the world has to recognize and protect,” she pointed out.
During the summit and over the coming months, the contribution of states and regions, cities, businesses, investors and civil society, also known as “non-party stakeholders,” to national and international efforts to address climate change are expected to be launched.