Eleventh Hour: Will climate change be an election issue?

By Rachel Anne Herrera

Over 18,000 national and local elective positions will be vacated next year. Aspirants who wish to fill one of these positions are now in the spotlight this week as they file their certificates of candidacy. It’s too early to tell whether or not our future leaders will have platforms to combat climate change, but why must they and why should climate resilience be an election agenda?

As candidates compete for votes, election topics also compete in terms of which gets fleshed out in the debates. As in previous elections, the same issues will likely prevail—poverty, education, jobs, economy, and health, with special attention on COVID-19 response and pandemic recovery. This time, we hope climate change will no longer be discussed in passing.

Perhaps it’s the challenge to link climate change to daily life and the technicality of viable solutions that hinders the discussions about the topic from maturing. But given the extensive information we have about climate change—now considered a global crisis, or a “climate emergency” as the House of Representatives has acknowledged—and the urgency to act now, excuses are running out for aspiring leaders not to have serious and robust plans to safeguard our populations from the climate crisis, which is considered to be the greatest threat we are facing in this lifetime. This also goes out to the voting public and media.


Our country is no stranger to the supertyphoon, or heavy rains or floods. Much more is at stake now because the latest science tells us that climate impacts will be more frequent and more intense with every additional level of global warming. Think of hotter or wetter days and months; more typhoons that are more devastating than Yolanda, Rolly, or Pablo; more droughts, flashfloods, landslides, and storm surges; and more incidences of diseases and threats to public health and safety. Think of rising sea levels that may soon submerge the coasts of small islands and deprive communities of water and livelihood. Think of our children and future generations not having the same quality of life that we can still enjoy now.

The goal has always been to help our people cope with or avoid these impacts and enable them to thrive and prosper despite their risks and vulnerabilities, which differ across cities and municipalities. It’s really about people, and getting everyone prepared including women and girls who are still in many ways under-represented in decision-making.

At the international front, it’s all about limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which the Philippines championed in the Paris Agreement and which our scientists and experts deem to be the most beneficial climate pathway the whole world should take. But it is up to us and our leaders to have the will to actually decide and act to achieve it.

In this election season, climate change should be on voter’s minds. We need more leaders who are knowledgeable or, at least, open to tackling these issues, leaders who value science and insights from their constituents in order to devise and implement initiatives on the ground, and leaders who could prioritize funding for these urgent measures.

We need leaders who could truly champion the climate agenda and fight for climate justice at all fronts. We need leaders who could truly gaze further the horizon, brave enough to enable the transformation, and are able to make lasting impacts way beyond their terms.

The country is in dire need of climate defenders, but also a voting constituency that’s relentless in urging its government and leaders to win over the climate crisis and not just their campaigns.

Of the thousands of aspirants for our next year’s elections, how many will do just that?





Atty. Rachel Anne Herrera is a Climate Reality Leader trained during the 2016 Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training in Manila. She is currently a Commissioner in the Philippine Climate Change Commission. She also serves as an Alternate Board Member of the People’s Survival Fund (PSF), the country’s adaptation finance mechanism, and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a climate finance mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Previously, she advised the Senate of the Philippines committees on climate change, finance, foreign affairs, and environment and worked for the passage of a number of landmark climate and environmental laws and international treaties, such as the country’s accession to the Paris Agreement.


This article was originally published on The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ weekly column for the Manila Bulletin called Eleventh Hour.

This column serves a digital space to discuss our organization’s work on supporting the country’s just transition into a clean, affordable, and self-sufficient energy system; advancing sustainable urban mobility to highlight the issues of equity and democracy; and raising public awareness about the need to phase out single-use plastics. It also serves as a platform for Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders to share your stories, promote your climate initiatives, and provide critical insights to issues that matter to climate action, environmental protection, and sustainable development.