As I write to you, leaders of all kinds are at Glasgow, oceans away in the United Kingdom for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. It’s dubbed as “the most important climate event of the century.”
COP, for the readers, stands for the “Conference of the Parties.” In the climate change sphere, “the Parties” are the governments that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). So COP26 is what has brought all these governments back to once again discuss how to jointly address climate change. Yet, there is lack of representation in the said conference from the Global South, as pointed out by the COP26 Coalition—a group composed of vulnerable communities and youth strikers from around the world.
The coalition noted that two-thirds of those who they were helping to travel to COP26 have given up. With the combination of visa and accreditation problems and the ongoing pandemic which have caused changing travel rules, it has become overwhelming to just get to attend.
Today on this side of the world, I’m all packed for a trip to continue my group’s distribution of our Climate Emergency Fund. For the Future and Kids for Kids PH set this fund up when Typhoon Ulysses hit and ravaged our country. Young Filipinos from everywhere came together in the middle of a global pandemic and raised around P15 million to help the victims of last year’s typhoon season.
For the Future, together with Kids for Kids PH, spent all of it on immediate relief and long-term aid. People who were already having a difficult time from the pandemic had to restart their lives after the storms hit. Solar lights and water filters were the most important things to buy because those who were hit by these typhoons were already struggling to begin with. People started calling the victims of these climate-related disasters “resilient” when I saw what it really was: surviving.
We learned that the residents of Camarines Sur have already been feeling these typhoons intensifying over the years. They have watched, year by year, shores disappear annually, harvest seasons changing, and their nets emptying.
I’ve met Filipino climate refugees and evacuees, all suffering from a crisis they had no hand in aggravating. I’ve met children—too many children—already suffering the consequences of the actions and inaction from their leaders who have sworn to protect them and their collective future.
With COP26 in full fruition and this year’s typhoon season already making landfall, I wonder if leaders like you are truly aware of the realities of the climate crisis on the ground. If you know that this crisis is not just a global concept. It’s real. It’s local. It’s here, with the vulnerable being hit the hardest.
Our reality is that every single day matters in addressing this complex problem. Unlike many leaders who act as if we have all the time in the world, the youth are on their feet—demanding accountability from leaders like you, mobilizing communities to advance climate actions, and organizing initiatives to address the needs of the most vulnerable communities to the climate change impacts.
We, the youth, know that the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of global warming will determine the rest of our lives. Even a slight increase would bring about more life-threatening climate disasters, with an increase of 0.5°C bringing in irreversible damage. It is a matter of life and death for all wildlife, communities, ecosystems, and the billions of us right here, living on our planet.
Lest you forget: We are nature. We get sick when nature is sick. We suffer when nature suffers. But when nature once again thrives, we will thrive too.
Thousands of other youth organizations do what we do in For the Future. What I have written was just an echo of the fears, frustrations, and hopes of those who are fighting in the trenches for a livable future.
On behalf of the Filipino youth, I urge you to think about our future. You have a crucial role to play—from investing in climate education and research, implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation actions, and managing and reducing disaster risks, to turning the commitments you’ve made in COP26 into real, tangible, and transformative actions.
Time is running out. But together, we are strong. We can make a difference. I implore you to check our 30×30 petition for the National Government to protect at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030. You can access it here.
We look forward to working together with you. For our future.
Issa Barte is a 25-year-old artist and Climate Reality Leader. She is the co-founder of For the Future, a youth-run organization that provides avenues of environmental action for the youth. She is also a multiple TEDx speaker, sharing stories of the youth at work and the Filipino hope. She has been locally published and internationally featured for her work.
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.