Youth leaders in Zamboanga Del Norte vow to take action on climate and plastic crisis

First CCC-Climate Reality Philippines Klima Eskwela collaboration goes to Dapitan City

Dapitan City—More than 50 youth leaders and faculty members of Jose Rizal Memorial State University (JRMSU) in Dapitan City, Zamboanga Del Norte pledged their commitment to pave the way for a low-carbon, plastic-free, and climate-resilient university community.

The commitment was made during the two-day session of Klima Eskwela: Climate Science, Adaptation, Arts, and Action, conducted by The Climate Reality Project Philippines (Climate Reality Philippines) in partnership with the Climate Change Commission (CCC) and the JRMSU Supreme Student Government in the university last July 27 to 28.

Klima Eskwela is Climate Reality Philippines’ knowledge exchange program that provides opportunities for young climate advocates and other stakeholders to deepen and broaden their understanding of climate science, policy, and governance. It also highlights the role of arts and humanities in the climate change conversation by creating spaces for awareness and reimagining a better and kinder future for all.

“[Climate change] awareness should not be confined to scientists only. It is necessary to bring this knowledge to the common men, too. The way the population is increasing, the pressure on Earth coming from this is undoubtedly going to increase critically,” said Dr. Venus Namoc, JRMSU Dean for Student Affairs and Services.

Jerome Ilagan, CCC Policy and Research Division Chief echoed Namoc’s sentiment. “The collective consciousness of young people will determine the kind of climate policies in 2050 and beyond,” he said.

“We recognize that despite being the least responsible for the prevailing climate crisis and bearing the brunt of its impacts, the youth plays a crucial role in charting a more sustainable and climate-resilient future,” said Ferth Vandensteen Manaysay, Climate Reality Philippines Plastic-Free Reality Program Lead, underscoring the need to empower the youth to become agents of change.

The interlinked challenges of the climate and the plastic crises

The two-day Klima Eskwela session held in Dapitan City delved into the intersection of plastic pollution and the climate crisis.

Marine science and climate change expert Dr. Richard N. Muallil, Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension of the Mindanao State University- Tawi-Tawi and member of the CCC National Panel of Technical Experts (NPTE), led the discussion on the need to tackle both crises hand-in-hand.

“The plastics industry is the fastest-growing source of industrial greenhouse gases in the world. The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) estimates that the greenhouse gas emissions from plastic production, use, and disposal could account for 19 percent of the total global carbon budget by 2040,” Dr. Muallil explained.

According to Dr. Muallil, about 99% of plastics originate from fossil fuels like oil, gas, or coal. As a result, due to the energy-intensive processes required, the production of plastics generates enormous amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Aside from reducing individual plastic footprints, Dr. Muallil underscored the need for youth leaders and faculty members to advocate for and support the implementation of policy and legislation to reduce plastic production, boost circular design, improve waste management, and hold polluters accountable.

The need to reduce plastic waste at the source

A new report released by UN Environment early this year revealed that the global community can reduce plastic pollution by 80% by 2040 using existing technologies and solutions.

To do this, international cooperation and local policies must (1) accelerate the market for reusable products; (2) accelerate the market for plastics recycling; (3) re-orient and diversify the market for sustainable and safe plastic alternatives.

The said report was unequivocal that the most powerful market shift is reducing waste at source. This means eliminating single-use plastics and adopting reuse schemes.

This is why Climate Reality Philippines has been advocating for national legislation that will ban single-use plastics in the country. Responding to the 2023 State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July, the organization urged the President to support a gradual phase-out of single-use plastics and direct the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) to identify and include single-use plastics in the Non-Environmentally Acceptable Products (NEAP) list—and finally promulgate this list.

Local plastic solutions in Dapitan City

Engr. Ryan Carreon, Planning Officer III of the Dapitan City Environment and Natural Resource Office, presented the city’s local solid waste management policies and policies designed to curb plastic pollution.

City Ordinance No. 2019-404, as amended by City Ordinance No. 2021-449, regulates the use of plastic for goods and commodities, promotes the use of native baskets, eco bags, and other biodegradable and recyclable materials, and declares Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday as No Plastic Day in the city.

Under this ordinance, the city prohibits the use of plastic in merchandise every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

“A no plastic ordinance can motivate businesses to adopt sustainable packaging practices, reduce plastic packaging, and develop more environmentally friendly products,” Engr. Carreon said.

Integrating youth leadership, arts, and climate action

Toward the end of the Klima Eskwela session, participants vowed to minimize the consumption of single-use plastics, collaborate with school administration and local authorities to implement and expand plastic-free policies, support and actively participate in university-led initiatives to promote renewable energy sources, and prioritize sustainable transportation options, among others.

Participants were also given the opportunity to harness their creativity to communicate their vision of a sustainable future during the Poets for Climate art workshop held on the second day of the event.

Literary pieces, songs, and artworks created by the participants will be showcased in the online platforms of Climate Reality Philippines and the global poetry and art movement called When Is Now