shielarcastillo

Of COPs and Christmases

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great planetEver since I became a Climate Reality Leader after my training under Al Gore in Jakarta (2011), I became doubly aware of the Conference of Parties (COP) being conducted each year by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Each year, I wait with baited breath hoping a strong and binding agreement could be forged by world leaders to ensure a world more benign to the atmosphere. Year by year each COP failed to deliver what the people of the world long for and demand. Around that time, each year also, my country reels with the brunt of super typhoons and mourns the loss of so many lives, property, and livelihood.

In the last five years, and somewhere before, after, or in between COPs and Christmases, the Philippines was ravaged by extreme weather events like Sendong (Washi 2011), Pablo (Bopha 2012), Yolanda (Haiyan 2013, Hagupit (Ruby 2014), Nona (Melor 2015).  The tragedies unimaginable. The loss unspeakable. The damage immeasurable.

And then there is Christmas. Dave Mather, British Red Cross Country Manager for the Philippines once said that Filipinos have a very special trait that he very rarely finds in other nationalities. Filipinos always seem to find a silver lining in even the worst situations. They can still smile and laugh despite disasters and whatever negative things life throws their way. Filipino resilience is still very much intact as he has seen after Super Typhoon Yolanda. People still manage to smile and celebrate the season, albeit in evacuation centers or makeshift homes.

And their resilience is not complete unfounded. Filipinos always bounce back. Hope is an incurable disease. It is also contagious. Whatever little hope there is, it spreads and makes itself known. Hope wins all the time.

With this is in perspective, we can look at the recently concluded COP21, not as a failure, but the beginning of success.

The Paris Agreement is not perfect; it will not save the world. But humanity can capitalize on its gains to carry on the momentum of bringing about the shift towards a zero carbon economy, democratized energy, and below 2 degrees world, which is still livable, which still has hope.

Yeb Sano, former Philippine Lead Negotiator for the UNFCC, clarified that their Rome to Paris Climate Pilgrimage is not a walk to Paris but through Paris. The fight goes on. Binding agreements and strong commitments are still needed. Even more so, translating words into action is a greater challenge. We must be vigilant in monitoring INDCs and climate finance. We must continue to demand climate justice and the 1.5 degrees cap. Our work continues.

And then there is the New Year, a season of hope if there is one. The good thing about the New Year is that it is a time for reflection, of seeing where we fell short, what we did wrong, and how we can do and be better. Whatever little climate hope there is, is already a seed for global change.

The shift is palpable. As Al Gore was quoted saying, we will win this, it’s only a matter of time. Despite the recent failed COPs and tragic Christmases, change is still possible. Let 2016 bring us more personal resolve and political conviction to make needed change. Let’s not waste this auspicious time to ensure that the oceans would stop warming, icebergs would stop melting, and a livable world for our children’s children would still be possible.

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