People of Integrity and Virtue will Save the Planet

There is no more urgent time than now for world leaders and political decision-makers at COP26 to listen to their consciences and millions of people crying out for an end to the damage, pain and hurt that climate change and global warming are causing, writes Fr Shay Cullen.

This could be the last chance to stop the climate reaching the point of no return when a cycle of continuing destruction kicks in. The planet will then continue destroying itself and us along with it. Despite all the talk and promises of past years, there is more CO2 in the atmosphere in 2021 than one year ago.

The poor are suffering the most from the destruction of the natural world, the cutting of trees and the industrial scale growing of commercial crops like palm oil, soy and grass on once forest lands to feed cattle. These contribute to the CO2 that is causing global warming. There are more than one billion cattle in the world today.

Most are raised for beef to feed the well-off and these cattle emit millions of tons of methane annually, a greenhouse gas that is, in part, causing global warming. If most people would become vegetarian, they would be stronger, live longer healthy lives and help save the planet.

The world leaders have promised to stop all deforestation in two years and rewild and grow trees to hold the global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The financial leaders said banks and pension funds will invest only in renewable energy projects. The World Bank said it will stop lending to the oil and coal industry. The G7 said they will stop giving $20 billion in subsidies to the coal, gas and oil industry. Globally, countries spend $500 billion on supporting the fossil fuel industries.

At the COP26, forty nations pledged to quit coal. However, China, Australia, the US and India did not sign up to the pledge. The rich nations promised, as they did in 2014, to give billions of dollars to poor countries to offset the losses. They failed to deliver on their promises.

The rich nations are irresponsible. They are the biggest emitters of CO2 by pumping out 86 percent of the CO2 in the atmosphere. Lower income countries emit only 14 percent. The Philippines emits 1 percent. The poorest of the poor nations that have nine percent of the world’s population emit 0.5 percent of the greenhouse gases.

Will the rich deliver on their promises? Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister told delegates, “When it comes to tackling climate change, words without action, without deeds are absolutely pointless.” He then took a private flight to London where he will likely approve the opening of a new coal mine in West Cumbria. If that is any indication of what is to become of promises and pledges, we must brace ourselves for the worse.

Juan Delgos is a poor Aeta farmer living in a bamboo hut with a grass roof in the Zambales mountains, north of Manila. He is bent with age and hard work and has endured lashing rain and burning sun. He is a subsistence farmer with his wife and three children living on ancestral land. The Aeta are among the most neglected people in the Philippines.

Juan’s grandfather was a hunter and gatherer in the once lush rainforests of Zambales. After World War II and Independence, massive deforestation destroyed the rainforests during the 1960s. The logging families and politicians cut every tree they could find leaving the mountains in the Philippines with only three percent of primeval forest.

After a massive public outcry by environmentalists in the 1990s, logging was outlawed but it was too late and there is still illegal logging today. If the forests were regrown, they would absorb billions of tons of CO2.

The Aeta indigenous people survived and remained poor. They sold banana and Pico mangos to commercial traders for exploitative low prices. To help them, the Profairtrade Development Enterprise (PDE) organisation came in and paid triple the traders’ price for Pico mangos. They picked up the mangos, paid cash in the field and gave them a share of the earnings after the mangos were processed into mango puree and exported.

The PDE also helps provide sanitation and water supply projects in the villages. It also provides as many as 2,000 mango saplings and fruit trees every year to restore the mountains and provide income.

Five years ago, the PDE helped the 360 Aeta farmers reach the certified international organic standard for mango. That was a big achievement for poor farmers and they renewed their certification every year after passing strict inspections. They then sold tons of organic mangoes. The Aetas were doing very well during mango harvest until the climate changed for the worst.

“Now there are no more good harvests, it is too hot,” Juan said. “The rainstorms and wind come at the wrong time and wash away the mango blossoms. The fruit flies lay their eggs and kill the flowers on the trees. Then the heat dries what little fruits survive,” he said. That is the tragic impact of climate change. The farmers and the PDE are now working on growing banana for processing into puree since the mangos are failing due to global warming and coal-fired power plants are the main culprits.

There are 28 coal-fired power plants in the Philippines and 22 more are planned and approved by the Department of Energy. Will the Philippines cancel the planned 22 coal-fired plants and get development funds to build renewables like geothermal, wind and solar as new sources of electricity? It’s not likely, as elsewhere in the world many politicians are puppets controlled by the coal and oil corporations.

Forty percent of the world’s electricity is produced by burning coal and they produce the highest concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.  China is the worst of all, followed by India, the US and Australia. As many as 80 countries depend on coal plants and another 15 countries are planning to join them. Only 19 have pledged to quit. So what hope is there for reducing CO2 in the atmosphere to hold global temperatures at 1.5C by 2030?  Not much really.

Only when economic forces greatly favour low-cost renewable energy sources and the people are free and enlightened to elect candidates of integrity, with virtue and values, and with commitment to justice and equality, will the warming slow and the planet will be saved.

www.preda.org

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