• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

For the sake of my people, Scotland must fulfil its promise

If more communities are to avoid the destructive impacts of storms and typhoons caused by climate change - like the one that devastated my homeland - then developed countries such as Scotland must deliver on their promises to cut their emissions.

They need to set a positive example, demonstrating that a transition to a low-carbon economy is not only achievable, but highly desirable.

No-one can forget the images of the Philippines in November 2013: scenes of destruction, vast areas littered with rubble and debris, streets no longer recognisable, people mindlessly walking around wastelands of mud and debris looking for signs that their loved ones were alive.

Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the most powerful storm to have ever made landfall, caused devastation in my family's hometown and hundreds of other towns. It claimed thousands of lives, flattened millions of homes and left many with nothing but the clothes they had on and a poor country with a clean-up bill of $36 billion.

I was away negotiating for my country at the UN's international climate change conference in Warsaw, Poland, unsure of even my own family's fate. It felt important to me to highlight the real human effects of climate change in plain English.

I said: "To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of your armchair … What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness."

A recent statement from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on its impacts spells out with scientific evidence the madness of the self-inflicted pain of climate change. We must prepare for more Yolandas coming our way.

The future of my country, your country, and for the millions of people across the world most at risk from a destructive climate lies in our ability to join forces and respond as one to a global challenge that will eventually hurt us all. Thankfully, this response has started. Almost 500 climate laws have been passed in 66 countries, and many of these are in developing countries.

I find an important parallel in the context of climate justice as the Philippines legislated its Climate Change Act in 2009, the same year the Scottish Parliament passed the Climate Change (Scotland) Act.

The Scottish Climate Change Act commits Scotland to meet annual emissions reduction targets, and achieve at least 42% reductions by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050. I applaud Scotland for its strong statement of intent. In a world looking for positive examples, Scotland could provide a powerful example of a successful transition to a low-carbon economy.

Having signalled your intention with an ambitious Climate Act, we are now watching to see how you fulfil your promise.

I know from my friends at WWF Scotland that while much is being done to harness the power of the wind and the waves, there remains much more to do if the promise of the Climate Act is to be fulfilled.

Scotland's legacy and lasting value must be found in the action it stimulates, the policies it drives, the emissions it reduces and the targets it meets. We need those countries that are committed to cutting emissions to show the world a low-carbon economy is possible.

This means making different, sometimes difficult and bold, political decisions today to those made yesterday, prioritising low-carbon investment, and providing leadership so that others will follow.

Scotland has done much to acknowledge its responsibility to climate justice and its contribution to global climate change. For the sake of my people in the Philippines, and the millions of others affected by climate change around the world, I appeal to the good government of Scotland to fulfil the promise made by your Climate Change Act.

Yeb Sano was the lead negotiator for the Philippines at the 2013 UN climate summit in Warsaw, where he wept and fasted after his country was devastated by a massive typhoon. He is also an ambassador for the environmental group, WWF.

Contextual targeting label: 
Weather

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

238866