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Another Filipino delivers emotional appeal during UN climate change conference

Lead negotiator Naderev Saño wasn't the only Filipino to speak out against climate change at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC's) 19th Conference of Parties in Warsaw, Poland.

Like Saño, who on Wednesday pleaded for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, Filipina Carlie Labaria, delivered a plenary statement to remind delegates of the pressing need to reach a binding agreement to address climate change.

Labaria, a development scientist at the Ateneo School of Government, is a fellow at the Adopt a Negotiator project of the Global Call for Climate Action. And in her speech, she also spoke on behalf of YOUNGO, the official constituency for the youth at the UNFCCC.

"This opportunity is especially meaningful to me today, because I am the child of a country that is today reeling from yet another unprecedented climate disaster," she said Monday in her speech, referring to Super Typhoon Yolanda.

And also like Saño, the devastation caused by the super typhoon hit close to home as Labaria hails from storm-affectedTagbilaran in Bohol.

"My own family is without power and water, and will be for months. I am lucky though, because I know my family are safe - at least for this event," she said.

Unfortunately, Labaria pointed out, many others in her country were in a worse situation. And, with more storms expected before 2013 ends, exacerbating the risks and complications for survivors.

"That is the human cost of climate change," she said to the delegates. "And for my country, this is de ja vu. We began the Doha negotiations with a similar disaster. Now, we begin Warsaw under the same cloud of suffering,"

The UNFCCC conference in 2012 was held in the same year that habagat rains brought widespread flooding to Manila and parts of Luzon. It was also the year that Typhoon Pablo devastated southern Mindanao.

During the 2012 conference, delegates agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol, a binding agreement requiring developed nations to reduce their greenhouse emissions. The protocol was supposed to expire in 2012. But a commitment was made to craft a new protocol agreement by 2015 for implementation by 2020.

"We are left with only two years to create a new, fair, ambitious and binding agreement. And it cannot just be any agreement. For my family now, and my future tomorrow, all parties need to reaffirm common principles of humanity, to defend my rights, my generation’s rights, and future generations’ rights," Labaria said.

She reminded delegates from developed nations that cutting greenhouse emissions is more than just a matter of money. "It is a matter of survival. Perhaps more importantly, it is a matter of dignity. Countries,like mine bear the brunt of the burden even though we did not cause the problem," she said.

"For the next two weeks, we will hold you accountable. For the rest of our lives, we will hold you accountable. It is we and it is they, the future generation, who,will live tomorrow with the consequences of your decisions today," she said.

'Concerned about climate change'

In Warsaw, Labaria told delegates and negotiators that they had the power to alter the trajectory of not only the Earth’s temperature but also the future of the young men and women who look upon them as children looking upon their parents. “Please give us a fighting chance," she asked.

Labaria has been fighting the good fight by helping local governments adapt to climate change and lowering their vulnerability from disasters.

"Up until now, I have been working behind the name of institutions. I have never really put myself out there as myself - as Carlie, a young woman concerned about climate change," she told GMA News Online.

Although the deadline to find a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol is not for two more years, Labaria said there were things the Philippines can do now to help lower global greenhouse emissions.

Primary among these is to invest more in developing sources of renewable energy.

"Although the Philippines' emissions are negligible, the Philippine government should not make this an excuse to perpetuate the establishment of coal power plants," she said.

Labaria added the country should also include climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in development plans for local government units. This will  require strengthening the implementation of climate change adaptation laws. — DVM, GMA News