People’s Hearing focuses Bangkok talks on human impact of climate crisis

While governments chart Paris guidelines, climate justice advocates demand urgent action

BANGKOK—On Thursday, as world governments meet to finalize the guidelines that will bring Paris Rulebook from words on paper to action on the ground, people from some of the most impacted areas of the globe held a hearing to testify to the real human impact of the climate crisis.

The Peoples’ Hearing, held just a kilometer from the negotiations, featured the stories and experiences of climate justice expert and community leaders and culminated in the issuance of a series of demands for the upcoming climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland.

The event, organized by The Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, offered a human and Global South perspective to negotiations which are often devoid of humanity and silence Global South voices.

“We are building women’s movements to challenge destructive extractivism and propose development alternatives that respond to the needs of the majority of African women, so that all women exercise control over their lands, livelihoods, natural resources, bodies and cultural heritage,” said Mela Chiponda, energy and climate justice coordinator for the WoMin Alliance in southern Africa.

“Challenging corporate interests have brought serious risks to key leaders in the frontline of struggles against coal projects. These corporations are so powerful that they can also influence governments.” said Derek Cabe of the Coal and Nuclear-Free Bataan Movement in the Philippines.

“Our leaders are vulnerable to potential violations or attacks from people benefiting from the coal business. Just like what happened to Gloria Capitan who was killed because she chose to speak up and defend her community from the perils of coal plant. But we will not stop. Instead, we condemn efforts to undermine and attempt to silence the voices of coal affected communities. We say resist coal, energy transition now!”

At the negotiations in Bangkok, governments are holding an emergency meeting to produce a draft set of “implementation guidelines” called the “Paris Rulebook.”

Their work will direct how the aspirations of the Paris Agreement will be achieved. At stake are issues of grave import to Global South governments and people including climate finance, technology, and the proliferation of false solutions like carbon markets and “climate smart” agriculture.

“Almost 5 years ago today, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines affecting 14 million Filipinos and leaving a massive trail of death and destruction. Our country continues to be beset with extreme weather events resulting in debilitating economic losses,” said Aaron Pedrosa of Sanlakas in the Philippines.

“Rehabilitation for Haiyan-impacted areas alone requires more than P360 billion pesos. Haiyan was a grim reminder of the worsening climate crisis but governments the world over have responded with unrealistic commitments under a business as usual approach. We demand ambitious emissions cut from the North! We demand climate finance from the developed countries to ensure not just to help us back on our feet but for our survival. We demand that they do their fair share in combating climate change and its impacts!”

Testimony at the hearing came from campaigners from Thailand, southern Africa, the Philippines, Bolivia, Bangladesh and India. Participants included:

  • Vidya Dinker, National Chairperson, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), India
  • Martin Vilela, Climate Justice Program Coordinator, Bolivian Platform on Climate Change, Bolivia
  • Aaron Pedrosa, Secretary – Secretary General, Sanlakas, Philippines
  • Derek Cabe, Coordinator, Coal and Nuclear-Free Bataan Movement, Philippines
  • Mela Chiponda, Energy and Climate Justice Campaign Coordinator, WoMIN (African Women Unite Against Destructive Resource Extraction)
  • Liley Begum, member of Women’s Resilience Group, Bangladesh
  • Sakhon Songma, Network Coordinator, Climate Watch Thailand
  • Ar-ree Kongklat, community leader from the Inner Gulf of Thailand

“Awareness cannot be built in one day; it takes time to persuade people. In past, women did not leave their house for any meetings, now they do,” said Liley Begum of Climate Watch Thailand, adding “Everyone can do all type of works, but we assume that household works only belong to women.”

“We can’t talk about climate impacted people without talking about the combined impacts of the system over the most vulnerable people.” said Martin Vilela.

“In countries like Bolivia, extractivism is increasing the GHG emissions and directly impacting people in the ground, increasing their vulnerability to climate change. This could happen because all countries continuously promote a flailed developing system based on economical growing that only benefits to elites and corporations. So if we want to address Climate Change, we must address wealth Inequality and corporate power.”

As the Conference of Parties 24 (COP24) approaches, time for the planet and its peoples are also slipping away. Climate justice activists, both from the global South and from North countries, vow to mobilize and agitate during the entire period of the conference in Katowice, Poland to force their governments into actions on their demands.

More on the speakers:

Mela Chiponda works as the Energy and Climate Justice Coordinator for the WoMin Alliance which has presence in 12 countries in Africa where a Women Building Power Campaign is being developed. This is a campaign against fossil fuels energy and climate injustice. The Women Building Power Campaign is anchored on grassroots women’s struggles for energy and climate justice. Mela has been working with women to push back on extractives in Zimbabwe and in Africa in general over the past 13 years.

Aaron Pedrosa has been involved in the peoples movement since 2002 as a student activist at the University of the Philippines, and in many other capacities in peoples organizations and broad alliances and coalitions fighting for human rights, climate justice and democracy issues. he is currently a public interest lawyer assisting urban poor communities facing the threat of demolition and eviction, workers who have been illegally dismissed and communities threatened by coal and mining operations.

In 2014, his home in Tacloban City was destroyed by Haiyan forcing his family to seek refuge in Manila. Together with other Haiyan-affected communities and support organizations, he co-organized Bulig Visayas, now Bulig Pilipinas, a national relief, rehabilitation and adaptation solidarity network, of which he is Convenor of. He is concurrently the Secretary-general of Sanlakas, a national, political, mass-based coalition of basic sectors whose main task is organizing peoples struggles for social justice and genuine democracy.

Liley Begum is a women leader actively working on women’s resilience building initiatives. As an activist she is also working on Farmers rights, Women rights, Disaster & Climate Change related issues, coordination with 42 groups & 800 women.

She is advocacy member of Women’s Resilience Group, Former Member of Nilgonj Union Parishod, Union Leader of Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP), Union female representative of Food for Hungry project, Member of Upazilla farmers association, Member of SVAW network (legal aid support team), Member of UP development standing Committee and have experience on humanitarian response. Ward President of Green tree plantation activity in Upazilla forest office, President of UP Education, Health & family Planning standing Committee, President of UP Disability Development standing Committee.

Ar-ree Kongklat is a representative of affected communities. She is a head of villager in one community at the Inner Gulf of Thailand. She is a victim from lands impacted, she has to move in several time by coastal erosion

Martin Vilela is the Climate Justice Activist and Climate Justice Officer Program Manager in the Bolivian Platform on Climate Change. He has been working in water and climate change issues since 2006. Currently has a strong work on climate justice approach with movements and CSOs in Bolivia campaigning and promoting a systemic change.


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