Engaging Governments and Political Parties to Govern ‘Green’

Remarks of Former Philippine Speaker Jose de Venecia

Founding Chairman and Chairman of Standing Committee, International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP);

Co-Chairman, International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP);

Special Envoy of the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and for Intercultural Dialogue 

ICAPP Special Workshop on Green Cities

Seoul, Republic of Korea; October 28-November 2, 2018 

Excellencies, friends, ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the ICAPP Standing Committee, we are pleased to add our welcome to those already expressed here for all the participants and guests at this special workshop.

We commend the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), led by its Council Chairman, the highly-regarded former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, its Director General Frank Rijsberman, the ICAPP Parliamentarians Union in the Korean National Assembly, our ICAPP Co-Chairman and able South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong, and the ICAPP Secretariat, headed by Secretary General Park Ro-byug, Seoul’s able former Ambassador in Moscow, for co-hosting this conference.

We welcome and support the establishment of the MOU between the ICAPP and the GGGI as a framework of cooperation.

A new record in global warming       

Let me note that our home-planet Earth has already passed an ominous ecological milestone:

In May 2013, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached its highest concentration since the Pliocene age.

On the geologic timescale, the Pliocene runs back 5.3 million years ago—when there were jungles in what is now north Canada.

We may expect ocean levels to rise and extreme weather to become routine.    

We’re also coming to realize the warming of the earth and the rising of the seas are the work, not of an uncaring Providence, but of ourselves—perhaps in all our human arrogance and heedlessness.

And yet we know that man had not been licensed to inflict all that he wills on the rest of Creation.

To the contrary, as Genesis tells the biblical story:

“The Lord God took the man He had created from the dust of the ground and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

It is long past the time we must return to the doctrine of humankind as steward of the Earth.

Yes, our planet Earth and humankind are now victims of climate change or environmental degradation.

Floods, droughts, tornadoes in man’s future

Excellencies, friends: We certainly will need all the solidarity and sense of purpose we can raise—since global warming is the most potentially catastrophic of the dangers threatening humankind.

Since the late nineteenth century, there has been a marked rise in the average temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans, because of the increasing concentration of ‘greenhouse’ gases that trap the sun’s warmth.

Already our peoples are experiencing more frequent occurrences of extreme weather: heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall; deadly tornadoes and snowstorms caused by shifting temperature regimes.

Already rising water temperatures have disturbed the food chain in the Pacific—causing the dramatic decline of creatures crucial to the survival of species.

Food production, the first casualty of global warming

If governments’ promises to fight climate change are not met, our planet could expect mean temperatures 4.0 degrees Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels as early as the 2060’s.

And the immediate impact may be on food production. Already the global community is having difficulty meeting the food demands of a growing and increasingly wealthy population eating more meat. Climate change threatens to put prosperity out of reach of millions still kept down by poverty and to roll back decades of development.

More aggressive concerted action by the key states is necessary. Ironically, rising living standards in the emerging countries make them reluctant to accept restraints on their initial taste of prosperity, which will radically increase their people’s demand for electric power and the burning of fossil fuels.

What the global community needs to do together

What does the global community need to do together?

First, it must step up efforts to reduce ‘greenhouse’ effects and emissions from powerhouses and other industrial energy sources.

Then it needs to cut down the use of polluting coal—which is right now the prime energy provider for large economies like America and China. In the United States, economic and political conservatives not only reject higher-cost energy alternatives to coal. There are those who still cast doubt on the science of global warming.

The international community had agreed to complete a binding agreement for greenhouse gases for all countries—by 2015.

But, so far, our need for a binding agreement has been frustrated by self-pleading on the part of some of the powers.

The common fear is that environmental strictures will slow down economic growth.

The management teacher, Peter Drucker, advocates that, to mitigate the pollution of the atmosphere, global civil society needs to summon a degree of moral anger—and undertake a concerted effort on the scale and intensity of the civic campaigns that—through history—have abolished slavery; outlawed piracy on the high seas; established the International Red Cross; and more recently banished smoking.

The international community must set more rigorous—tougher—standards against which to measure—and penalize—carbon emissions.

We need to moderate our ambitions of development

Excellencies, friends: We see our shared task as that of spreading awareness of the threat of climate change—and of generating preventive action against global warming. Awareness of climate change—and its cause by human activity—is certainly growing worldwide. But it is not growing fast enough to get people to demand immediate and decisive action from those who lead them.

We ourselves believe governments and political parties must deal with the threat of climate change and global warming with a greater—and more sustained—sense of urgency than they have done so far, because the stakes are higher than in any political or economic crisis of the moment.

We need to match with our efforts the dimensions and the gravity of the danger humankind faces.

Governments can make a difference

We know governments can make a difference—if only they focus on specific, practical aspects of the problem—as the three European states have focused on the degradation of the oceans they share; and the Communist Party of China has focused on the stifling smog in some of China’s great cities.

Getting Asian governments to do so, we have made one of ICAPP’s prime missions. We intend to focus the leaderships of ICAPP’s member parties in Asia on responding creatively—and decisively—to the challenge of Climate Change.

No substitute for the Party

But organizational work that wins elections cannot take place without our so-called anonymous political party workers. And there is no substitute for the party organization in launching any national effort—and getting it done.

Party organizations are also crucial in passing down policy decisions and passing up policy feedback from the constituencies.

Most important of all, parties are crucial to the all-important work of institutionalizing public policy—so that it outlasts the time in power of the charismatic leader who may have begun it.

Massive tree farming can grow our forest cover

Excellencies, friends: Since deforestation—no less than the burning of fossil fuels—is a root cause of global warming, we should also begin to bind Nature’s wounds from generations of wanton logging.

Reforestation and tree farming—on the scale and intensity the planet needs—can become and must become an economic stimulus for all states, in crisis or not, that the World Bank, the IMF, and regional banks should champion.

Yes, we ask that economic stimulus programs in Asia, the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Australian continent should include financial provisions for fighting climate change and planting tens of billions of trees worldwide, and not just providing tens of billions of dollars to save the banks in the U.S., Europe, and Asia from their mountains of bad loans that threaten their bankruptcy.

We the political parties must mobilize massive tree planting to reforest our bald denuded mountains, to plant tens of billions of trees because trees will help solve our drinking water problem, our industrial water and large-scale irrigation water needs, and help solve as well our serious flood-control problems.

Employ tens of millions

What is more, the massive worldwide planting of trees will employ tens of millions of our young men and young women who will plant the trees, take care of the trees, harvest the trees, process the trees into plywood and timber for mass housing, pulp and paper, etc., replanting of the trees all over again in a continuing cycle, as they do with the evergreen tree plantations of New Zealand, Canada, Finland and the Scandinavian countries with great commercial profits.

The Scandinavians have been farming trees for decades, as a sector of the pulp and paper industry. My country—whose forest cover was devastated by export logging in the 1950s—has ironically become one of the tree-farming pioneers today, whose still modest experience other developing countries could look into.

Yes, massive commercial tree planting can be a most profitable enterprise. It should be one of the principal objectives of economic or financial stimulus launched by governments: to help save the economy and help save our planet and humankind.

Governments and political parties to govern ‘green’

Excellencies, friends: We agree that environmental degradation is the clear and present danger that threatens our planet Earth.

We agree we have no more time to lose; and we agree every one of us has a job to do in the common effort we must undertake to preserve the beauty of the land and the purity of the surrounding air in cities.

As representatives of the Asian political parties, our job is to deliberate and enact public policy that mitigates, deters, and stops climate change in every Asian state.

One of our basic aims is precisely to encourage Asian governments and political parties to govern green—to ensure the interests of the environment are represented in public policy decisions in every Asian state.

We in ICAPP must work cooperatively with the United Nations system and the global community on the issues of climate change.

We must help political decision-makers translate people’s needs, wants and hopes about climate change and protection of the environment into effective public policy.

Our goal is to establish measures against environmental degradation as norms in the political cultures of all our member countries.

This Special Conference in the Republic of Korea creates the opportunity for all of us to sit down and reason together to sustain our common dream to protect and nurture our Planet Earth and to try to prolong for always the lives of all the peoples of the world.

Yes, today and in all the days to come.

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