The Grey Chronicles


Imported Climate: 3° and Rising

Eye of the StormIn an article entitled The obligation of rich nations (2009), a critical reaction to the raised eyebrows of newspaper headlines on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo saying that the rich nations should fund the rehabilitation of the Philippines, Atty. Rita Linda V. Jimeno declared that “Indeed our nation is a climate change victim. And the offenders or tortfeasors are the developed and rich nations which, for centuries, have been wreaking havoc on the environment.”

Jimeno first explained that PGMA correctly pointed out that developed nations are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases which have gravely affected the Earth’s temperature, causing climate disturbances. She described the cycle of Greenhouse gases [GHG] generation citing scientific data from various studies then focused on China, Europe and the United States as responsible for most of the global growth in emissions for the period 2000 to the present. “President Arroyo was therefore correct in saying that we are not climate change makers but are climate change takers.”

Basing her legal arguments on the universal concept of an offense called tort: an unlawful violation of a right—not created by contract—that gives rise to an action for damages; and highlighted provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations on Dec. 10, 1948 to plead her case:

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: “Every one has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” If we, as members of the family of nations, are guaranteed the right to life and security of person, it follows that when we are deprived of life and property because of ferocious storms and typhoons wrought by climate change, the makers of climate change must be made accountable.

Article 22 of the Declaration says: “Every one, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international cooperation and in accordance with the organization of each state, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.” The Philippines lost hundreds of lives and billions worth of infrastructure; its people suffered untold injuries and loss of livelihood, with the onslaught of storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng. The world’s developed and rich nations which principally caused climate change must help restore us back to our dignity.

Moreover, Jimeno cautioned that while the Philippines is a victim of climate change, under the legal principle of torts, we are also liable, or more to the point: guilty of contributory negligence; thus our right to compensation may be mitigated or reduced.

Ever since my beloved Bicol Region was devastated by a typhoon sometime last year, I have wanted to write about climate change for sometime. Moreover, Jimeno’s arguments, being a lawyer, are more compelling than mine. I have not thought of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights but rather proposed for filing a class action suit against those notorious GHG emitters. I have done some cursory research and already gathered studies on the Kyoto Protocol and its economic repercussions, as well as read on the procedures on filling class action suit but had not had the opportunity to write about it.

British top economist and climate-change expert Lord Nicholas Stern had warned that the economic impact of global warming has been grossly underestimated. Lord Stern’s 2006 report on the social and economic costs of global warming acted as a wake-up call to the world. Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning The 11th Hour only came in later, after his decisive defeat for the US presidency against George W. Bush.

In October 2007, the Business Leaders of the UN Global Compact (2007) issued a statement:

“Climate Change is an issue requiring urgent and extensive action on the part of governments, business and citizens if the risk of serious damage to global prosperity and security is to be avoided.”

“Climate change poses both risks and opportunities to all parts of the business sector, everywhere. It is in the interest of the business community, as well as responsible behavior, for companies and their associations to play a full part in increasing energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions to the atmosphere and, where possible, assisting society to respond to those changes in the climate to which we are already committed.”

Last 05 June 2009, the theme for 2009 World Environment Day was “Your Planet Needs You-UNite to Combat Climate Change.” It reflects the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal at the crucial climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in December. World Environment Day has been celebrated since 1972. World governments were in Bonn, Germany, beginning 01 June until 12 June, and tackled the details of a new UN treaty, a probable successor to the Kyoto Protocol, that is to take effect after 2012 to combat global warming. The Business Mirror Perspective (2009) states:

“The impact of climate change is being felt around the globe, and some of the poorest of the world’s poor are feeling the consequences of the fossil-fuel emissions by industrialized nations half a world away.”

“The warming of the planet was unequivocally declared a reality by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC]—the international scientific body which assesses and reports on existing climate-change research—in its Fourth Assessment Report released in November 2007. … The world has warmed by an average of 0.74°C in the past 100 years as a result of human activity. The warming is caused by excessive greenhouse-gas [GHG] emissions in the atmosphere. the IPCC predicts that if GHG emissions continue to rise at their current rate, this century will see a further 3°C rise in the average world temperature. … Meanwhile, climate scientists say that changes in the polar ice sheets could raise sea levels by a meter or more by 2100. The implications could be severe, they warn. Ten percent of the world’s population—about 600 million people—live in vulnerable areas.”

Several news reports anticipate that Barack Obama might deliver what leading US politicians have been saying for years: the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Yet, Obama administration is aiming to negotiate a new treaty along the lines of delegating the “authority over huge areas of important public policy to international authorities” (Rabkin, 2009).


Business Leaders of the UN Global Compact (2007). Caring for Climate: The Business Leadership Platform. Washington. D.C.: UN Global Compact, 09 October 2007. back to text.

Business Mirror (2009). Perspective: The World Has Warmed. Manila: Business Mirror, 2009. 11pp. back to text.

Jimeno, Rita Linda V. (2009). The obligation of rich nations. Manila: The Manila Standard Today, 19 October 2009. back to text.

Rabkin, Jeremy (2009). The Constitution and American Sovereignty, “First Principles on First Fridays” lecture series sponsored by Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship. Reprinted by permission from Imprimis 38: 7/8, a publication of Hillsdale College, July/August 2009. p. 4. back to text.

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