Climate change a result of militarism and neoliberalism

Jan. 05, 2024

(Editor’s note: The 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 28) was held from November 30 to December 12, 2023, which the Philippine government participated in. 196 countries agreed to transition from fossil fuel consumption to avert a climate change crisis as the past year marked record-high temperatures across the world.)

The main drivers of climate change according to Figura et al are militarism, unsustainable production, distribution and consumption, and what they term as environmental classism.

Militarism and war ensure the domination of foreign companies and their control over resources. The military toxics are very well known. For example, the use of fossil fuel for a year by the US military is equivalent to the fossil fuel consumption of the whole country of Sweden for a year.

As to the unsustainable production, distribution and consumption, coal power would be an example of that. An example of environmental racism is the dumping of garbage from Canada to the Philippines. This in turn is dumped in low income communities. All the activities of the corporations violate the rights of the citizens from displacement, to land grabbing, loss of access to water and other resources, illnesses and other health and HR issues. 

Everyone is vulnerable in climate change events but some populations are more vulnerable than others – the poor, women and children, people with disability, the indigenous people and others.

Climate change brings about health problems like death, hunger, lack of access to food, water, shelter, health services, diseases like dengue, leptospirosis and other vector-borne diseases. Gender-based violence is not uncommon in the evacuation center. We have experienced and seen all these in Mindanao.

At the height of COVID-19 pandemic we were worried that this would make climate response doubly hard and it happened during Typhoon Odette in Caraga region.  I went on a mission with Balsa Mindanao, a volunteer driven disaster response group and other organizations. No matter how much we tried maintaining social distancing inside the church where we distributed goods by a batch of five persons, outside the gates, the people were crowded and did not care about social distancing anymore. On our way home a number of volunteers got COVID-19 infection. 


While it is true that there is such a thing as state obligation, people should lead in the response if real change has to take place soonest. In Human Rights Based Environmental Advocacy, the core process is to address disparities and inequities. Our climate response should do this. We have to come up with evidence-based information because we want to influence decision-makers, stakeholders, and relevant audiences to support and implement actions.  

Human Rights-Based Environmental Advocacy promotes participation (meaning, it is inclusive). It targets accountability (especially those with duties and obligations). It emphasizes that all rights apply to all (meaning, no discrimination). It stresses the foundations of legal duties of the government and the ethical duties of all people, so that all laws and policies are consistent with the international HR instruments. 

What should we do? We can pressure the government to declare a climate emergency. This way they can perform their state obligation. We urge them to divest coal. We should defend environmental human rights people, so that all laws and policies are consistent with the international human rights instruments. defenders (climate, land, IP defenders). Women should lead. The indigenous communities should. The peasants and the people on the margins should lead. You should lead.

If we take a look at the citizenship model of health care, the following strategies are compatible. It does not matter which community or issues they engage in. Dr Lorna Jean Edmonds, who did extensive research on development and disability coined the acronym KIPA.

K is for Knowledge which includes evidence -based information, research, capacity building, and awareness-raising.

I is for Inclusion which entails mainstreaming of the authentic bearers of the issue. They articulate the issues they own.

P is for Participation. The communities lead, even taking part in policy changes and in legislation. Finally,

A is for Access which means access to health and health services (example disaster response), to information, to livelihood programs, to justice system, and to all rights embodied by the constitution.

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