By John Carl T. Alonsagay/Philippines
In a sudden rush of things, I was about to face one of the most historic events in our time that has spanned for almost 20 years now. The aim of the event was to make 196 states agree and take action on how to heal the damages to the planet since the 10,000 years of its existence and 300 years of industrialization. And we are about to start this game, with ATO’s 13-year-old structure as our platform for creative and social activism
It was no easy task for me; I am just a hackneyed college student who deals with research papers and doing the stuff- for the Alpha Team Organization-which had been on my task list for the last 13 years. Most of ATO’s members have been with me since my childhood.
We started this organization of fraternity and social cause when I was in my elementary school. Since its inception as an alliance of pupils who are bullied around, it has turned out to be a youth organization that is building international connections for a cause.
One of the causes was the launch of ATO’s project entitled “ClimatEducate” in April 7, 2016. This was formulated immediately after our training with former US Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Al Gore in Manila in March 2016 through his Climate Reality Project.
ClimatEducate started out like an art project, together with ATO’s relations officer who is also my cousin, Crystal Maureen Santillan and Ms. Rubina Karki of Nepal. They were with me in the training and have since pushed the project under ATO’s flag.
ClimatEducate started out like an art project, but we thought that we should use it for more than that.
Now, we got the most ordinary individuals with extraordinary commitment for climate change action.
Level 1: Greater leaps
Intertwining with my academic tasks, I worked on the Project 24/7 in April and May; we had our first project membership application in Mid-April 2016 and gathered 8 educators, artists and advocates from the Philippines, Nepal, Yemen and Indonesia. Some became my close online friends, and I have seen how dedicated they worked for the development and expansion of the project.
The project continued for months, and I didn’t expect to have connections in almost all major locations in the Global South. Some of them were very young, high school students; artists who had their own understanding of how climate action should be; educators who are enlightened with the global movement for this cause.
The Project was formed online, and not everyone affected by climate change had personal computers or mobile phones. This is the main reason for shifting the project’s mode of action directly to schools and communities. This would become our Non-Online Initiatives or as we call “NOI”.
Level 2: Road to the real game:
Graphics and NOIs are the Project’s instruments that brought a satisfactory global audience in our online hubs. A series of these initiatives were repeatedly made in our team in Nepal, Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil and Nigeria.
In my perspective, these actions were the reason we made it to the Conference of Parties (COP). I spent hours and weeks with my PC, trying to perfect our flat vector graphics and making sure that it adheres to standard designs.
Week by week, hour by hour, time zone by time zone, we try to sharpen the purpose of the project. We try to come up with ideas on how to use these presentations as a way of connecting to schools and communities.
The hard work paid off in the middle of the Project’s engagement when the Climate Reality Project Philippines Country Manager, Rodne R. Galicha, who has been in climate advocacy for years, offered to us to include a slot for the members of the Project for the Philippine Youth Delegation to the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at Marrakesh, Morocco.
After days of deciding, Crystal, who is also the Project’s Associate Director, advised that the Project should give the slot to me though I have wanted other members to get the opportunity. I decided to carry on pursuing ATO and its project’s interests in its first engagement in a major international event.
I found myself in an impending crash with my academic works as I was in the last semester of my undergraduate course. For the remaining weeks, I was busy cleaning up my course work before leaving for Manila.
In Manila, I rejoined other climate leaders for the Future Negotiator’s training, finally meeting Ms. Jessica Anne Sanchez, our Director for Graphics, Design and Creatives; Beatrice Ann Dolores, our Director for Partnerships and Relations and JC Albert Peralta, our Science and Solutions Adviser.
We discussed possible future projects to be implemented and our position in the UN Conference. Though the organization (ATO) has a large number of members in the Philippines, I have always sought to diversify the project and the organization as well.
Glorious as they stood equally in these poles. I hope these states would contribute equally and fairly for climate action as well.
Level 3: Flying all over the Eastern Hemisphere
I flew out of the country in the rush of things. I was almost unprepared. I got my ‘untattooed’ passport into the airport’s immigration and was asked, “are you studying?” and “will you come back from the stated date?” It was my first trip out of my motherland, joining other Non-Government Organization (NGO) workers.
I got to transit through Doha and therefore Qatar was technically my first foreign country to visit. I reflected on how the Middle Eastern country grew out of its fossil fuel resources, how it paved way to modernize and highly develop their state.
While roaming the city, like other citizens of developing countries, I met hundreds of Filipinos working there, I thought of how transiting the world to give up its fossil fuel resources would hardly affect the jobs created by these industries. It was that time that climate technology and other related subjects of the Paris Agreement came to my mind.
The agreement, which was signed by almost all countries of the Earth, was the world’s first carbon reduction agreement after almost 20 years of scientific research and international negotiations on how to solve the climate crisis.
The Paris Agreement provided solutions including the mitigation of carbon production for developed countries and adaptation for most developing countries .But this wouldn’t be reached if funding and equality of support could be agreed.
It was kind of ironic because we travelled by plane (which also produces carbon) and contributed to its emissions. I asked if it was kind of hypocritical to do, when we advocate for “carbon footprint” reduction and we still use planes. My friend told me, “We have no choice, we have to wait for a few years and solutions will certainly arrive to substitute plane fuel or something that would do as a “renewable energy”.
I tried to study some UNFCCC materials Ms. Beatrice Adeline Tulagan provided me, she is the Policy Researcher for the Climate Reality Project Philippines who also had her first engagement with the Conference of Parties when she was 20 years old back in Lima, Peru last 2014. For about 18 hours, it was climate negotiations preparation while in the city and gearing up for my first step in the African Continent. It was really eerie for me, since scientists and archeologists agree that Africa is considered to be the cradle of mankind, and that mankind must fix its mistakes in the planet in the land where it was also sprang.
It was the second day of the travel when we landed. The temperature was 15 degrees Celsius when we landed in Casablanca. I did not expect to feel that cold on my first ever visit to Africa-the cradle of mankind.
We waited for 9 hours for our flight to Marrakesh, which is often referred to as the “Red City”. The city was freezing at almost 8 degrees Celsius.
United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon told us in the plenary that he hoped for his last COP (Conference of Parties) to be fruitful, he has been engaged with the climate negotiations for decades and I am saddened that these negotiations are sometimes being played by politics and crony businesses.
(I took this picture in one of the meeting rooms in the COP village)
Level 4: ‘Gaming’ in UN Climate Negotiations
The next morning, I went straight to the COP village in Bab Iglhi in Marrakesh whose landscaping and designing was a bit disappointing especially seeing air conditioners, unseparated trash bags and hearing of fossil fuel companies funding the event.
Despite these, it was all meetings, talks and formulation of policies for all states. For the first week, I was busy meeting youth leaders, promoting the thrusts of Project and the Alpha Team Organization. ATO appeared as a newbie in the ‘game’, but I realized that the creative & social activism it pursues should look on the other way.
I came into the sympathy of the Developing Countries engaging in these negotiations realizing that they have to deal with funding, adaptation mechanisms and the implementation of the Paris Agreement while they have to also tackle social and political issues in their own country. It was really unfair for them, as other developed countries have to "juggle and play" in the negotiations.
I have been studying the word "climate justice" and thought of placing it in our Project's major agenda, thought of it probably that it will have conflict with ATO's strong policy on "political neutrality" since climate justice movements have to deal with politics as well. As for now, we have to focus our work for education, another wotd for it is "capacity-building" in terms used for climate negotiations.
I was also keeping in touch with several figures in our project as we are conducting our online coverage of the conference, Mohammed Alsamet, our esteemed Director for Information & Research based in Malaysia; Musa Muhammad Tanko, our active Regional Project Manager for Africa, also a meteorologist whom I really wanted to meet because Nigeria was just a few hours flight from Morocco. Also with João Pedro Eboli, our Director for Education & Advocacy from Brazil who was really into working with our Project's strategic expansion in the South American Region. Well, of course, all of our members in the ATO-CE project team engaged well with our COP coverage online.
It was totally a game, I actually worked with other negotiators some of whom had worked for more than 10 years, others even since the UN’s initiation of plans to create a framework to tackle climate change upon its discovery, which later became the UNFCCC.
Final Level: Turning the world for action
In the last days of the COP, the Marrakech Action Proclamation, a statement among the countries involved pursuing political commitment in adaptation efforts, funding and support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action emphasizes the common vision for accelerating climate action.
Listening and observing in coordination meetings, working with my country’s delegation and meeting a lot of NGO and youth leaders made my first COP attendance very satisfactory to our efforts to introduce the ATO and its project to contribute and share the values of cooperation, humanity and social activism.
Carl is currently the Board Chairman of the Alpha Team Organization-ATO and at the same time the Project Chief Director of ATO's ClimatEducate Project. He is not bright but is just very curious with the world he lives in, he is passionate with environmentalism, astronomy, physical sciences, linguistics, journalism and he ended up to be trained as a teacher.