Youth in SE plays a critical role in climate action – experts

Youth leadership, capacity building, and awareness-raising play a critical role in advancing ecosystem restoration and climate action in the Southeast Asian region.

This was emphasized by forestry and conservation experts who are also trained Climate Reality Leaders from the Philippines and Indonesia during the  World Environment Day episode of the Klimatotohanan webcast series, a fortnightly webcast hosted by The Climate Reality Project Philippines.

Anne Marie Mananquil-Bakker, Director for Partnerships at non-profit organization Fostering Education and Environment for Development (FEED) Philippines, highlighted the power of the youth to “build a better future.” She noted that young Filipinos and Indonesians have the ability to catch the attention of the media, which also plays an important part in amplifying calls for change and inciting action from the government and the private sector.

“To be honest, they [media] will respond when it comes from you, the youth. Don’t underestimate your power. Keep at it. Consolidate yourselves. Consolidate across the ASEAN region and then you have the voice for change,” Mananquil-Bakker told youth advocates.

Philippine forest cover is down to about only seven (7) million hectares or 23% of the country’s total land area from over 90% during pre-colonial times. Even with a National Greening Program and log ban in place, forest loss persists, and gains from reforestation efforts in some parts of the country are erased by losses in others.

The 2019 Special Report on Climate Change and Land of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s top scientific body on climate change, has identified the forestry and land use sector as a significant net source of greenhouse gas emissions. Continuous deforestation and land degradation, however, will chip away at this carbon sink.

Raiza Mae Togado, Forest Monitoring Officer for the National Greening Program of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources, explained during the webcast that the key drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in the Philippines include agricultural and infrastructure expansion, land conversion, and climate change.

A lot of constraints in reforestation and forest conservation efforts, Mananquil-Bakker said, are caused by the lack of technical capabilities of different stakeholders and actors. “Capacity building is much needed in communities, [specifically on] things like agroforestry and simple techniques that have been around but the communities are not informed of,” she said. “Even things like carbon sequestration, if we can get more data in that area, then there’s even more impetus for the private sector to be involved,” she added.

Mananquil-Bakker also emphasized the need to ensure the sustainability, replicability, and scalability of reforestation and climate action projects moving forward. “What we try to design is a sustainable project that can be replicated in other parts of the country, can be scaled up, is designed on best practice for the community, by the community. All the science of development and forestry must be there. Otherwise, we shouldn’t do it,” she said.

Deforestation rates in Indonesia hit a historic low in 2020 due to various government policies such as a permanent ban on the clearing of forests and peatlands, a moratorium on oil palm plantation licenses, forest fire mitigation, and a social forestry program. However, while Indonesia’s forest cover is at 50.9%, its Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement allows up to 325,000 hectares of deforestation per year to supposedly leave room for economic development, potentially clearing 3.25 million hectares of rainforest by 2030.

Pointing out that the root of the problem is lack of awareness, Dr. Puji Rianti, environmental activist, researcher, and lecturer at the FMIPA IPB University in Indonesia, said that there is a need to educate the public on how forests, including everything in it, support not only those in nearby communities but also those living in the metropolitan areas.

Mahardika Putra Purba, Research and Program Consultant at Indonesia-based non-government organization Alam Sehat Lestari, meanwhile, underscored the need for all stakeholders from the private and public sector to converge efforts, expertise, and resources. “We cannot work in silos. We have to work together with communities that live near the forest to protect existing forests. We have to work with the government,” he noted.

This special Klimatotohanan episode, which aired last June 5, forms part of the Reimagine, Recreate, Restore campaign spearheaded by Youth Climate Reality Leaders of the Philippines and Indonesia. Aside from the Klimatotohanan webcast, the campaign features the Open Letter from the Youth and the Adopt-A-Seedling Donation Drive

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