Yeb Saño: “Climate change is the biggest problem we face as a human family”
Yeb Saño the young Filipino diplomat who became the face of the UN climate talks in Poland last year when he wept and fasted for two weeks after super-typhoon Haiyan devastated his country, is now an unlikely climate justice superstar. He has the same job, the same friends and he still displays the same shy emotionalism mixed with intellect, but he now talks confidently to crowds of thousands, is invited around the world, advises governments, signs letters with Nobel prizewinners and, instead of regulation climate negotiator dark suit and tie, he wears sharp shirts – Guardian article
“The climate battle will not be won or lost at the international level:
it will be won or lost at the grassroots level.” Yeb Saño
- Warsaw COP-19
- Other news
During his speech at the COP 19 talks in Warsaw, in the wake of Supertyphoon Haiyan devastating his homeland, Yeb Saño added an unscripted pledge to fast during the conference until meaningful progress had been made. He said:
“In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, in all due respect Mr. President, and I mean no disrespect for your kind hospitality, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate. This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this COP until a meaningful outcome is in sight.” video
Other extracts from his speech:
I thank the youth present here and the billions of young people around the world who stand steadfast behind my delegation and who are watching us shape their future. I thank civil society, both who are working on the ground as we race against time in the hardest hit areas, and those who are here in Warsaw prodding us to have a sense of urgency and ambition. We are deeply moved by this manifestation of human solidarity. This outpouring of support proves to us that as a human race, we can unite; that as a species, we care.
It was barely 11 months ago in Doha when my delegation appealed to the world… to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face… as then we confronted a catastrophic storm that resulted in the costliest disaster in Philippine history. Less than a year hence, we cannot imagine that a disaster much bigger would come. With an apparent cruel twist of fate, my country is being tested by this hellstorm called Super Typhoon Haiyan, which has been described by experts as the strongest typhoon that has ever made landfall in the course of recorded human history.
To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of your armchair. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce. Not to forget the massive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of North America. And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.
The climate crisis is madness. It is the 19th COP, but we might as well stop counting, because my country refuses to accept that a COP30 or a COP40 will be needed to solve climate change.
|We have entered a new era that demands global solidarity in order to fight climate change and ensure that pursuit of sustainable human development remains at the fore of the global community’s efforts. This is why means of implementation for developing countries is ever more crucial.|
We cannot sit and stay helpless staring at this international climate stalemate. It is now time to take action. We need an emergency climate pathway.
I speak for my delegation. But more than that, I speak for the countless people who will no longer be able to speak for themselves after perishing from the storm. I also speak for those who have been orphaned by this tragedy. I also speak for the people now racing against time to save survivors and alleviate the suffering of the people affected by the disaster.
We must stop calling events like these as natural disasters. It is not natural when people continue to struggle to eradicate poverty and pursue development and gets battered by the onslaught of a monster storm now considered as the strongest storm ever to hit land. It is not natural when science already tells us that global warming will induce more intense storms. It is not natural when the human species has already profoundly changed the climate.
“The climate crisis is madness” – Naderev Yeb Saño.
April 2015: Earth Day announcement. Former Philippines climate envoy announces he is stepping down from the Philippine Climate Commission to work on sustainable future with faith groups “Why I’m leaving diplomacy to fight climate change. The climate change challenge will make the world a better place. Simply because it is our only option.” link
June 2015: Climate change is the biggest problem we face as a human family. The Filipino environmentalist Yeb Saño is just one of many of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics who, on 18 June, will read Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment which is likely to call for strong action on climate change. Saño is in Sydney as a spiritual ambassador for OurVoices (now GreenFaith.org) a faith-based climate activist group that aims to “[bring] faith to the climate talks”. He predicts the pope’s letter will be “strong on stewardship, on economic justice, and the moral responsibility for all of us to be a part of caring for creation”. He will walk with other members of Sydney’s faith communities across the harbour bridge on Friday, as part of the People’s Pilgrimage, a worldwide, multi-faith climate campaign. He says religion helps bring a weighty moral dimension to “the biggest problem we face as a human family”, one that has “been missing” for more than two decades. link
December 2015: Rome-to-Paris climate marcher says COP21 failed poor nations. Yeb Saño departed Rome on Sept. 30 with an entourage of multi-faith pilgrims. By November, they crossed the Alps. He says “The Paris Agreement is even weaker than the 1992 Climate Change Convention and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. . . it represents the sheer avoidance of rich countries to be accountable for the climate crisis,” Even the much lauded goal to “pursue efforts” to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C was mere “diplomatic sleight of hand without the presence of words like “commitment” to back it up. link