IN ONE of the presidential debates, the nine presidentiables, because BBM was absent, were made to answer questions on climate change: different aspects of climate change policy, including renewable energy, water security, and nutrition.

I am not going to delve into the intricacies of their answers. It should be enough to remark, however, that the incoming president of the Philippines should not disregard “climate change.” It is not enough to just say something about it. It is urgent and imperative to implement existing laws on environmental conservation. More importantly, the country’s new leadership should upgrade the effort to protect the climate by expanding networks and lobbying on an international scale.

It's unfortunate that for all the noise that was made during the campaign period, we did not spend enough time for more intelligent discussions on a problem that can wipe all of us out from this country. It is true that the candidates said something about “this or that” on climate change and that their points were printed on papers. But unless we think that all of those were enough – we must admit that climate change and the challenge to further advance “climate justice” have not been taken seriously during the campaign period.

“The impacts of climate change will not be borne equally or fairly, between rich and poor, women and men, and older and younger generations.” This is a serious reminder to our politicians who have made promises to their supporters especially those in the most vulnerable areas of society.

Between the rich and the poor, the poor will carry more burdens. Between women and men, women will have to suffer more on the global scale. Between the old and the younger generations, the future (younger) generations will have to suffer more because of the effects of the choices and the activities of the current (older) generation. This can be said in simpler terms: even in suffering people are not equal, but unfortunately, those who are more responsible suffer less than those who are less responsible.

How the next administration will carry out its promises to the people will have to be tested not just in terms of infrastructures, cash incentives, and subsidies. It will have to be judged based on how the different areas of concern in politics are integrated in the much larger fight for climate justice. Interrogatively put: will the plans, projects, and policies of this new administration benefit the poor in terms of protecting them from the harms brought about by climate change? It remains to be seen how politicians will deal with mining and other giant or multinational companies.

Part of the needed response from the government are the provisions for a universal healthcare or massive or country-wide implementation of risk-reduction measures in the face of rising water levels. Again, it remains to be seen whether in the face of more typhoons coming and floods resulting from it – something would be done to better our disaster and risk management program at the LGU level.

As always, our country is not totally “zero” in terms of laws – the problem is the implementation. We have an existing Climate Change Act that created a climate change commission under the Office of the President. We also have a National Framework Strategy on Climate Change and the Philippine Green Jobs Act of 2016.

We can only hope to see a more courageous President who will take the lead in using our justice system to impose accountability on companies who have cause serious damage to nature and peoples affected by climate change.*