Yeb Sano: Why I’m leaving diplomacy to fight climate change

Former Philippines climate envoy announces he is stepping down to work on sustainable future with faith groups 

Yeb Sano protesting at slow progress during the 2013 UN climate summit in Warsaw (Pic:

Yeb Sano protesting at slow progress during the 2013 UN climate summit in Warsaw (Pic:

By Yeb Sano

To fellow pilgrims, movers, missionaries, activists, peace-lovers, and kindred spirits, allow me first of all to offer my sincerest Earth Day greetings to all.

This day is indeed a day to celebrate, but also a day to earnestly reflect on the state of our Planet. 

Today, I wish to announce that I am stepping down as a Commissioner of the Philippines’ Climate Change Commission. I will be working with different faith groups across the world, as part of the larger global climate movement’.

As we celebrate Earth Day, I am filled with gladness and hope as I join OurVoices as Leader of The People’s Pilgrimage.

OurVoices is the global, multi-faith climate campaign created in recognition of the moral urgency of the climate crisis and it is a direct response to the clamor for support for climate action from the world’s religions and faith communities.

OurVoices is a movement that emerged from among people of diverse spiritualities and faiths from around the world, united by our concern around climate change’s impact on vulnerable communities, our children, and our precious planet.

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We are exceptionally inspired and enthused no end that the inter-faith and religious communities, together with many civil society organizations, have fervently embraced this call for climate action and climate justice. This planetary awakening is profoundly uplifting and amazing.

Today, April 22, along with a group of Filipino pilgrims, we will do a symbolic 10-kilometer walk from the Shrine of Mary Queen of Peace to the Rizal Shrine in Manila.

In the middle of May, we will cross San Juanico bridge as a symbolic departure from Tacloban and say farewell to the Philippines and then head to Vanuatu, recently devastated by Cyclone Pam in one of the most serious disasters the Pacific island nation has ever experience.

The Pilgrimage will include Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, the Great Barrier Reef, India, Rome, Africa, and the Americas, amongst others. Throughout my journey, I will be accompanied by religious leaders, faith communities, civil society groups and individuals.

Together, we will pay homage to global hotspots that are at risk from climate change, but that in equal measure celebrate compelling examples of climate leadership, solutions and climate resilience.

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The People’s Pilgrimage will culminate in a 1,500 kilometer, 60-day walk from Rome to Paris to arrive in time for the UN Climate Change Summit at the very end of November 2015. The same friends walking with me today for the symbolic walk will accompany me from Rome to Paris.

Already, millions of people have lost lives, homes and their livelihoods as a result of climate change.

Yet the actions and commitments of political and industry leaders from around the world remain profoundly inadequate and fail to secure a safe and just future for all.

If these so-called leaders refuse to act adequately to confront climate change and deliver the crucial outcome in Paris at the end of the year, the People will create a new parallel world where the climate crisis can be averted.

For instance, the aspiration of a world powered by 100% renewable energy by 2050 is a dream we can and must build.

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If we are to confront our problems as a human family effectively and pursue that bright future we all want, we must build a better world – eradicate poverty, build resilient and sustainable communities, protect the Earth, promote honor and integrity, and foster a culture of caring.

The fight against climate change is part of a larger struggle for a more just, equitable, caring, and mindful world. As such, greed, apathy, and arrogance have no place in our pursuit of this bright future.

The trend is absolutely clear – climate change is a serious challenge that we face as a nation and as a global community. The extreme climate events that the Philippines and many other vulnerable nations are now confronting and will continue to confront are all connected to the disruption of the global climate system.

The importance of this issue for our generation cannot be overemphasized. The situation calls for a massive global transformation, and the Philippines stands in a unique position to provide the moral voice and leadership in the international community.

I believe that our great country can rally the whole world to take this problem seriously and immediately transition to a global economy that can turn things around.

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This notwithstanding, it is my humble view that the country has so much yet to confront towards our vision of a resilient nation.

It is important to underscore that even with a concrete set of mandates and the clear adversary that is the nation’s vulnerability, I sincerely feel that the battle cannot be won merely within the confines of the institutions we have built and the boundaries of our country.

After much reflection and examination of my conscience before God, I have arrived at a conclusion that the inspiration I have drawn, and the experience and knowledge I have gained over the years as an advocate and as a civil servant will be needed as part of a larger global climate movement.

This is a battle we cannot afford to lose, and as such I cannot yield from this opportunity to be able to make a greater contribution in the fight against climate change. As many stood selflessly to offer their lives for the greater cause, we realize that sacrifices are needed to win battles.

My own journey and what lies ahead are miniscule compared to what many great Filipinos have done, but I am happy to offer whatever I can for the greater good.

I thank the Philippine government and the Filipino people for having given me the opportunity and honor of serving the country.

Despite the gargantuan challenge that climate change is, it offers the people of this planet the rare but golden opportunity to achieve transformative change.

The climate change challenge will make the world a better place. Simply because it is our only option.

It is a great time to be a part of this growing global movement – for our generation will be the generation that will find the political will and the courage to confront the challenges we face.

We, humans, started this crisis. We will end this crisis.

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