Home Commentary The poor and the planetary crisis

The poor and the planetary crisis

The continuing effects of the climate crisis must end, and poverty must be holistically addressed

The hardest hit by climate divergence are the poor, although equally damaging to nature itself. But the poor remain on the sidelines during climate negotiations and are even never heard of in the sala of negotiators, government functionaries, and powerful lobbyists.

“Conventions” remain an icing, covering the “global hell” of the climate divergence. The poor remain the collateral damage of the planetary crisis we are facing.

COP22 and COP23 introduced the Talanoa Dialogue process as an inclusive way to consult disenfranchised sectors in the negotiations. Sadly, it was never felt by those affected.



We count among the most affected by climate change the indigenous communities in the Amazon region who are facing the onslaught of corporate environmental abusers, the island communities in the Pacific who face the immense sea-level rise and damaging typhoons, and the African communities facing droughts driving them to hunger and forcing them to migrate.

All these are the clear and present danger of the planetary crisis.

Not Listening to the ‘cry of the poor’

The poor are excluded in climate talks, the pseudo-solution machinery of the Conference of Parties (COP), which is often bullied by greenwashing companies and big polluters.

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Even if the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) wants the integration of “holistic climate policies and actions” across local governance, governments would rather listen to the bullish corporate powers than the poor.

Practically, all climate summits failed. The resistance of the climate criminals is more prominent than the lobby of those who are impacted by the climate crisis.

When the same climate polluters lead the climate talks, we cannot solve the damaging planetary crisis. We cannot trust the double standards of countries that appear to solve the climate crisis but are yet not resolved to make local commitments (coal phaseout, mitigation policies, etc.).

Likewise, the poor cannot suffer long enough from the indifference of countries accountable for the climate impacts and of corporate polluters who plunder nature at the cost of the planetary system.

Thus, major polluters must not be allowed in any COP. This COP27, we are again seeing the marketing propaganda of polluters, using the climate crisis as the focus of their business interests.

In the loss and damage facility framework, the accountability is still dim. The COP27 released draft on “loss and damage” remains abstract. There is no assurance that it can trickle on the sites of environmental struggles. Ecological accountability and compensation are blocked by political powers who listen more to corporate and multinational entities.

The draft outlines “to assist developing countries in meeting the costs of addressing loss and damage.” Hopefully, this can be approved and realized.

Profit over the poor

The essential cause of the crisis is due to the plunder by corporations and the governments themselves. It is the new face of conquests — plundering remaining forests with limitless greed and victimizing the powerless. The investment portfolio of these corporations is expanded, equally with the increasing index of poor populations (ironically, of countries with rich resources and are sites of exploitation).

From here, Prof. Jose Maria Sison said the “imperialist powers have mindlessly engaged in the plunder and devastation of the environment, especially in the underdeveloped countries, bringing about the current problem of global warming or global heating, which also threatens the very existence of humanity.”

Many countries have embraced economic dependence on extractive industries and other forms of ecological destruction at the expense of the people and the planet. They seem to have no conscience when, with their greed, they destroy the entire system of life. This is heavily felt by people affected by greed.

The poor, from the perspective of big polluters or environmental criminals, are expedient compared to the profit gained from destroying nature.

Last Sunday, November 13, Pope Francis reflected on the World Day of the Poor. He said: “The poverty that kills is squalor, the daughter of injustice, exploitation, violence, and the unjust distribution of resources.

“It is a hopeless and implacable poverty, imposed by the throwaway culture that offers neither future prospects nor avenues of escape. It is a squalor that not only reduces people to extreme material poverty but also corrodes the spiritual dimension, which, albeit often overlooked, is nonetheless still there and still important.

“When the only law is the bottom line of profit at the end of the day, nothing holds us back from seeing others simply as objects to be exploited; other people are merely a means to an end.

“There no longer exist such things as a just salary or just working hours, and new forms of slavery emerge and entrap persons who lack alternatives and are forced to accept this toxic injustice simply to eke out a living.”

The call for climate and economic justice

The call is to eliminate the growing injustice suffered by the poor, including climate impacts.

Global poverty must not be overlooked by so much focus on the Ukraine-Russia war theater, a war that is beneficial to big polluters who insist on the importance of oil.

The continuing effects of the climate crisis must end, and poverty must be holistically addressed.

We hear UN Secretary-General António Guterres saying “Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish.” We still need sustaining commitments from countries with bigger responsibilities.

The planetary crisis that has a growing impact on the economy has a human face — the poor. In the intervention of Cardinal Pietro Parolin at a COP27 session, he said “The socio-ecological crisis that we are living in is a propitious moment for individual and collective conversion and for concrete decisions that can no longer be postponed.

“The human face of the climate emergency challenges us deeply. We have a moral duty to act concretely in order to prevent and respond to the always more frequent and severe humanitarian impacts caused by climate change.”

Brother Jaazeal Jakosalem, OAR, is a Filipino Laudato Si’ reader. A member of Pusyon Kinaiyahan, an environmental group in the Visayas. He is currently based in Germany as a member of PCPR-Europe, working for the Philippine campaigns related to the protection of human rights.

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