By Tony La Viña, Kaloi Zarate and Jayvy Gamboa
(Editor’s Note: This is adapted from an article co-written by Tony La Viña with Kaloi Zarate and Jayvy Gamboa.)
Recognizing that climate action must indeed be shared by all and carried by all, although differently, everyone – from governments, business enterprises, to private citizens – has to make a sacrifice to realize a sustainable society.
However, that burden must not only be shared. It must be equitably shared.
Just transition and the equitable sharing tied to the former are viewed differently as well.
For instance, the Just Transition Research Collaborative, a global consortium of researchers studying the concept of just transition and how it can be better developed for climate change policy, recognizes that just transition may have different meanings.
For some, just transition is satisfied by merely transitioning to a green(er) economy while retaining affected workers, but without institutional changes that address local and global inequities.
As applied to the proposed PUVMP, this may refer to the mere change or transition of traditional jeepneys to electric jeepneys, without addressing the wider and more complex issues of the transport and urban planning sectors.
For others, just transition is met only when distributive and procedural justice are considered in the shift to a sustainable society, which means that existing inequities, discrimination, and lack of access to opportunities across stakeholders are simultaneously targeted, and, addressed, as well, not only the “greening” per se.
Consequently, as applied to the proposed PUVMP, it begs the question of whether the program has mechanisms to safeguard the interests of jeepney operators – the small and medium ones, especially – and the drivers, and, of whether the program is partnered with a public transportation reform that increases its accessibility to commuters.
This is how we should assess and influence the PUVMP. All of these are to ensure that just transition is ensured, and further, that such just transition is what can truly equitably share the costs among stakeholders.
A sneak peek on climate action
The global community is on the same page that climate action must be done at the soonest possible time.
Although there are differences on the desired timeline on when fossil fuel energy sources and technologies must be phased out, there is a common understanding that at one point, we must all shift to a sustainable society.
The problem, however, is we cannot consume all the time that we need, because irreversible global warming has a tight deadline.
The matter of just transition, when viewed incorrectly, may be perceived as delaying any positive action that governments and non-state actors are doing.
Some may think that the matter of equitable sharing of costs among stakeholders is not at all essential in shifting away from fossil fuels.
However, just transition must not be viewed as something optional or merely supplementary. Instead, it must be considered as part and parcel of whatever kind of shift to a sustainable society the world wants to achieve.
While we recognize that global climate action must be done immediately, it should not be railroaded at the expense–again–of the marginalized and most vulnerable of society.
In the context of the PUVMP, although the government has announced last March 1 the extension for the phaseout of traditional jeepneys, the program apparently is still bound to happen, if the present bureaucrats running the transport sector are to be believed —definitely not by June 2023, but by December 2023, or if postponed again, at an indefinite later time.
Indeed, the matter of just transition should not be a reason to delay the PUVMP. On the contrary, just transition should be at the core of the PUVMP.
Just transition ensures not only that that we, as a country, is taking the first step correctly toward a sustainable future, but also, in the long term ensure a public transport program that is socially just, democratic and public service-oriented.
We must hold the line and ensure that there is accountability from the government in designing and implementing the modernization program.
It might not yet occur to us at this point, but whatever outcome this program has shall set the precedent for future government efforts “in the name of sustainability and climate action.”
If we let injustice prevail in the name of sustainability, then have we really taken a step toward a sustainable future?
The authors are all strong advocates of addressing climate change. We are also champions of climate justice.
Just transition must be placed at the core of any sustainability effort. If disregarded, we are in danger of rebuilding a “new society” that, although “green,” is not any less inequitable for our people.
(Tony La Viña teaches law and is Associate Director for climate policy in the Manila Observatory; Kaloi Zarate, a public transport sector policy reform advocate, is a former three-term member of the House of Representatives, and Deputy Minority Leader, of the 18thCongress; while Jayvy Gamboa is a policy and legal research associate at the Manila Observatory with a research interest on just transition, particularly on labor law and regulation).