Joshua Mendoza

Published: March 26, 2024

Rachel Anne Herrera sees the provision in the Climate Change Act of 2009, mandating at least one female commissioner, as a huge leap towards integrating gender principles and perspectives into policymaking. 

As one of the commissioners at the Philippine Climate Change Commission (CCC), Herrera aspires to amplify the voices and experiences of women and girls, who play a crucial role in strengthening climate action.

Herrera currently leads the commission’s efforts on gender, climate finance, and single-use plastics. 

Before her appointment to the CCC, Herrera worked at the Senate of the Philippines, International Committee of the Red Cross, and Supreme Court. She earned degrees in law from the University of the Philippines and environmental science from Ateneo de Manila University.

In an interview with Climate Tracker Asia, Herrera talked about her work at CCC and the commission’s role in strengthening gender-responsive approaches in climate action.

In what ways does the Climate Change Act, with its provision mandating that at least one commissioner of the CCC must be female, create opportunities for Filipinas to showcase their leadership and abilities in the climate space?

RACHEL: The express provision in the law that at least one of the three commissioners of the CCC must be female—this tells us of the huge progress in enacting policy that is intentional in integrating gender principles and perspectives. This is in recognition of the need for better representation of women and their insights in leadership and decision-making roles, especially within the main Philippine government body responsible for addressing climate change.

In the Commission, we have passed a resolution to promote the mainstreaming and strengthening of gender-responsive approaches in climate action, and it is equally important to monitor and evaluate how this is applied in our national climate strategies because then we can observe trends and identify remaining gaps. 

We also ensure that gender analysis or assessment is part of packaging project proposals for climate finance access because gender is now considered a core aspect if solutions are truly inclusive and equitable. This means that we must continue to capacitate stakeholders and produce knowledge products on gender and women empowerment in climate action.

By championing gender in our work, we hope to raise the voices and experiences of women and girls, underscoring their critical role in that they may be differently affected compared to men, but they hold valuable insights and experiences in strengthening climate actions.

With climate change exacerbating existing inequalities, what policies or strategies does the CCC advocate for to ensure a more inclusive and livable future for all, especially for women and girls?

RACHEL: Aside from the Climate Change Act, which recognizes the inclusion of gender-sensitive considerations in climate actions, we also abide by the Magna Carta of Women, which sets gender mainstreaming as the national strategy for gender and development. 

The National Climate Change Action Plan which we launched in 2012, Nationally Determined Contribution for greenhouse gas reduction targets for the 2020 to 2030 decade, and National Adaptation Plan of 2023-2028, also aim to build the adaptive capacities of both women and men and optimize mitigation opportunities towards gender-responsive and rights-based sustainable development. 

Our resolution on gender strongly advocates for the generation of sex-disaggregated data and the conduct of gender analysis in the implementation of climate projects and programs.

We have also put in place the Climate Change Expenditure Tagging (CCET) process since 2013, which tracks and monitors climate-related projects and programs, including those for gender and development. We monitor this, as well as the government mandate for all agencies to set aside at least 5% of their total budget for gender and development, and check how agencies are mainstreaming gender and climate action in their operations.

As for knowledge products, we put up a dedicated platform for country efforts that mainstream gender in climate action, through our National Integrated Climate Change Database and Information Exchange System Gender and Climate Change (NICCDIES) portal. We also organize dedicated workshops and events where we showcase women and youth leadership, as well as build their capacities, in climate action.

How does CCC engage with women and young girls to empower them as climate advocates?

RACHEL: The CCC is mandated by law to provide technical assistance to local government units. Through our flagship Communities for Resilience program, we work with them in developing local action plans that address the specific climate risks and vulnerabilities they face or experience and in providing training workshops in accessing climate finance, conducting climate risk assessments, and mainstreaming gender in their climate initiatives.

Last year, we supported the vision of Senator Loren Legarda—our foremost legislator of environmental and climate resilience laws, and principal author of the Climate Change Act—in launching the Philippine Resilience Awards for women. Together with her office and civil society partners including the Philippine Commission on Women and National Resilience Council, we recognized ten women doing outstanding work to promote climate and disaster resilience, environmental conservation, and social justice. 

Among a distinguished group of city mayors, university presidents, and hospital administrators, we conferred special awards to two grassroots leaders Ms Nida Collado of San Vicente, Palawan and Ms. Mila Bongalbal of Tiwi, Albay.

Tell us about a significant accomplishment you are proud of as a CCC Commissioner.

RACHEL: I spearheaded the CCC’s campaign on single-use plastics regulation wherein we advocate for the phaseout and eventual banning of single-use plastics in the country. We do this not just from an environmental vantage point, but more so on the corresponding greenhouse gas emissions from the entire life cycle of plastics that contribute to global warming and climate change. 

Our strong legislative engagement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, with support from the World Bank Group, was instrumental to the passage of the Extended Producer’s Responsibility (EPR) Act. This landmark law now mandates large enterprises to manage their solid waste and recover their plastic footprint, and we are keen to continue our work on passing a measure that would regulate single-use plastics.

I served as the National Focal Point when the CCC was the country’s Nationally Designated Authority to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). In this role, I led the team that reviewed project ideas and proposals to the GCF, while ensuring that these are aligned with national priorities and uphold gender and indigenous peoples’ rights. During this time, our very first country proposal to the GCF—for the development of a multi-hazard impact-based early warning system for the Philippines—was approved by the GCF Board.

What are your hopes and dreams for the Philippines in relation to our fight against climate change?

RACHEL: I hope that future generations of Filipinos will simply get to enjoy the beauty of our country and the world out there—like how we’ve been fortunate to do so—and simply, live without any fear, doubt, or uncertainty because of climate change.

Read more stories of other remarkable Filipina women in climate action here.