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Paris climate talks: Singapore youths hope to see more environmental activism

PARIS – The Singaporean youth delegation at the ongoing Paris climate talks are a clued in and engaged lot – they want to see an ambitious agreement with major emitters such as China and India taking on concrete goals and targets.

Paris climate talks: Singapore youths hope to see more environmental activism

Singaporean activists at the Paris climate talks with Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli today, Dec 9, 2015. Photo: Albert Wai / TODAY

PARIS – The Singaporean youth delegation at the ongoing Paris climate talks are a clued in and engaged lot – they want to see an ambitious agreement with major emitters such as China and India taking on concrete goals and targets.

At the same time, they hope to see more Singaporeans take concrete personal actions to address climate change, they said in an interview today (Dec 9).

The more than 20-strong Singaporean youth activist contingent hails from different walks of life and several networks, including the Environmental Challenge Organisation (ECO Singapore) and Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYAC), among others.

“Ideally, I would like to see a 1.5°C goal (in the new agreement) instead of 2°C we are using now,” said Nor Lastrina Hamid of the SYAC, who delivered a speech on behalf of YOUNGO (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – UNFCCC observer constituency of youth non-governmental organisations) during yesterday’s high level segment of the talks.

Negotiators are aiming to stop global temperatures rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels but some countries are pushing for a more ambitious 1.5°C target.

“But realistically, I would like to see the five-year review cycle being implemented and also more information about how we are going to operationalise the green climate fund,” added Ms Lastrina, referring to ongoing discussions on a proposed five-year cycle to review countries’ climate pledges and the funding mechanism set up within the UNFCCC framework to help developing countries deal with climate change respectively.

Ms Juliana Chia, a lead activist with Team Young NTUC Affinity Group added: “China and India should have concrete goals and targets that they are going to set and meet, because right now they have the biggest impact (on global emissions).”

For some of the activists, attending the Paris Climate Conference entails significant investment of personal time and financial commitments, with some of them taking leave from their jobs to attend the ongoing talks to negotiate a global climate change framework after the current Kyoto Protocol pact expires in 2020.

They say that while climate change awareness among young Singaporeans is growing, Singaporean youths need to be more proactive in terms of making changes to their daily lives.

“Young Singaporeans do care about it (climate change) but we never had this culture of taking things into our own hands,” said Melissa Chong of the WWF Singapore. Ms Chong was a former environment reporter with Channel NewsAsia.

“We are always very reliant on the government and other people to do things for us. This sense of empowerment that I can change things on my own rarely gets support from other people.”

Wilson Ang, Founder of ECO Singapore which runs a year-long fellowship on environmental issues and takes a small group of youths to attend the negotiations every year, said that “the takeaway for them to attend COP (Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC) is for them to understand the process, understand how the issue relates and hopefully when they leave, they will walk the talk and eventually become champions in their own communities.”

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