Singapore youth heats up climate talks in Paris

The following article had been contributed by Zaidaini Abdullah.


Climate change is becoming a hot topic of discussion as heads of states all over the world convened last week to discuss action plans for climate justice. While these leaders spoke of the rising stakes that have reached a dangerous level, and how the current generation is the only hope to reverse the climate situation, the larger public and civil society were kept out of it. The discussions were done behind closed doors.

Where is the transparency and inclusivity that is called for to reach a strong agreement?

Nor Lastrina Hamid of the Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYAC)—who is also an activist in Young NTUC—called out on these leaders in a short but impactful speech at a high level segment of the Paris climate talks.

Speaking on behalf of the YOUNGO which is the youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Lastrina called for a more ambitious but powerful 1.5°C target instead of the current 2°C. The young activist also demanded for leaders to consider bolder measures to combat climate change, which include strong adaptation measures, technology transfer, and more importantly finance flow from North to South, among many others.

Apart from the dire need to keep climate change in check, it is also important to realise the problems that vulnerable communities have to cope with in such challenging times. With the incessant floods, famine, and other environmental adversities which plague these communities, the aforementioned measures will help the communities to endure the effects in a just and equitable way. Ideally, developed countries should helm and spearhead these measures.

Climate change is not a new phenomenon which came about the past year. Concerns arose even in 2006, when Guggenheim’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ was released. In the documentary-film, former presidential candidate Al Gore is seen campaigning to raise awareness about the dangers of global warming. The presentation of terrifying figures and the revelation of a dying earth in the film painted an apocalyptic picture for all of us.

However, 10 years later, we are still scrambling to keep up with the temperature increase goal and the larger community is still picketing for stronger and bolder measures. Are we in a dangerous place where time is running fast yet our actions have come to a standstill?

While Lastrina has stepped up bravely to speak not only on the behalf of YOUNGO but also for the youths of the world, do we just cheer for her and resume with our unsustainable daily activities? As Lastrina has put so bluntly and powerfully, ‘Action, not empty promises, will save our populations..’ The world leaders can only do so much for the climate but our collective individual efforts have the power to really make a difference.

Indeed, the time to act was yesterday.

Are we going to repeat that when we are drowning or starving in a barren land?

Watch Lastrina’s impassioned speech here:

  1. The COE system is perhaps Singapore’s biggest Achilles heel as hundreds if not thousands of cars, trucks, vans, buses and other vehicles etc, are prematurely destroyed to make way for new ones which require a lot of the earth’s raw material and energy to create. Many of the motor vehicles can easily outlast the limited 10 years life span dictated by the COE system. Many owners just cannot afford to extend the usage of their still roadworthy vehicles for a further 5 or 10 years given the huge sums of money involved. The scrap yards and second hand car exporters are only prepared to pay a couple of hundred dollars claiming limited export markets and business cost to export the cars. They also face a very strict and costly govt export control of second hand cars. My roadworthy Camry with less than 100,000 km on the clock which I have used to ferry my kids to schools and other essential domestic activities fetched only $150 at the scrap yard. The irony is now I, a memeber of the so-called Pioneer Generation need a car more than every with advancing age and mobility issues due to an arthritic knee.

    1. I have a clean driving record of over 40 years. Even received a ‘commendation’ from the Traffic Police to display a special decal on the windscreen of a car which I unfortunately do not possess anymore. :(

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