Youth Dialogue on Climate Change Summary Report
The second Youth Dialogue on Climate Change was held on Thursday, 24 April 2014 at the NTUC Building, One Marina Boulevard. Jointly organized by 350 Singapore and Young NTUC, the event entitled “UNFCCC – ADP Negotiations”, is second in the series that aims to enable and empower youths on climate negotiations. The first was held on 16 February 2013 and focused on the Doha COP18.
The event was attended by 46 participants, a mixture of youths, policy makers and members of the public.
The first speaker, Ms. Melissa Low, Research Associate from the Energy Studies Institute, National University of Singapore, gave an overview of the climate change negotiations and in particular the Durban Platform talks that will lead up to the Paris COP21 where a new climate agreement is expected to be reached.
Ms. Low explained the significance of past Conference of Parties (COPs) in getting the negotiations to where it is today. In recent years, these are the Marrakesh, Bali, Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban COPs.
On the likely outcomes of the 2015 climate agreement to be agreed in Paris, Ms. Low was cautiously optimistic.
“The rules of the game need to be set”, she said, noting that the negotiations have yet to enter into formal discussion on who should submit commitments, what information needs to be submitted, how it will be reviewed, and what measures/indicators will be used to determine progress or if commitment has been fulfilled.
The second speaker was Mr. Sandeep Chamling Rai, Senior Adaptation Policy Advisor, Global Climate & Energy Initiative with WWF International.
Mr. Rai spoke on the adaptation landscape in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and outlined key findings of the IPCC Working Group II on “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”.
He explained that if we continue with business-as-usual, the world will head towards a 5-6 degree Celsius pathway and likely causing irreversible loss and damage. It is therefore urgent and important that we take action today in order to mitigate adaptation needs of the future.
“Risk is the new lens that the report used to consider adaptation and impacts”, said Mr. Rai, adding that when searched, the term “risk” came up over 5,000 times in the 2,700 page full report.
Among the key risks highlighted in the IPCC Adaptation Report, Mr. Rai pointed out that human security and climate change induced migration is already a leading problem. He stressed that small-island states like Singapore and other states highly vulnerable to sea level rise will face major challenges to their territorial integrity.
Noting Singapore’s vulnerability to sea level rise and food stress, he first acknowledged the land area and population density constraints Singapore faces and its recourse to alternative energy deployment on a large scale. But Mr. Rai added that more needs to be done to address mitigation potential and called for the revisiting of the 16% below business-as-usual target and also more investment into R&D on renewable energy sources.
The third and last speaker for the evening was Mr. Yuen Sai Kuan, Director of the 3P Division at the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) under the Prime Minister’s Office.
Mr. Yuen gave an overview of the survey commissioned by the NCCS in 2013 which interviewed 1,000 Singaporean residents aged 15 and above. The aim of the survey was the find out respondents’ knowledge, attitudes and practices on climate change. It was conducted between 2 September and 21 October 2013 using face-to-face interviews. A similar survey was conducted by the NCCS in 2011, and where possible, findings of the 2013 survey were compared to earlier results.
The 2013 survey found that 40.1 per cent of Singaporeans think the government is mainly responsible for taking action on climate change. This is up sharply from the 2011 figure of 26.3 per cent.
Mr. Yuen said that the survey was conducted after the worst haze in Singapore on 21 June 2013, when the Pollution Standards Index (PSI) readings released by the National Environment Agency had reached a record-breaking level of 401. Furthermore, heavy rainfalls in early September last year caused flash floods including the floor waters that caused all four lanes of a major expressway in Singapore, the Ayer-Rajah Expressway (AYE) to close. The NCCS explained that the change in perception on who should deal with issues as visible as the haze and floods could have been influenced by these events.
63% of respondents are practicing climate-friendly actions but they do it mainly to save money. This was an issue later revisited in the discussion, with some participants noting that convenience is a key factor in enabling the everyday Singaporean to contribute towards addressing climate change.
This dialogue introduced a segment led by student moderators. The students hailed from a variety of public and private schools in Singapore, including the Hwa Chong Institution, Singapore American School, St. Joseph’s Institution International and Republic Polytechnic.
The student representatives were selected by the organizers through a process that required them to submit their motivations for becoming a representative of their schools. All of the students selected are environmental advocates in their institutions and who volunteer regularly in societies and NGO activities.
Coming from a variety of backgrounds, the students led the discussion by taking questions from the floor and were later asked to give some of their personal reflections on what are the challenges faced by youths in doing their bid for climate change.
The youths called for better and more role models for inspiring change in society. Natasha Vincent, from St Joseph’s Institution International said that “youths need better influence” to effect change in their communities.
A member of the audience who had recently graduated from NTU and is now working in the public service sector said that while formal education is necessary and much can be said about the lack of it, “being young is the time to learn”. He added that he was encouraged by the turn out to the dialogue and urged youths present to remain proactive.
Discussion also centered on how business and industry are participating in the climate change negotiations and how this sector can contribute towards the solution. Warning was given however, by Mr. Raymond Kwok, a member of the audience, who underscored the importance of the profit-driven motive of companies. “Sustainable business means profit, and profit is sometimes what enables companies to then contribute to the environment”, said Mr. Kwok. This highlighted an important reality to the youths.
In closing, the student moderators were presented with certificates by Mr. Rai and Mr. Yuen. Ms. Melissa Low thanked 350 Singapore for organizing this Youth Dialogue on Climate Change and expressed appreciation to Ang Jia Da from Young NTUC as venue sponsors.