Air quality might have crept into the unhealthy zone in southern Singapore yesterday afternoon but that did not stop people from turning up at Hong Lim Park for Singapore's first climate rally.
Clad in red, they held up banners bearing messages such as "no planet B" and "I stand for what I stand on" as they called on the Singapore Government and firms to do more to reduce planet-warming emissions.
Ms Lad Komal Bhupendra, 19, one of the rally organisers, said participants were urged to turn up in red to signal that climate change is now an emergency.
And in a demonstration of the gravity of the crisis, the participants staged a "die-in". One by one they fell, domino style, lying on the grass in silence as they mourned the potential loss of human lives and biodiversity in a warming world.
Although the event was organised by young people in solidarity with the global youth climate movement kick-started by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, the first Singapore Climate Rally was attended not just by the young.
Gardener Derek Lim, 50, felt it was time for Singaporeans to come together to push for a better future. He said: "Even though Singapore is small, we have a role to play in this region. We are a big oil refiner and have a lot to do with fossil fuels. I am here to support the young people... and (show) how oldies can play a part in a better future for the younger generations."
The young-at-heart and the four-legged also thronged Speakers' Corner, where they cheered, listened to speeches, and wrote to their representatives in government. The organisers said 2,000 people turned up for the rally.
Nanyang Technological University undergraduate Shawn Ang, 21, said the large turnout showed that there is a collective climate consciousness in Singapore.
He added: "Singapore talks a lot about emissions intensity and about our mitigation efforts and about $100 billion going into our climate adaptation plans. But the $100 billion is not going to address the crisis. We are not stopping the rain, we are buying a $100 billion umbrella."
Last month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted Singapore's vulnerability to rising sea levels, saying more than $100 billion may be needed over 100 years to deal with the threat.
National University of Singapore political science undergraduate Sarah Lim, 23, said: "We've had years to do things about global warming, but we have been dragging our feet. And the window of opportunity is getting smaller. ''
She hopes the Singapore economy can transition to one that is more reliant on renewable energy, and that the Republic can slash its emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, and net zero by 2050.
Under Singapore's 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution - the technical name for climate targets set by each country under the Paris Agreement - the Republic pledged to become greener economically and to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product by 36 per cent from 2005 levels, come 2030. It also pledged to stop any further increases to its greenhouse gas emissions by the same timeline.
Politicians, including Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee and Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng, were at the event.
Mr Lee told The Sunday Times that he was there to show his support for Singaporeans who care about the climate.
"We want to work together, we want to hear their voices and look forward to Singaporeans - both here at the rally and not at the rally - giving their views, inputs and feelings to the National Climate Change Secretariat," he said.
"This energy by Singaporeans to take positive action to care for our climate and future, to protect our biodiversity, is an energy we want to harness for positive action."
He urged Singaporeans to partner the Government and non-government groups to make that happen.
The rally is the first one here since the global youth movement led by Greta began in August last year. Now 16, she had gone on the first solo climate strike, skipping school to pressure the Swedish government into taking more drastic climate action. Since then, many young people have followed suit, missing classes on a Friday in protest against climate inaction.
The first #FridaysforFuture global school strike on March 15 involved more than one million young people, said international climate body 350.org. About four times the number took part in the most recent global school strike last Friday.
Speaking via teleconference to international media ahead of the global protests, Mr Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change for non-governmental organisation (NGO) ActionAid, said the young have infused fresh energy into the movement. "NGOs usually work on the policy side. But the enthusiasm of young people has taken things to a very different scale, and pushed NGOs to go beyond speaking to the converted," he said.