Singapore youth give 18 recommendations for tackling environmental crisis

One of the youth recommending how the Republic can be made more liveable for future generations is co-founder of environmental group LepakInSG Ho Xiang Tian. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT/FACEBOOK

GLASGOW - As young people take to the streets in Glasgow on Friday (Nov 5) to mark Youth Day at the COP26 climate summit, youth in Singapore are also making their demands for climate action heard.

On Friday morning Singapore time, a group of young people here released a statement of 18 recommendations on how the Republic can be made more liveable for future generations.

Titled An Urgent Call From Singaporean Youth On The Environmental Crisis, the statement was co-authored by six youth-led organisations, including the Singapore Climate Rally and FiTree, as well as 10 individuals from different sectors of society.

They include marine biologists Pavarne Shantti and Sam Shu Qin; co-founder of environmental group LepakInSG Ho Xiang Tian; indigenous culture and environmental advocate Firdaus Sani; as well as environmental communicator Woo Qiyun, who runs the Instagram account @theweirdandwild.

Calling the effort an "unprecedented initiative", the co-authors said the statement was crafted by environmental and climate youth organisations of varied interests, coming together to collaborate for the first time.

Their recommendations span six areas - emissions, nature, energy, corporate responsibility, community empowerment and inclusion, and the economy and people.

One key recommendation was for Singapore to set itself a bolder emissions target to reach peak emissions before 2025 instead of the current target of 2030.

The earlier the timeline, the earlier the country must take steps to bring down the amount of greenhouse gases it produces, even as the economy continues to grow.

Over the longer term, the youth say the amount of planet-warming emissions Singapore produces should reach net-zero by 2050, in line with the recommendations of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Singapore currently plans to reach this milestone "as soon as viable in the second half of the century".

The IPCC has said global emissions should reach net-zero by mid-century for the world to stand a better chance of avoiding harsher climate impacts such as more extreme floods, wildfires and heatwaves.

On nature, the young people urged the Government to protect remaining natural habitats in Singapore such as the Clementi Forest, and to ensure that nature conservation efforts are grounded in science.

A jogger at Clementi Forest on Nov 19, 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

Natural habitats can serve as nature-based climate solutions, they said, as these ecosystems can take in carbon and protect the country's coastlines.

"Mature habitats are much better at providing these solutions, and destroying them would be counterproductive to our climate mitigation and adaptation efforts," they said.

Ecosystems such as mangroves, for instance, are huge stores of carbon. By locking the carbon in the soil, these habitats prevent the carbon from reaching the atmosphere, where it can trap heat and drive climate change. Mangroves also have the ability to keep pace with rising sea levels if the rate of increase is not too rapid, and can act as natural sea walls against sea level rise.

The signatories of the statement also echoed the voices of young people around the world, who want a greater stake in shaping policies that will affect how their generation experiences the impacts of climate change in the future.

They called for more governmental engagement with youth communities in an "expansive and strategic manner", citing how young people in the European Union are involved in energy transition-related consultations through initiatives that form networks between interested youth and key actors in the energy sector.

"The Government can reach out to energy-focused youth groups in Singapore or create initiatives to get youth involved in our energy transition conversations and long-term plans," they said.

One key recommendation was for Singapore to set itself a bolder emissions target to reach peak emissions before 2025 instead of the current target of 2030. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

The statement has since Nov 4 been endorsed by 93 individuals and 75 organisations and entities, including Associate Professor Jason Lee from the National University of Singapore's Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and the Nature Society (Singapore).

"While we acknowledge that the Government has released various initiatives and made progress on various environmental issues over the years, we know that our actions are still not yet where they need to be," said the co-authors.

While climate change and biodiversity loss are existential crises with far-reaching and world-changing consequences, humanity is at an inflexion point, the authors noted.

"Moments like this also give us an opportunity to reflect on the values we want to hold on to, and the world we want to leave behind for our future generations," they wrote.

"Singapore aims to honour the values of justice and equality. This means that our approach to mitigating the climate crisis must logically be rooted in these same values."

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Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, said he had reached out to the co-authors of the statement to hear their views on the issues raised.

He told The Straits Times: "I'm heartened by their commitment and passion to tackle climate change. I'm looking forward to continuing to engage the youth and helping to raise their concerns in Parliament."

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said in a Facebook post that she was heartened that youth in Singapore are advocating for sustainable action. "Their activism and willingness to drive the change they want is important in advancing our sustainability and climate agenda," she added.

Ms Fu said the Government has set the broader policy direction and goals, and will lead on sustainability efforts across the public sector.

"However, sustainability cannot be achieved by the Government alone," she added. "I encourage our youths to continue their advocacy for greater responsibilities all around, including from businesses, communities and individuals themselves."

The full set of recommendations and statement are available at SG Youth Cop26.

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