The youth must have a say in the world’s sustainable future.
On Jul 8, over 50 youth from Singapore and China came together to attend the China-Singapore Youth Webinar jointly organised by the National Youth Council (NYC) and the All-China Youth Federation (ACYF).
The session aimed to help youths from both countries learn how they can lead the way for a greener future in their respective countries.
The session featured panelists from both countries who were involved in environment or sustainability work.
The session was also attended by Ms Dong Xia, deputy secretary-general of ACYF, and Mr David Chua, chief executive officer of NYC.
In his opening remarks, Mr Chua expressed his gratitude towards opportunities like this webinar where Singapore and China can still maintain their relationships amid COVID-19.
Mr Chua highlighted some points that he hoped youth would take away from the session.
“Young people can have a say, and must have a say, in the sustainable future. You all must be involved in setting targets for your countries and for the region,” he said.
He added that in setting these goals, however, youth must contextualise them to the needs of their own countries.
“I think young citizens have a role not just in shaping targets, but also have the responsibility of bringing on board the rest of your country to set reasonable paces of change that make sense to your country,” he added.
The panellists also shared what steps both China and Singapore have taken in creating a greener future.
Jiang Xiheng, vice president of the Center for International Knowledge on Development said that China has been making a conscious effort in green development since the 1980s.
She cited the enhanced Environmental Protection Law that came into effect in 2015, which implemented much stricter rules on environmental pollution.
Ms Jiang also reiterated Chinese president Xi Jinping’s saying that “lucid waters and lush mountains are as good as mountains of gold and silver”, highlighting China’s view that the environment is a valuable asset.
Mr Zhang Weijie, director of Energy and Climate Policy at the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, then shared which steps Singapore has taken in protecting the environment.
He shared with the youth that earlier this year, Singapore’s parliament officially declared climate change a global emergency and a threat to mankind.
Mr Zhang spoke about the latest chapter in Singapore’s green efforts: the implementation of the Singapore Green Plan 2030.
For the Green Plan to work, Mr Zhang stressed that all segments of society had to work together.
“We need a green government, with the public sector leading by example, and we also need an active green citizenry, where individuals, communities and businesses do their part,” he added.
He hoped that bilateral sessions like these, involving youths of different countries, will be good starting points for strong friendships to be made, and will be the basis for climate change cooperation among youths.
Other panelists also shared their experiences on how they have managed push for greener initiatives in their own countries.
Ms Linda Wong, deputy secretary-general of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, shared her NGO’s struggles in enacting some of the initiatives in China.
She said that getting governments and businesses to adopt green initiatives is not always straightforward, and suggested that youths try using other methods to get more people on board.
“For example, we tried to make using reusable bottles fashionable, so that people would use less disposable plastic,” she said.
Ms Cheryl Chen, director of corporate responsibility & sustainability of S&P Global (Asia Pacific), also had some words of encouragement for youth driving climate action: “Be brave, believe in yourself, and take bold action, you are the leader that we are waiting for.”
Mr Veerappan s/o Swaminathan, founder and director of Sustainable Living Lab, emphasised on the need for climate work to go beyond just advocacy.
He said: “As you transition from youth to adulthood, try to move from advocacy to turning [climate work] into a living. If you can do that, be it through a company, an organisation, or a government unit, I think then we can really pursue action in many places. Take advocacy into reality.”
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