Photo credit: REAGAN TAN

Youths discuss their role in driving environmental change for the future

The conversation on sustainability is ever more important as Singapore journeys towards a sustainable future.

Sarah Chan

Likes museum trips and is sometimes artsy. Can be found in pattern prints.

Published: 19 March 2021, 3:28 PM

At the COP26 Youth Climate Dialogue on Mar 17, youths were engaged with local and international organisations to share their ideas and areas of concerns in sustainability and climate change.

20 youth participants engaged in panel discussions and sharing sessions with industry experts, including a virtual session with the United Kingdom’s High Level Climate Action Champion, Nigel Topping.

The event was attended by Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu as well as ambassadors from the British High Commissioner to Singapore and Ambassador of Italy to Singapore.

The youth engagement dialogue was organised ahead of the 26th annual session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention, or COP26, that will take place this November in Glasgow, Scotland.

The session was organised by the National Youth Council and the National University of Singapore’s Asia Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Energy Studies Institute, in partnership with the British High Commission in Singapore and the Embassy of Italy in Singapore.

Connecting youth voices to drive sustainability

In her opening address, Ms Fu reaffirmed the government’s commitment to engage various stakeholders and youths in Singapore’s journey towards sustainability, especially with the upcoming Singapore Green Plan 2030.

British High Commissioner to Singapore Kara Owen also emphasised on the importance of harnessing the passion of youth to drive action against climate change.

“COP26 is a chance to achieve something transformational. Green and growth go together. They are not, do not need to be, and should not be a choice of either-or,” she said.


Ms Fu also highlighted the important role of youth involvement in co-creating Singapore’s sustainability journey. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL


National Youth Council (NYC) chief executive David Chua also highlighted the importance of staying united as a community and teaming with others in fulfilling our aspirations for the future.

He shared that of the two-thirds of young Singaporeans who are aware of the Singapore Green Plan, only 13 per cent of youths are aware of it in detail. More than 70 per cent are interested to know more and he emphasised on the importance of working together with such communities.

Participants at the event were also invited to share their thoughts on the four priorities for COP26 by its President-Designate Alok Sharma, who addressed the gathering via video.

He noted how youths from around the world were addressing the climate crisis with “energy and passion” and expressed his commitment for youth voices to shape the United Kingdom’s COP26 Presidency.

The priorities discussed include: Reducing carbon emissions; strengthening adaptation and resilience to climate change; opening greater private and public climate finance flows; and enhancing collaboration to tackle shared climate challenges.

Seizing and creating opportunities for youth action

Through the dialogue, participants were offered opportunities to engage in proactive discussions on key international and local priorities on sustainability and the environment.

Among the issues discussed were the role of Singaporean youths in driving environmental change in the run-up to COP26.

Participants also discussed the importance of multilateralism in climate negotiations and other economic issues, including support for loss and damages to vulnerable countries.


The dialogue also featured sharing sessions by organisations such as Singapore Youth for Climate Action. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL


The involvement of youth and the creation of such sharing opportunities were also encouraged by Deputy Director of APCEL, Assistant Professor Tara Maria Davenport who urged decision makers internationally and locally to involve youths as early as possible.

She described the participants as “the first generation to know, without doubt, that we are destroying our Earth and probably the last that can do anything about it” and stressed on the importance of onboarding youths into policy decision-making to help combat the climate crisis.

To facilitate capacity building among youths and educators, Deputy Executive Director of the Energy Studies Institute (ESI), Associate Professor Lee Poh Seng also shared ESI’s commitment to launch a Sustainability Seminar Series.

The programme will work with relevant stakeholders including ministries and research institutes to provide opportunities for youth action in sustainability.

Patience in this long journey for the future

Mr Chua closed his speech with his last takeaway on the importance of exercising strategic patience. As youths work together with larger organisations, there will be occasions where there are basic needs to attend to and others who may be less persuaded in our cause.

However, he encouraged participants not to alienate others and instead stay focused on uniting others on Singapore’s shared vision with the world.

Ending his speech on how patience can benefit the community and opportunities presented, Mr Chua said: “We must above all [exercise patience] because this is a long game strategy and also because the next generation involving you will also need demonstration and what it means to achieve something in the long term game plan.”

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