Solidarity and influence: How Singaporean youth at COP27 hope to shape climate action
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt: Members of Singapore’s youth delegation to COP27, the United Nations climate conference being held in Egypt, say they hope their unique experiences and views of the world can help shape more equitable climate action in Southeast Asia.
While spaces for civil societies have been limited at the Sharm el-Sheik conference this year, delegates for Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA) told CNA that the experience of attending was valuable as they could learn from others and take knowledge back to influence policy in Singapore.
The youth delegates have observed the negotiating process, while also attending and moderating panel discussions.
Ms Terese Teoh, 21, attending COP for the first time, said she wanted to help amplify the voices of her contemporaries from the Global South, who are experiencing far more severe climate impacts than she ever has, having grown up in the city.
“Being a young person from Singapore, I feel very privileged. I hear people talking about environmental destruction happening right in front of their eyes, especially in (the) least developed countries. I hear from Indigenous peoples about how they're losing their lands, and they are witnessing their own mothers and fathers die,” she said.
“And I don't have all those experiences myself. I’ve been isolated from these kinds of organic experiences with the environment.
“I want to send more solidarity to these people so even if I don't remember their names, I’ll remember their stories. I feel like that will shape my perspective of COP,” added Ms Teoh.
Ms Cheryl Lee, 26, a more experienced COP delegate, said she has learnt that climate experiences need not be the same in order to be heard or make an impact.
“Climate change is really something that is affecting everybody at different levels with different impacts, and it just doesn't look a certain way. I think that our voices are important too,” she said.
“Singapore is in the middle of Southeast Asia. It’s a very interesting place to be. There’s a rich mix of cultures. We are part of Southeast Asia, but our climate issues are so different.
“I have realised that there needs to be stronger global self-representation, and in general, a stronger Global South perspective in our policies. So, I think that's the role we play."
Ms Swati Mandloi, 27, said that Singapore had a strong and clear role in driving regional climate change action, including being a lead player in “creating good carbon systems by financing projects, by decarbonising and by creating demand for certain energy solutions and technologies”.
Singapore’s government delegation to Egypt came armed with an improved climate pledge - aiming to reach carbon net zero by 2050, instead of “as soon as viable in the second half of the century” which was pledged earlier.
It brought the country in line with more than 130 others that have pledged the same.
Ms Mandloi said she was encouraged by the more ambitious target and was interested to see how it could be refined and improved.
“There is a lot that Singapore can do. We have the goal. That's great. But should it get any more ambitious? Yes. But at this point, it's more important that we start looking at the nitty gritty,” she said.
At the summit on Thursday (Nov 10), a small group of youths from different parts of the world took up banners and megaphones to demand particularly that negotiators address loss and damage, an aspect of financial assistance to climate-vulnerable and impacted nations included on the official agenda for the first time this year.
Overall, Sharm el-Sheikh has not seen the same presence of activists or street rallies, which were more prominent in Glasgow a year earlier for COP26. Leading youth voice, Greta Thunberg chose not to attend in Egypt
“I’m not going to COP27 for many reasons, but the space for civil society this year is extremely limited,” she said, ahead of the summit. “The COPs are mainly used as an opportunity for leaders and people in power to get attention, using many different kinds of greenwashing.
COP27 was the first time a pavilion was created for children and youth.
"Setting up this youth pavilion reflects the Egyptian presidency of COP27 belief in the importance of youth participation in climate action, and also the importance of raising children's awareness regarding climate crisis and ways to deal with it,” Mahmoud Mohieldin, the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for Egypt said at the conference.