By Celine Ng (16A01A)
For those fascinated by the recently concluded COP21, it might be worth spending some time getting to know about some of the climate-conscious movements in our school. One place to start would be the Youth Climate Lobby, an “informal youth group passionate about mitigation efforts toward climate change” formed this year precisely because of COP21.
Comprising 20 odd 17 year-old organising members who seek “to see meaningful policy change by world leaders to mitigate climate change through raising awareness in the public sphere and empowering the people to demand action”, this interest group is, crucially, not officially registered as a student interest group in RI or the community -a choice driven by the belief that such registration would not be essential to their key aims. Moreover, involvement is flexible, meaning that while students of Raffles Institution (including its founder, Cheang Ko Lyn) form a significant proportion of its membership, it is at its core an inter-school organisation which seeks to spread climate awareness through an ever-expanding network. In light of these facts, this article seeks to introduce the Youth Climate Lobby as a means of drawing attention to a meaningful cause our readers may be interested in, rather than as a feature on an ‘RI-specific’ movement.
An unfortunately recurrent characteristic of too many ‘climate-conscious’ groups these days is a strange brand of naivety packaged as pragmatism. ‘Maybe you can’t save the world,’ they tell you, ‘but you can save on that extra plastic bag’. And then: ‘be that difference. Heal mother Earth’ (or similar). All this in quick succession as if the jump from saving a plastic bag to healing the Earth is as plain and simple as the clean Bebas Neue font.
The Youth Climate Lobby has larger ambitions. It believes that the true solution to climate change lies in “a proper, enforceable international agreement on climate change”, and so works towards “(raising) understanding and awareness about the policy making aspect specifically of climate change”. And if this goal does seem a little over-optimistic, it is at least thoughtfully and intelligently pursued. The focus on empowering Singaporean youth, for instance, is grounded in the belief that that our voices are our only means to take action in the face of disenfranchisement, argued by Ko Lyn as follows:
“Singaporean youth are disenfranchised in two ways; because international climate legislation is largely controlled by countries with clout, it is the biggest carbon-emitting that will determine the future of everyone…Secondly, as youth, we cannot vote. Perhaps if we could, climate change, which we will bear the brunt of, would be higher on politician’s agendas. The only power we have is the power of our voice. Therefore, we call upon Singaporean youth to take action for our future.”
All this may seem a little bit beyond the abilities of a student-run interest group to achieve, and indeed their chosen activities, or “modus operandi” may well raise the skeptical eyebrow or two. Their informal social gatherings and/or film screenings of documentaries highlighting environmental issues (such as Chai Jing’s Under The Dome or Josh Fox’s Gasland) and circle group discussions could seem a little underwhelming against the scope of their aims. Still, Ko Lyn argues, these are activities worth engaging in nonetheless – “One more person who meets for a few hours to discuss climate change related issues is one more aware citizen, who may well one day help to find more sustainable energy solutions. Even if that one person goes away to do nothing more than properly consider the implications of climate change, we think that that is still worth something. Why should the task of considering climate change and thinking of solutions be relegated to policy makers in backroom negotiations?”
And indeed, why should they? There are, of course, many other worthy organisations to turn your interest to (as Ko Lyn was quick to mention, there are many significant NGOs campaigning for action against climate change and those who are interested can check out the Climate Reality Project spearheaded by AlGore or 350.org), but for those interested in finding out more, they can always check out the Youth Climate Lobby’s facebook page or drop by for one of their film screenings or group discussions.
At the end of the day, perhaps what best defines the Youth Climate Lobby is its mixture of optimism and extensive understanding of climate issues, as was evidenced by the hopeful but well-informed note our interview ended on. Referencing global progress towards solar parity and the landmark agreement by Obama and Xi Jin Ping committing to reducing carbon emissions, they pointed out that the technology and political will for effective climate solutions exist. Highlighting COP21’s unprecedented bottom-up approach, they noted that the necessary systems for enforcement exist. And citing the lima marches for climate justice and human rights at the Lima Climate Conference in 2014 (precursor to COP21), they stressed the importance of individuals’ generating the political will to implement effective climate solutions.
The Youth Climate Lobby certainly doesn’t expect its members to turn street-protesters at their sessions, nor do they seem to have any marches of their own scheduled for the coming year. Still, their commitment to empowering climate-conscious citizens through education is a respectable one, and at the very least it seems one can always emerge from one of their sessions better-informed.