Written by: Jessie Gan Ze Xin
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are the writer’s personal observation. While every caution has been taken to provide the most accurate information and honest analysis, please use your discretion before making any decisions.
Financial success has “come with an unthinkable price tag” for the planet and for humanity. Mother nature is sick as a result of human negligence and impulsive misjudgement, and it’s time for us to take care of her NOW before the problem exacerbates.
Icebergs are melting, sea levels are rising, animal and plant species are at imminent risk of extinction, and whilst the scientific evidence for warming of the climate system at hand is unequivocal, there are still climate change deniers who dismiss the existence of climate change.
Well quite frankly, numbers don’t lie. But regardless of your stance on this issue, it’s worth understanding what’s going on because after all, we’re inhabitants of planet Earth.
When you think about climate change, the first thing that comes to most people’s mind is the Paris Agreement, made famous by a certain political leader who withdrew his country from the accord.
Jokes aside, the Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, signed in 2016 with a total of 195 signatories. As the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement, its central aim is to decrease global warming by keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
In fact the fight against climate change dated way back to 1997. An international treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol was adopted but only came into effect in February 2005.
The shortcoming of the treaty can be attributed to the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, which places a heavier burden on developed nations to pull their weight.
What sets the Paris Agreement apart from its predecessor is its emphasis on consensus-building. There is no legally binding terms, which means that the accord provides signatories the flexibility to adjust their climatic strategies accordingly.
Even with the achievement of global consensus and the implementation of such agreements, more is needed. The truth is that the agreement amounts to little more than a gentleman’s handshake due to the unenforceable nature of the terms, and though the goals are laudable, it ultimately boils down to concrete action, not just mere talk.
Here’s a brief rundown of some youth-led climate change movements around the world.
The initiation began in late-November 2015 when a group of students organised a “climate strike” on the first day of the UNFCCC held in Paris, with an agenda of three demands: 100% clean energy; keeping fossil fuels in the ground, and helping climate refugees. Simultaneously, it sparked the interest of over 50000 people from over 100 countries to participate in the movement.
It wasn’t until August 2018 when the international global movement garnered widespread media attention, thanks to 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg who staged an action by protesting outside the Swedish parliament (Riksdag) about the need to combat climate change.
Drawing inspiration from the March For Our Lives initiative in support of greater gun control, she paved the way for the school strike for climate (also known variously as Fridays for Future, Youth for Climate and Youth Strike 4 Climate).
Thunberg sat outside the Riksdag every day throughout the 2018 Sweden general election period during school hours with a sign that read “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (“school strike for the climate”), with the aim for the Swedish government to reduce carbon emissions per the Paris Agreement after the occurrence of a series of heatwaves and wildfires in the country.
Her trailblazing stance served as a stepping stone for students across the globe to take part in student strikes through her slogan coined FridaysForFuture, and as of December 2018, more than 20,000 students had held strikes in at least 270 cities.
Despite the valiant attempts of climate change deniers to discredit her, Thunberg’s culmination was not short-lived. In fact, she spawned a generation of schoolgirl climate warriors in what has been described by climate change activists as the ‘Greta Thunberg effect‘.
Her outspoken stance even extends to the political arena where various politicians have since acknowledged the need to focus on climate change.
Since then, many other youth like Litia Baleilevuka and Marinel Ubaldo have followed in her footsteps. Battling challenges of political innertia and powerful fossil fuel lobbies, the strikes held in a number of countries such as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Japan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, Colombia and Uganda have drawn massive crowds and media attention.
Back on home soil, the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology and Climate Change (MESTECC) is currently drafting the Climate Change Act 2021 Bill and is in the midst of establishing the National Climate Change Centre (NCC), both of which are huge strides forward in the right direction.
It’s time we rise up to the occasion and fulfill our roles in addressing the impacts of climate change through increasing our “climate literacy” and adopting sustainable lifestyles. This time round, there are no excuses!