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Asia-Pacific is arguably the most vulnerable region to the adverse effects of climate change. This was the message SDP’s Young Democrat Ms Frederique Soh brought back with her after attending a climate change workshop in the Philippines.
This was a series of workshops organized by The Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), to deal with climate change in Asia.
Ms Suraya Akbar attended a separate workshop also held in the Philippines on the subject.
In 2011 alone, floods deluged 11 out of 25 districts and destroyed 125,000 acres of rice fields in Sri Lanka, claimed over 800 lives in Thailand leaving 1.2 million people displaced, killed 200 in Cambodia, left over 50,000 homeless and 1,000 dead in the Philippines.
We are also seeing the effects of climate change in Singapore with unusually intense rainfall occuring over the island causing flash floods and damaging businesses.
The bottom line is, Ms Soh noted, we are now seeing a new normal in weather patterns and we must learn to adapt to this new normal.
“Singapore is also affected by change in weather patterns in our neigbouring countries,” she said. “When rice production or food supply falls in these places, food will cost more. Fish and vegetable prices will also go up if the oceans heat up and fish supply drops or if the increase in temperature lowers crop yields.”
But Ms Soh admits that like most Singaporeans, climate change isn’t an issue she often thinks about. Geographically sheltered, Singapore is not severely affected by the changing climate.
“But we couldn’t be more wrong,” the SDP youth member warns. “If we go on the way we do, scientists have projected that there will be a four to six degrees increase in the earth’s temperature by the end of the century. And this will in turn cause a rise in ocean levels and have devastating impact on wildlife and weather patterns.”
The Young Democrat proposes that Singapore lowers carbon emissions (we are one of the
highest CO2 emitters in the world).
Ms Soh encourages Singaporeans to switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, conserve water and electricity. Use mass transport system or cycle instead of driving, she urges. There is no effort too small. Every little bit counts and there is no need to wait for Global Treaties for us to do our part in reducing our carbon footprint.
The Young Democrats will also look into spearheading the SDP’s green policy. Ultimately, we are the ones to decide what kind of a planet we want to leave behind for the next generation.
At a separate conference, Ms Suraya reported that the following issues and concerns regarding climate change were reported:
(1) The Asian region is one of the most vulnerable areas to climate change, with climate change impacts resulting in immense loss of life, livelihood, property and sense of security oh the region’s inhabitants.
(2) Asia is home to a large number of poor people; and the more we neglect the ecosystem, the more we lessen the capacity for inclusive growth and consequently, deepen further the poor’s poverty.
(3) Climate change can result in sea-level rise, increase in temperature and extreme weather, variations in rainfall, floods and also desertification, all of which have repercussions on the lives and livelihood of people as well as the environment.
(4) Vulnerability to climate change is partly due to absence or lack of adequate enforcement of environmental laws and regulations, resulting in denuded mountains, clogged waterways, polluted bodies of waters, among other problems.
(5) The importance of adequate information, accurate scientific data and research, and effective institutions to address the problems of climate change.
(6) Adaptation to climate change will have to focus on integrated water, land and coastal resource management.
(7) The importance of educational and information campaigns in enhancing the awareness of all stakeholders, including the general public, on the adverse impacts of climate change and what can be done to address them.
(8) Mainstreaming the issue of climate change is vital to ensure the attention of all political parties.
(9) The need to formulate roadmaps and action plans with clear targets in order to ensure proper monitoring of progress or lack thereof.
(10) Given the lack of progress in international climate change negotiations, national and local initiatives to address climate change must be promoted and encouraged.
(11) An effective response to climate change requires not merely government regulation but also deregulation as appropriate and the provision of appropriate incentives for stakeholders.
(12) Climate change is related to economic development, and that sustainable development and green economy must be the aim of every society.
(13) Climate change presents not only threats but also opportunities, particularly opportunities to institute changes in society towards sustainable development.
(14) Sharing a vision for an Asian region resilient and adaptive to climate change, and supporting global, regional, national and local efforts to combat climate change with emphasis on the need for those most responsible for climate change, in particular, to take remedial and recompensatory action.
The conference also came up with suggestions on policies and mechanisms to address climate change:
1. Governments and parties should not only to have clear and coherent policies regarding land-use, water, forest and coastal conservation, but also to ensure strict enforcement at all levels of government on the basis of equity and transparency.
2. Ensure that policies are based on consultation with stakeholders and focus on community oriented pro-poor perspectives, and encourage community involvement in initiatives to preserve and protect the environment.
3. Affirm the need for regional, inter-agency and multi-sectoral collaboration in addressing climate change, with particular attention to reducing socio-economic vulnerability.
4. Suggest that a specific percentage of the national budget should be allocated to finance climate change planning, activities and policy directions.
5. Underline the importance of adhering to the principles of good governance, particularly transparency and accountability, in any measure to combat climate change.
6. Urge governments to adopt general guidelines, including market reforms that would encourage full private sector awareness and involvement, to promote green, more carbon neutral economies.
7. Ensure inclusion of climate change and disaster risk information in national education systems as well as community based awareness programmes, with particular attention to decision makers and administrators, while encouraging community based preparation and early warning systems, as well as mitigation and risk reduction activities.
8. Recognize the particular vulnerability to disaster of poor communities, reiterate the importance of immediate rehabilitation and resettlement of those who have been affected by erratic weather patterns brought about by climate change, as well as the enactment of measures which aim to return their life to normalcy even while in rehabilitation centers.
9. Recognize the crucial importance of water resources in addressing problems arising from climate change and environmental degradation, promote expanded rainwater harvesting; water storage and conservation techniques; water re-use; desalination; efficiency in water-use; protection of mountain (snow and ice) and other water sources; and efficiency in irrigation.
10. Recommend that water harvesting and conservation should be accompanied by the development of green spaces as well as inland fisheries on a sustainable basis.
11. Encourage governments to develop effective policies for reversing coastal degradation whilst ensuring the full involvement of local communities in preparation and implementation of plans, that will also encourage local business opportunities that promote sustainable development.
12. Aware that problems with regard to water can lead to regional tensions, encourage active inter-regional cooperation that addresses specific issues in a spirit of understanding and promotion of mutual benefits.
13. Support rainforest and forest protection and expansion, with particular attention to rehabilitation of degraded watersheds.
14. Register the increasing problem of land degradation, caused often by indiscriminate exploitation of mineral resources, and also the problem of desertification, assert the importance of developing counter-measures and concerted action to reverse this process and ensure continuing land use for pastoral and agricultural communities.
15. Recognize that unequal development leads to potentially destructive demographic change, advocate programmes to increase opportunities and facilities in rural areas and areas currently being denuded of populations.
16. Acknowledge that populations will move to areas with natural resources, advocate regulatory control of such resources through community based mechanisms.
17. Recommend limitations on hill slope settlements and developments that cause landslides, and strict enforcement of relevant regulations.
18. Highlight the importance of transition to renewable energy in promoting more sustainable and efficient economy, with emphasis on research and development that encourages public-private partnerships.
19. Develop alternative energy sources with encouragement of investment in particular in bio-energy plants, and others such as solar and wind energy.
20. Forge partnerships and cooperatives for diversification of agriculture with support for bio-energy sources in tandem with food crops.
21. Recognize that market reforms and a competitive environment could assist in improving energy efficiency and reducing pollution.
22. Emphasize the need to invest in climate-resilient or climate-proof infrastructure, with active private sector participation and innovation, to produce new economic opportunities for sustainable growth.
23. To produce a handbook about common challenges with reports on best practices which can be replicated.