It was a struggle at first. To attend, or not to attend. But when the YOUNGO speaking opportunity was secured, I knew it was a sign. I had been quite detached from the climate negotiations conversation and I guessed it was time I immersed myself once again, even for a short few days.
Pre-work of preparing for my session, “Unlocking opportunities for NDC enhancement and implementation’ was rather limited. All of it was done in a rushing manner as I was drowned with work. Yet, while drafting the key points with assistance from other members, I was pleased that my knowledge in both MYD and my full time job have been able to contribute nicely. The most exciting part was that a subject matter expert of this area had agreed to share his thoughts and inputs on top of mine and it was all done in the nick of time.
Looking at the panelist profile, I felt small. Sitting with these people working on NDC implementation on a national and inter-governmental level, I asked myself, what can I bring to the floor? YOUNGO (insert link), the official youth constituency of UNFCCC had entrusted me to represent the youths. How do I strive to establish the balance between not being the typical “hoo-ha-youths-who-only-know-to-make-noise” and being able to deliver my pressing message?
In the morning, after saying goodbye to our host, Cheryl from Singapore Youth Climate Action (SYCA), I travelled with Hanis to Resorts World Sentosa, the conference site for my 9am session. As if weeks of sleep deprivation wasn’t enough to torture me, the purple line on the MRT decided to freak me out at the final moment – with just 3 stops to the designated station, it broke down and delayed our journey for more than 10 minutes.
Time was ticking. With no time to spare, we rushed for a cab and went straight to the conference site. A rush of relief went through us both. We reached just on time, at 9am sharp. Not knowing if the other MYD members would make it on time to set up and live stream the session (as they too were stuck on the purple line). We ran through the corridors and met the session moderator, Mr. Stefanos Fotiou, Director of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), who was kind enough to brief me through with patience and reminded me “not to worry”. Of course, a big thanks goes out to Hanis for being my luggage guardian at this crucial moment. Another blessed moment was Melissa Low’s presence, a research fellow at NUS Energy Studies Institute who showed up at the session and calmed me down with providing me guidance on what to speak about. In chaotic times as such, you see kindness in people.
When all the courtesy introductions to the panelist were done, I sat down as the fourth speaker from the left. When the first speaker, Mr. Albert Magalang, Head at Climate Change Office, Philippines started his take on NDC implementation, my heart was thumping at the speed of light. All of my pre-drafted speech was all over the place in my mind. I was screaming for help from the inside but I knew that I still had to look cool and collected. Soon, it would be my turn.
Mr Stefanos took an unexpected and refreshing approach while cueing me in. He asked the floor “How many of you in this room were born at the end of the 60s or beginning of the 70s?” Few hands were raised, including Mr Stefanos himself, exposing their age (oops). He then turned to me and said, “Emily, for us who have raised our hands, we have completely failed to deliver a better planet to your generation.” He then asked what should youths be doing to deliver a better planet to the next generation and also our roles in NDC implementation. Amused by his introduction, it cracked me up a little and prompted me to share my thoughts.
I started off with one of my favourite framing sentences: “While our future is being negotiated, we, the youths need to be part of the process”. I shared that youth participation is in fact, another form of capacity building to nurture talents and to ensure succession and a just transition. I proudly slipped in the Malaysian government as a good example in allowing MYD to engage with them and learn from the national delegation in COP, hoping this could urge other nations’ participants in the room to mobilise their government to do the same. NDC implementation is a long term strategy and thus, sustainability in ensuring the talent pipeline to continue the work is vital.
The second point I raised was on adaptation. It was one of the strongest messages from my heart, yet, I felt a sense of intimidation to share my message with the crowd. Gathering all my guts, there it went – I said it. I shared my sentiment on how the whole conversation in climate negotiations have been very mitigation-centric. It channels out to affect how corporate, cities, and even financing opportunities lean towards being mitigation-focused. We should now have more tools and mechanisms to enhance adaptation projects’ environmental and social impact assessment and the respective ROI to let investors see the value of it. I witnessed a few nodding heads from the floor and even from the panelists, which was a very assuring response for me, as this was my first time voicing my views out in a public forum as such.
After I spoke, other panelists also voiced their thoughts on adaptation. When the session ended, a lady from FAO came and thanked me for raising up adaptation matters. It was a humbling experience to hear from everyone. I hope I did my part to raise the youths voice, especially on our concern about adaptation. Mr. Stefanos concluded my part fittingly with “If the youths talks about it, it is a signal that it is not in a very optimistic situation. And therefore we should pay more attention and look more into it.”
Dear world, it is time for a paradigm shift within the climate circle.
Recording of the panel can be found here.
Mr. Stefanos Fotiou, Director, UNESCAP
Ms. Pepetua Latasi, Director for Climate Change Policy and Disaster Coordination, Tuvalu
Mr. Albert Magalang, Head at Climate Change Office, Philippines
Ms. Christine Fung, Senior Advisor to the High-Level Climate Champion, Fiji
Mr. Robert Bradley, Director of Knowledge and Research, NDC Partnership
Mr. Vivek Adhia, Head of Business Engagement, WRI India
Ms. Emily Oi Yen Tse, Malaysian Youth Delegation, YOUNGO
Mr. Longfei Li, Senior manager, South-East Asia Office, Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO)
Mr.Buddika Hemashantha, Chief Executive Officer, Climate Smart Initiatives
Mr. Amjad Abdulla, Director General at Ministry of Environment, Energy and Water, Maldives