Malaysian Youth Delegation Featured on Let’s Talk with Sharaad Kuttan

We’re on TV! On 2nd January 2019, the Malaysian Youth Delegation was invited to be on Let’s Talk with Sharaad Kuttan. Jasmin Irisha Jim Ilham, Mike Campton and Shaqib Shahril represented MYD and they spoke on pertinent issues on youth and climate change, touching on youth representation in climate conferences, low carbon lifestyle, climate education and steps to take to increase climate action in Malaysia.

COP24 – Why a Youth Delegation?

Mike started off with introducing MYD, how we were established in 2015, the big year of COP21, where the Paris Agreement was adopted.

“I wanted to be part of the organisation because I feel that there was no other platform in Malaysia that I can get myself involved, specifically on climate change,” said Jasmin, when asked about why she joined MYD. Jasmin explained that MYD is made up of a group of young, passionate individuals from Malaysia who are really interested in climate change policy, advocacy and education. They are also the only youth organisation that is focused on climate change, “…and that’s what makes us different,” she chimed in.

Coming from a finance background, Shaqib was attracted to join MYD to understand “Climate Finance.” Whereas for Jasmin, coming from an Environmental Science background, she was personally keen on looking into the intersection between science and policy such as her research into the , having studied on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) during her years in university. .

“When you study Environmental Science, you study about ecology, biology, wildlife conservation, a bit on climate change, but very little policy – but policy is what makes the world go round, especially in the UN space,” added Mike. This is where MYD comes in, to focus on policy, not just nationally but internationally, and connect the dots between the environmental world and politics of it.

Climate Change – A Generational Conflict?

Mike spoke on how MYD was formed. In 2013, the youth climate movement in Malaysia started off with #PowerShiftMsia, an organisation that was focused on grassroots climate camps and soft activism. Approaching 2015, Adrian Yeo, who was the founder of both #PowerShiftMsia and MYD decided to shift the focus of climate movement in Malaysia to a more policy focus. Since then, Adrian Yeo has played an instrumental part in mobilising Malaysian youth delegates to the COP conferences.

Sharing his experience at COP24 in Poland, Shaqib felt like he was part of the process, by contributing towards the Youth Constituency, known as YOUNGO. Jasmin emphasised the importance of youth participation at COP, and how inclusivity and equal representation matters. Brining it down to a national level, Mike shared his experience on meaningful engagements with the local government and policy makers.

Sharaad highlighted Greta Thunberg, a 15 years old Swedish girl who made waves with her speech at COP24, urging the older generation to act fast. She is also known for skipping school for climate strikes and camping out at the Swedish  parliament. Shaqib, who had a privilege to have a conversation with Greata at COP24 in Poland, asked her why is she doing all this. Greta replied, “Well someone has to rise up and talk to the leaders. And this is the right thing to do.”

Jasmin recalled back in Greta’s speech where she said, “The reason why young people need to step up, is because adults are acting like children.” She resonated with this line and further emphasized  the alternative voice that young people have to contribute and accelerate the climate negotiations process. Mike added on by saying that Greta was in a very unique position, and people are more likely to listen to the things she said because she is a young person.

Sharaad then asked whether or not the fault is at the older generation’s hands. Jasmin agreed that we are currently moving at a very fast pace, but even though we are moving fast, we have to move fast sustainably. She shared on stories on how older generation, mentioning her grandfather, taught her to make environmentally conscious decisions, and how they are still keeping her hopeful and inspired.

“In terms of intergenerational aspect, I think it’s a matter of not knowing better in the past and being fixated on growth. But now in the 21st century, I don’t think that growth and sustainability are mutually exclusive,” expressed Mike. While he is fortunate to have parents that are understanding and taking responsibility towards actions, he feels that it is the responsibility younger people to  engage older generation to work together towards a better future.

As for Shaqib, he admitted that his parents do not fully understand on climate change, but he is happy that after talking with them, they are transitioning from a conservative to a progressive view point on the subject matter.

Mike shared  that 97% of the climate scientists agree that climate change is real, and that it is affecting us now. The IPCC Special Report 1.5C states that we only have until 2030 to reverse catastrophic effects of climate change.

What We Were Taught in School About the Planet

Sharaad lamented that climate education plays an important role, but it is not being taught in school. Both Shaqib and Jasmin answered that school subjects were standalone general subjects, and none of it goes in depth to talk about climate change. Meanwhile, Mike touched on the complexity of communicating climate change. “We learned about things related to climate change, but it is not packaged in the right way,” said Mike.

Lack of education on climate change may evolve to lack of awareness. However, Jasmin explained that lack of awareness is perhaps due to lack of drastic physical effect of climate change. She explained more thoroughly on slow onset events, and how climate change in Malaysia is happening more granularly, rather than high impact disasters.

Mike dissected fearmongering and alarmism, saying that it is better to communicate it in a way that is easily understandable by layman. The reason that people are not acting fast enough is because they are unable to see direct or tangible effect of climate change. Shaqib added on a tangible example of climate change that happened recently, which is the flood in Johor Bahru. This raised concern amongst the locals, and only then people were starting to take action.

“People need to understand that climate change is not just a global phenomena, it actually happens right here where we live,” said Jasmin. She encouraged Malaysians to do their own part in saving the environment, starting off with little shifts in everyday actions by adopting environmentally conscious decisions such as saying no to plastic straws and plastic bags.

Lifestyles and Trade-Offs We Have To Make

Cooperation at different levels is needed to make a change. Lifestyle changes primarily works from a bottom-up approach. “I see the #TakNakStraw and #TakNakPlastik movement as very symbolic – as a start of something new,” said Mike. He shared further on how different sectors act as a big contributor to climate change, such as energy, transportation and agriculture. Shaqib shed light on reducing fossil fuel consumption, and taking more public transportation.

Rather than taking a more authoritarian approach as suggested by Sharaad, Jasmin thought that things are better when being approached in transition. Indeed, individual change is commendable, but collective effort as a whole is desirable. Shaqib agreed that an authoritarian approach is not a way forward, but having choice and freedom to make decisions would make a better path. Mike added that he is pro-regulation, and that a top-down approach would work best in regulating industries, without affecting the residents. “Government should go after big corporations that are polluting the world,” he said.

Climate Change – Optimism or Despair?

YB Yeo Bee Yin, the Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change gave a statement at the High Level Plenary Session at COP24 in Poland. MYD delegates were also present to cover the statement, where YB Yeo pointed out strong views on Malaysia’s path nationally and internationally. Jasmin shared that her key message was that Malaysia needs great climate action and we cannot do it alone – we have to do it together.

“The current government is definitely making positive strides,” applauded Mike. He went on to describe the promises made in the Pakatan Harapan Manifesto, which is the commitment to reduce 20% of renewable energy by 2025, and the plans of putting together a Climate Change Act. “With climate change, you can never do too much – you always have to do more,” he said and hopes that there will be youth voices represented in the upcoming Climate Change Committee.Following on this, Mike suggested that the next step is to have a climate change liaison across ministries, as climate change is not a siloed phenomenon, but its effects are of interministerial concern.

Shaqib emphasised that MYD plays an important role in providing checks and balances to the government. Despite supporting government initiatives, MYD has also offered criticism. Mike shared MYD’s experience when they met with YB Yeo, after publishing an article on getting rid of fossil fuels. The experience to sit down and debate directly with YB Yeo was definitely a new experience, and the discourse and discussion is a good way to move forward.

Jasmin explained that “at these international conferences, there are not enough Malaysian medias. MYD provides real time information updates the mass through social media on the happenings.”

To connect the dots of what happened at the UN to the people at home, MYD organises Post-COP Forum to share their experience and to break down the current situation at climate conferences. More youths are encouraged to join MYD, and recruitment is done after the Post-COP Forum via a recruitment process. When you are accepted into MYD, you are automatically in line to attend the COP conference.

“Building capacity of young people is something that we are passionate about,” summed up Mike.

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Written by Jasmin Irisha

Edited by Arief Johan

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