Meeting inspiring youths in COP21 (Part 2) – by Emily

Meeting inspiring youths in COP21 (Part 2) – by Emily

Throughout COP21, I bumped into many amazing youth figures from all around the globe and found their stories really inspiring! Now, sit back, relax, and read their stories that I have personally picked for you all 🙂

jacquiJacqui Fetchet, Australia- Global Voices

This is Jacqui who won a scholarship from Global Voices, Australia to come to COP21. Global Voices is a youth leadership platform to provide Australian youth opportunities to attend local and international policy related forums. Jacqui aims to understand how UNFCCC negotiation systems and processes work, as well as to learn more about climate change and the people working on it around the world.

Prior to COP21, she was researching and studying the draft text of the Paris Agreement and understanding the history of the convention as it has evolved. She is particularly looking at the level of each parties’, or countries’, nationally determined contributions (NDC) and how they may be enforceable, if at all, through the ambition and compliance mechanism in the Paris Agreement. Jacqui is also interested in gender issues in climate change where she strongly believes that women have the capacity to be significant change-makers in addressing climate change challenges.

She shared that in Australia climate politics is complicated and is looking to see how her government will apply the Agreement back home. She is hoping to see the government improve their current NDC to set a higher and more ambitious target, as well as financing more climate change projects and initiatives.  She also reflected that climate change is highly politicised in Australia, where many people, including the youth are aware of some issues but don’t really know what or how to act in response, despite the severe impacts Australia will face. She emphasised the importance of increasing education and communication to the youth and the broader community by focusing on the values and human stories of climate change.

Talking about her COP21 experience, Jacqui thinks that being bold and open minded as well as inquisitive and critical is a useful approach to participating in COP. In response to some of the ideas put forward at COP she said, “sometimes it seems that we have solutions but in fact, we might be creating more problems within the solutions.” She also thought that people need to keep looking beyond the COPs because the UNFCCC is not the universal solution for climate change and action needs to happen on the ground in our own communities.


11899971_912863332105920_249793860394396724_nChris Hsiao, Taiwan- Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition (TWYCC)

Chris from Taiwan started to involved in climate change by joining TWYCC back in 2013. He is keen to join COP21 because that is the highest international decision-making body to combat global climate change issue; and he was hoping to leave an impact  to the negotiation and make this a better agreement. Talking about his goal in COP21, Chris explained that he is particularly interested to understand how business sector is reacting towards climate change and how they involved their distinct stakeholder in this.

In addition, Chris is working on an interviewing project that aims to bring back stories of international youth as a source of inspiration to encourage more actions in Taiwan.

He have shared his new discovery in COP21 on how corporates showed concern on the formation of carbon pricing mechanism as well as their initiative on aggressively persuading their stakeholders to be part of the green commitment- which was not seen in Taiwan.

Also, Chris opinion after attending several actions in COP21 lead him to a realisation that actions is neither a form of protesting nor going against the government or the existing system. He sees this as a call from the people to ask for more solid and fundamental goals and that we all have to approach it by gaining collective ideas from around the world. That is why, actions always emphasized on solidarity.

Chris expressed his view on the Paris Agreement where he thinks this agreement is never expected to save the planet. In fact, it is just a guide. Thus, it is always touched to see how the climate movement is urging people to take action from different levels, because at the end of the day- we have to save ourselves, not by solely relying on the agreement.


lisaLisa McLaren, New Zealand- New Zealand Youth Delegation (NZYD)

Say Hi to Lisa from New Zealand Youth Delegation! Lisa is a Emergency Management Advisor back home. She had been to COP19 in Warsaw with the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute.

This year, she was chosen as one of the co-convenors of the NZYD to guide and help the current delegates navigate around the COP21. Lisa explained that NZYD is a campaign team where their main goal was to engage people in NZ on climate change through both traditional and social media.

Prior to COP21, they did a nationally centred campaign for 4 months with a focus on asking the government to aim for carbon zero by 2050 as well as to create a plan to do this and develop a cross party working group for these issues to avoid the plans being interrupted by the political cycle. In COP21, NZYD campaigned heavily to get media back home showing the government’s’ misleading stance on climate change.

Lisa highlighted her experience at a side event about Fracking, where she learnt that many of the  farmers were being affected by this form of extraction and it inspired her to learn more. She also valued hearing the first hand voice from the direct victims, like the farmers in this case. Lisa also shared about her biggest achievement in COP21 was NZYD getting New Zealand the first fossil of the day (tied with Belgium) because it managed to grab a lot of media attention and highlighted the government’s fossil fuel production subsidies.


cuifenPui Cuifen, Singapore- Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA)

Cuifen is an environmental scientist with a not-for-profit (DHI) back in Singapore, and does a lot of ground-up community work focusing on earth-focused sustainable living and growing your own food movements. She and her team mates created Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA) just before heading to COP21. The opportunity to attend COP21 came up 2 months before, when Cuifen was contacted by Lastrina who knew she carried out a climate perception survey in July as a ASEAN Power Shift policy delegate.

The COP21 journey was an experiential journey for Cuifen on what is being done at the policy level, and what the countries bring to the table. She followed the negotiations as best as she could, and felt thankful that other more experienced participants, such as Mel Low (from Singapore), were always ready to share their insights. She took the opportunity to reach out to the Singapore negotiators team, and managed to secure half hour of their time to have a honest dialogue with interested Singapore Observers at COP21.

Cuifen followed her passion in choosing side events, and focused on agroecology, protected areas, forests, REDD and indigenous people. She was thankful to see farmers being their own voice for the very first time, and the indigenous people given air time when they have something to say. She also got her team to start #PeopleofCOP21, an idea that came up on the bus after talking to a COP21 technician, who shared how his homeland is already affected by sea level rise.

Cuifen felt that at every stage of COP, there was a very real possibility that an agreement would not be reached. She is proud that her country ministers played a key role in differentiation, which was a sticking factor in the negotiations. Overall, the experience gave Cuifen hope, that no matter what happens, people will come together to make sure we get back on the right track. The only thing is time is not on our side, especially for vulnerable areas that already face impacts in their everyday lives.


_MG_8370Saffran Mihnar, Sri Lanka- Earth Lanka

Meet Saffran, a climate activist from Sri Lanka! He came to COP21 under Earth Lanka, a Sri Lankan environmental NGO that work on both journalism and community projects on local level to raise awareness. On a personal level, Saffran focused on the journalism part where he writes back to share his experience in COP21.

Among the events that he have attended, he was inspired by the collective efforts being done by the countries in Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) as showed in their pavilion event where he witnessed how different island countries are working hard to take measures and to come out with solutions. Saffran explained that more countries should learn from AOSIS on their collective spirit; by giving example of his concern on how Sri Lanka is facing a lot of difficulties especially their position in G77 & China grouping- where big countries were deemed to protect themselves more than the small countries like Sri Lanka which is more vulnerable.

Saffran was proud to mentioned that his article was being published on well known blog which he thinks is his biggest achievement in COP21. Regarding youth participation, he pointed out that the current youth involvement in Sri Lanka has to be improved a lot; and that the government should engage with youth more so that they understand about issues that government is facing. From his organisation level, Earth Lanka is planning to revive the youth parliament which is not functioning well after the new government took over.

Lastly, Saffran shared his own saying to end his interview with-

“Three things you need for the success of your life and to reach higher in the society:

  1. Follow your religion;
  2. The knowledge that you gain every single day; and
  3. Good Friends and Family in your life”

View Part 1 of the interview here

Interview done by: Emily Oi

p.s. I have wrote a tribute to my beloved interviewees too on how I got inspired by them and what I learnt from them. Check it out here!

Side Event in COP21: Asean collaboration in tackling Peatland Fires, Haze and Climate Change

Side Event in COP21: Asean collaboration in tackling Peatland Fires, Haze and Climate Change

Side Event in COP21: Asean collaboration in tackling Peatland Fires, Haze and Climate Change

Side Event in COP21: Asean collaboration in tackling Peatland Fires, Haze and Climate Change

In this session, Dr. Gary William Theseira, Deputy Undersecretary, Environment Management and Climate Change Division, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Malaysia has shared several key points on how Asean countries come together in combating climate change, peatland fires and haze including:-

At COP21: Asean is not a group to speak at COP but for the past two years. Asean has been working as a group on a joint statement on climate change.

Adaptation strategy by Asean on climate change: Asean Working Group on Climate Change (AWGCC) was formed to find common ground to fight climate change and hence, they agreed to share information of sea level rise, extreme events in detailed levels.

Asean on sharing expertises:

ASEAN Haze Monitoring System (AMHS) developed by Singapore cost $100,000 is expected to make use of land concession maps from each country, hot-spot data and high resolution satellite images to pinpoint companies responsible for burning land illegally.

Asean work closely in conducting researches and a number of joint programs related to forest and natural areas. E.g. Global Environment Centre

Thailand (Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization, TGO) make a good position in Carbon Labelling.  

Malaysia share their expertise promoting Green Building Monitoring Tool – monitor the life cycle of architecture / building.

Here are some Q&A on how Asean Countries handle Peatlands and Climate Change:-

Q: Do you have any framework on tackling illegal forest burning and encroachment? As I understand, Asean cannot interfere other Asean countries that causes this problem.

Law and legislation are there but there is lack of implementation/enforcement on peatlands in the region. Currently Asean is coordinating enhance capacity of local government, local sectors, and community to work together. Further works need to be done.

Q. Direct to Dr. Gary: I am struck by your statement that ASEAN countries want to develop without becoming the major emitter. How Asean can contribute in the debate in equity when it comes into the agreement. How Asean can come into play in the negotiation?

Dr. Gary: There is growing role in Renewable Energy. Asean does not have access to traditional Renewable Energy like wind, and solar. We are looking forward to something like biomass and wave energy. This is where technology transfer comes in. This could be the pathway where we can achieve clean energy.

Rehabilitation of peat swamps are achievable in other parts of the world but we need to consider the cultural, and social parts of the world.

With the current technologies – it is evident the cost is very high. For instance, to build a railroad, every one meter you need two concrete slippers. We know the carbon price of steels and concrete slippers. We need to pass via a phase where carbon emissions will be higher. We are trying to incorporate that into agreement. Benefit of that, you can remove x number of cars. Means and numbers are there. We need to come down to speak honestly. We need to come down to the level where we can honestly discuss and work on this together.

Q. I think we are overlooking issue such as peatland subsidence. Peatland oxidize, carbon release to the air and soil is lowered 5 cm per year. In asean region. Bottom of the peats lie below. What would the solution be in addressing such issue?

Peatland subsidence (lowering of the soil): Impact of drainage without fire has been recognized as the main sources of GHG. That has led to adoption of new principles and criteria. Any plantations on peat must do a drainage projection on the next 40 years. If not, it must rehabilitate and use only for wet-production. Only applicable to RSPO for now. This is one of the major challenges in the future.

Q. Long Term Solution for Haze Problem?

Dr. Gary: Long term solution to the haze problem lies in building your capacity of indigenous and local people the dangers of traditional agricultural practices in a changing environment.

Written by: Jolene Journe T.

Long term solutions to end Indonesia’s forest fires and haze?

Long term solutions to end Indonesia’s forest fires and haze?

Herry Purnomo, Project Leader - Political Economy of Fire and Haze in Indonesia, CIFOR giving a short introduction on political economy of fire and haze in Indonesia

Herry Purnomo, Project Leader – Political Economy of Fire and Haze in Indonesia, CIFOR giving a short introduction on political economy of fire and haze in Indonesia

Since 1990s South East Asia has been facing the issue of trans-boundary haze and 2015 is considered among the worst ever. This is an inevitable phenomena as palm oil industry is booming and is anticipated to grow to $88 billion by 2022 and Indonesia is the main regional player of this industry. 

We have understand the effects of haze on environment, health and socio-economics. These issues are ongoing with trans-boundary haze. With all the experts at the forum today, are we able to find the long term solutions to end Indonesia’s forest fires and haze?

Here are some highlights sharing from each expert:

Intro: Understanding the root causes of political economy of fire and haze in Indonesia

Herry Purnomo, Project Leader – Political Economy of Fire and Haze in Indonesia, CIFOR

In 2015, forest fires have caused about 2.6 million ha of land burnt with more than 30 billion dollars of economic losses. 43 million of Indonesians were exposed to haze and half million of people became victims of acute respiratory infections with 19 people reported death.

Some important key points on the root causes of political economy of fire and haze in Indonesia:-

  • Tenure and illegal land market
  • Bad practices of agricultural and plantation development – Interestingly wood plantations are manage by group while oil palm plantations are managed by individual companies.
  • Land politics: Patronage network between business and government – When it comes to land politics, corporate actors are connected to elites at various levels.
  • Land politics for local elections – Hot spots is linked to election. Local elites/cukong who organize farmers are the most influential actors in land transaction.

Q. Are Smallholders to be blame for forest fires and haze in Indonesia?

Mansuetus Alsy Hanu – National coordinator, Indonesia’s Palm Oil Smallholder Union

Smallholders are owners who own the land under 25ha and they manage the land on their own. In Indonesia, there are a total of 60% of the 48,000 are smallholders.Smallholders tend to be in difficult position when it comes to prepare plantation. For now, fire (aka ‘slash and burn’ method’) is the cheapest method to prepare plantation.

Regarding forest fires and haze, smallholders may not be the main cause of it. Smallholders do not receive benefits to convert their crops to palm oil plantation and they do not get assistance or any protection by government locally and nationally.

In terms of solution of reducing forest fires, Mansuetus proposed the need of better mapping for smallholders’ land. There is also a need of strong establishment of relationship between government and smallholders. The government could provide incentives to smallholders who do not use fires to prepare their plantations as an attractive income for the smallholder..

Q. From NGO Perspective: What are the challenges in resolving this Issue?

Jatna Supriatna, Chairman of Research Centre for Climate Change, University of Indonesia.

While getting himself involved in non-governmental organization for 15-20 years. Jatna thinks the problem in dealing with forest fires for the past 20 year is the budget. The budget from government is not easy to be accessible for forest fire issues.

“To monitor the hot spots, there is no budget to access the peatland areas. Fire in the peatland is easily spread – underneath. Go widely. It is very important that we are working in many different form. it is always the dry season we have to be ready. In Indonesia, local governments do not have fire brigade but trucks. We really need to have collaboration with local government and private sectors” says Jatna.

Jatna also highlighted the importance of law enforcement in public area and national protected areas as forest fires occurred in these areas are caused by encroachment.

Q. What can Private Sectors do to prevent forest fires and haze?

Dharsono Hartono, president director of PT Rimba Makmur Utama, Indonesia proposed the key to prevent forest fires and haze is to establish trust among various stakeholders via bottom-up approach.

Forest fires tend to occur in conjunction with El Nino. During El Nino, the canals from east to west of Indonesia will dry up. After the projection of terrible El Nino by NASA in 2007, PT Rimba Makmur Utama has immediately engaged and worked closely with the 6 villages (200 people) to prevent forest fires and haze.

Awareness, trust and transparency are the key values to promote full participation from the communities. Other than providing education to the villagers, PT Rimba decided to go beyond the boundary by training a brigade team prevent and combat forest fires and haze.

Q. The world demanded Palm Oil. What about the Supply Chains of Oil Palm Plantations? Aren’t they also responsible for forest fires?

Agus Purnomo – Managing Director for sustainability and strategic stakeholders Engagement, Golden Agri-Resources, Ltd.

As Indonesia is the largest oil palm producers in the world, supply chains around world are also responsible for forest fires and haze. According to Purnomo, it is common to have problematic growers / companies within the supply chains. In order to prevent this, Golden Agri-Resources is focusing on establishing transparency with their suppliers.Thus far, they have 98% of the mills willing to share their suppliers info and by Dec 2015, they will have 100% visibility of the mills. However, it is difficult to acquire transparency and visibility beyond the mills and these mills source their resources from others.

“All our supply chains are posted on the website. We do not know the particular mill bought by another group. That is something we cannot know before. If we know, we will engage. We will have dialogue and see how we move forward.” says Purnomo.

Golden Agri-Resources is focusing on B2B arrangement. However, policies cause a lot of issues as mentioned by Herry. There is an urging need in getting all stakeholders to be involved to resolve such issue. From government, to local stakeholders, NGOs, companies who are involved in the supply chain. We need to formulate a common goal, better transparency in order to prevent forest fires and haze.

Written by: Jolene Journe T.