5th August 2014 Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Green Brunei at the Singapore Power Shift

Our guest blogger for this week is Khairunnisa Ash’ari who is the Community Engagement Director for Green Brunei. With the support of the British High Commission, Khairunnisa attended the Singapore Power Shift, a kickstarter workshop to build up climate change knowledge and learn how to run successful campaigns.

“The biggest threat to climate change is inaction.”

“Taking action against climate change is the best option, even though we are unsure of the facts.”

“We all have common but differentiated responsibilities when it comes to climate change.”

These are just some of the key takeaways from the Singapore Power Shift I attended with the support of the British High Commission from 12th to 13th July.

Over 50 youth from the Asian region including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, the Philippines and Vietnam have come together to learn and share their experiences in the climate change movement. The two-day workshop organised by 350 Singapore aims to empower youth about climate change and campaigning skills, so that the group can develop five impactful campaigns that could be adopted and implemented in Singapore.

Singapore Power Shift is part of Global Power Shift, a program kick-started by 350.org in Istanbul a year ago, where 600 climate activists from 100 countries converged to share stories, learn skills, and sharpen strategies and tactics to overcome the inertia in addressing the climate crisis. These climate leaders then returned to their home countries to spark a wave of convergences, campaigns, and mobilisations for climate action. The number 350 means climate safety: to preserve a livable planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 400 parts per million to below 350 ppm.

On the first day of the workshop, youth participants learned about what the Singapore government is doing to address climate change, and the various youth climate movements around the world. Case studies on NGOs in Singapore were also shared, including presentations from The Leafmonkey Workshop, Nature Society (Singapore), Sea Shepherd Singapore, and People’s Movement to Stop Haze.

Participating in discussions S
Participating in discussions

The case studies presented by the four speakers all demonstrated the different ways and methods one can take action to support the climate change movement: you can be an independent advocate, join your local NGO, be part of an international organisation or create your own movement. Regardless of the means and platforms, the values and commitment shared by the speakers were similar: you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and be committed to doing the research and taking the right actions.

The second day saw the participants learning about the art and science of campaigning, and also worked on developing sample campaigns. The highlight of the workshop was a surprise visit by the former President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, a well-known climate activist. During his presidency, he led his cabinet towards a national commitment to be carbon neutral by 2020. Nasheed shared with the audience his journey as a climate activist and highlighted the urgency of stopping climate change. He also engaged in active discussion with the young participants. I had the opportunity to pose a question to former President Nasheed, regarding his advice on what we can do if countries are more focused on development and welfare over environment. His response was, “Economics. Economics. Economics,” and he also advised us to take a more high level role in our advocacy work.

Group photo with Former Maldives President, Mohamed Nasheed
Group photo with Former Maldives President, Mohamed Nasheed

In the discussion, Nasheed highlighted two main points. The first point is about the need to frame climate change issues around more positive arguments, such as developing more renewable energy, creating more jobs and benefiting the economy, which would be more attractive to people and governments. The contrast is to ask people to do less things or stop doing certain things, which could turn them off.

The second point is on the need for activists to be the decision makers too, instead of just being at the margins all the time. Activists can also try to be in the mainstream and become decision makers and politicians so that they can address climate change more effectively. He encouraged the participants: “I believe young people like you are the real force that will shift the power for a just, safe and peaceful world”.

Although most of the programme discussions and content were mainly relatable to the Singapore context, there were in fact a number of great ideas shared that we could implement in Brunei. Microbiodigesters that turns food waste into energy, and corn starch-based bioplastics (instead of Styrofoam) are just some of the examples of green practises that have been initiated in Singapore to protect the environment.

There are plenty of opportunities to explore green trends in addressing threats that we are facing now, such as clean transport to reduce amount of green house gases in the atmosphere or opting for less meat in our diets.

Yuen Sai Kuan, director of 3P Network at the National Climate Change Secretariat said, “There are only certain things the government can do. What truly makes a difference is a matter of lifestyle: our personal choices and decisions.”

This is a sentiment that rings true for Bruneians as well. We should not rely too much on the government to take action on climate change. At the end of the day, it all boils down to us as individuals in making the more eco-conscious choice in our daily lives.