Eco-activist's call to action on climate change

Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times AsiaOne 2 Jan 16;

Ms Lastrina’s interest in climate change started in 2012 when she attended a climate leadership workshop in Bogor, Indonesia. It was organised by – an international movement which aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions and reduce its amount in the atmosphere.

The climate change summit in Paris may be over but it is only the beginning for Ms Nor Lastrina Hamid, who wants to inspire many more like herself to take the lead in the fight against climate change.

The 26-year-old was among 20 young Singaporeans at the Paris Climate Conference last month, where she delivered a passionate speech calling for all nations to adopt a legally binding agreement to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 deg C.

"Action, not empty promises, will save our populations from starving, dying of thirst, and perishing in floods," she told country representatives and non-governmental organisations there. "You are responsible for the emissions in the past. We don't want history to repeat itself, stop the carbon colonialism."

Her talk has since been viewed online thousands of times and she hopes to pass on what she has learnt from the talks - where the world agreed to the first universal, legally binding deal to tackle global warming - to inspire more young people.

The historic Paris Agreement has been hailed as a milestone by world leaders, including United States President Barack Obama, as it is the first time that more than 190 developing and developed nations have agreed to drive efforts to keep the global temperature rise to below 1.5 deg C.

Countries will have to review their climate targets, and submit new and stronger action plans every five years.

"I'm generally quite pleased that we have an internationally binding agreement... But at this stage, we have just adopted the agreement... We still need to see how it will come into force," said Ms Lastrina, who has a Bachelor of Business (Management) degree from SIM-RMIT University, and works as a project manager in a company focused on renewable energy.

She said she volunteered to deliver the speech simply because no one among the more than 200 young people there had stepped forward to do so, just hours before the deadline.

However, drafting the speech over the next three days turned out to be a lesson in diplomacy. It was drafted over Google documents, she explained, and there were at least 10 people editing the draft at any one time - all of whom had different ideas on what to say, and how strongly to word it.

There were some who were bent on pointing out that developed countries had a greater responsibility to cut their carbon emissions, while others said the "blame game" which had been going on between developed and developing countries - on who should have greater responsibility in mitigating the effects of climate change - should stop.

In the end, Ms Lastrina decided to focus on what was most important - calling on all nations to come together and make good on their promises. "On the one hand I was glad I could be a part of this, but on the other hand, I was thinking, 'what did I get myself into?'

"But I learnt that just like the Paris Agreement, this speech was something that came about because of our compromise."

In her daily life, she tries to make a difference in small ways. She keeps her shower to no more than 10 minutes and tries not to buy fruits from countries farther from Singapore, for instance.

Her interest in climate change started in 2012 when she attended a climate leadership workshop in Bogor, Indonesia, organised by - an international movement which aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions and reduce its amount in the atmosphere.And she has gone on to spearhead the local arm of - 350 Singapore, which was founded by Young NTUC in 2010.

This year, the Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA), of which Ms Lastrina is a founding member, will roll out a programme where young Singaporeans can learn how climate change is linked to issues like human rights and gender.

Set up by four members aged 24 to 34 a few weeks ahead of the Paris talks, SYCA aims to provide a platform where those who are passionate about climate change can network and act as mentors for others.

The programme will last six to eight months and is likely to start in the first half of this year. Experts will also be invited to talk about climate-related topics.

But Ms Lastrina added that her love for the environment has its roots in her childhood, as her father, uncle and grandfather were all either sea captains or divers.

"I always heard stories about their work out at sea and this built in me a natural and emotional connection with the natural environment," she said.

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