Photo of rally participants from organisers of SG Climate Rally 2019.

Thousands gather at Hong Lim Park for Singapore’s first climate rally to call for bolder climate policies

Over two thousand Singaporeans and permanent residents gathered at Hong Lim Park yesterday for the inaugural SG Climate Rally – Singapore’s first climate rally. Covering the park in a sea of red, the crowd braved both haze and heat to collectively urge the government to take stronger action in mitigating the climate crisis.

The tagline for yesterday’s rally was “This is not a total defence drill”, in reference to the total defence drills carried out in schools to prepare students for national emergencies. Organisers chose this tagline to communicate the severity of the climate situation in a uniquely Singaporean way.

The rally featured a series of family-friendly activities including a card game on deforestation, a mobile library of children’s books about the environment, and a body-painting station.

Participants were also invited to share their personal climate crisis stories in facilitated conversations.

The most popular booth by far was “Postcard to My MP,” where participants could express environmental concerns in hand-written postcards to their elected representatives. The booth provided writing prompts on topics ranging from seasonal haze to fossil fuel divestment to the carbon tax. By Monday, these postcards will be making their way to the offices of members of parliament.

Regarding the booths, 23-year-old organiser Ms Tan Heng Yeng said: “We wanted to offer a range of activities and spaces that would appeal to people across generations and diverse

backgrounds. Hopefully this line-up also demonstrates how all-encompassing the climate crisis is, and how there are so many ways to meaningfully engage with it.”

Participants of the rally were treated to a vibrant speaker line-up composed of six concerned citizens. To kick off the speeches, co-founder and National University of Singapore (NUS) student Ms Lad Komal Bhupendra warmed up the crowd with a rousing speech on the urgency of the climate crisis.

Commenting on the current over-emphasis on individual action, the 19-year-old said: “I don’t want the generation younger than me to walk through their school life believing that we can protect the Earth by merely increasing the aircon temperature from 19 to 25°C.”

Lad’s impassioned speech was followed by Ms Karen Sim, a 40-year old who discussed the importance of speaking up in spite of her fears. Other speakers included young student environmentalist Ms Ellen Wu, conservationist and NUS lecturer Dr. Sivasothi N., and founder of Lepak in SG Mr Ho Xiang Tian.

Participants were enraptured by the youngest speaker, 11-year-old Oliver Chua, whose speech discussed the struggles of growing up in a climate-stricken world.

Presenting possible solutions to the cheering crowd, Chua said: “The government can introduce compulsory subjects into our school curriculum. No different from civic education, where we learn about ethics and values, but instead about our relationship with the environment.”

The speeches ended with strong words from the final speaker, founder of environmental advocacy group LepakinSG, Mr Ho Xiang Tian, who presented a pointed message to the government. 23-year-old Ho argued that Singapore’s climate policies thus far have been glaringly insufficient, and state messaging has failed to recognise Singapore’s responsibility for mitigating climate change.

“Singapore only takes responsibility for 0.11% of the world’s emissions, and that is always the reason cited for our lack of climate action. But we ignore the fact that we are the world’s fifth largest refinery export hub, or that the fuel we provide to ships and planes emit almost 3 times of our own national emissions,” he declared.

“It makes no sense to me that we are told to switch off our lights when [they are] not in use, but the lights on Jurong Island never seem to be switched off.”

Finally, the event closed with its signature activity, the “die-in.”

Participants were invited to collapse ‘domino-style’, falling one after another in a ripple beginning from a corner of the field. The activity created a space for introspection, with the falling bodies reflecting the loss of life and biodiversity caused by the climate crisis.

When quizzed on future plans, organisers say they will continue building momentum to achieve their formal calls to action, which were published last month on their social media channels.

They include calls for the government to slash national emissions in compliance with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report and fully divest from polluting industries.

On specific plans in the works, organiser Ms Annika Mock, 20, said: “Our ultimate goal is for our work to become obsolete. But until concrete climate action has been taken, we hope to establish a sustained presence inside and outside Speaker’s Corner. Right now, we are exploring a number of follow-up events that engage different sectors of Singaporean society. We may have established ourselves as a movement to be taken seriously, but there is still more work to be done.“