In this three part interview series, RSPO listens to three representatives from Malaysia, India and Indonesia speaking at the upcoming Global Youth for Sustainable Palm Oil (GYSPO) Summit.
The voice of young people fighting for their future amidst an escalating climate crisis is growing louder by the day. From climate protests, heightened environmental activism, and a collective clamour for governments worldwide to effect real change for climate justice, today’s youth are letting the world know that the decisions made today will directly impact their tomorrow.
Young people are recognised by the UN as a key stakeholder in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the generation born in the Internet age, they are connected to each other more than ever, and are proving to be a force for positive change in contributing to the resilience of communities, driving social change, and proposing innovative solutions towards sustainable transformation.
Asian youth at the GYSPO Summit
Among regions, Asia has the fastest growing youth population. Considering that many Asian countries are also the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and are already feeling those effects today, Asian youth play a key role in influencing behaviours and action towards more sustainable production and consumption.
Against this backdrop, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) will be organising the Global Youth for Sustainable Palm Oil (GYSPO) Summit on 4 December 2021. This amplifies the impact of the Asia Youth Summit for Sustainable Palm Oil, which RSPO successfully held in 2019 and 2020, and will focus specifically on how to promote sustainable palm oil consumption. The Summit will allow participants to explore environmental and social sustainability issues such as biodiversity and climate change, deforestation, and the impact of consumer behaviour on brands. RSPO has invited young activists, experts, influencers and brands from China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore among other Asian countries to participate in the event’s meaningful discussions.
In anticipation of the Summit, RSPO spoke with three inspiring youth ambassadors from Malaysia, India and Indonesia who will be speaking at the event to find out how they are personally affected by climate change in their respective countries and how they are stepping up in their daily lives to help safeguard the planet they are inheriting.
Youth Ambassador: Ignatius Baxter Sagong Anak Nair (President, Youth for Sustainability, Malaysia)
“Policymakers, corporations, and consumers all have a role to play in supporting sustainable palm oil by demanding it to pave the path for greener practices and more economic benefits from the palm oil sector and the people affected.”
Young people have been recognised as a key driver in the global fight against climate change and an important stakeholder in the global commitment to achieving the SDGs. What advantages does your generation have in finding solutions to combat the climate crisis?
Social and environmental awareness is increasing among our generation of 1.8 million young people aged 10 to 24 and is key to accomplishing the 2030 SDGs, which includes combating climate change and its consequences. Many of us have firsthand knowledge of climate change's effects on our health and well-being.
The policies and judgments made today will have the greatest impact on our generation. We will be the next generation of decision-makers and global leaders. Young people from all over the world are one of the driving forces for climate change as we are more well connected with the global community and well versed in the superfast information era.
How is your country experiencing the impacts of climate change?
Malaysia is one of the Asian countries most vulnerable to climate change and believes in the existence and threat of climate change. In Malaysia, we’ve seen how climate change impacted our surroundings, including sea-level rise, reduced crop yields, increased diseases among forest species, and biodiversity loss, erosion of shorelines, increased flood intensities, coral reef bleaching, increased disease incidences, tidal inundation of coastal areas, decreased water availability, biodiversity loss, and more droughts.
What worries me the most is the sudden surge in the temperature records in Malaysia itself. This warming trend of temperature may bring negative effects towards some of the sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, plantation and more. Hence, youth should work alongside the Government to at least reduce the impact of climate change in Malaysia.
What inspired you to step up your individual action to help be part of the solution in tackling the climate crisis?
As a young person who is enthusiastic about ensuring a sustainable future for my generation and future generations to come, I am using my multimedia storytelling skills to raise awareness about climate change and to advocate for a just transition that leaves no one behind.
From my experience, the effects of the climate crisis on groundwater supplies and soil nutrition will put a strain on food security throughout the world, but notably in the most vulnerable populations. People who cannot afford to buy food in supermarkets have lost their traditional style of subsistence farming due to dam construction, urbanisation, and lengthy and catastrophic droughts, and it is up to us to take charge.
Why is it important for you to promote the production and consumption of sustainable palm oil?
Palm oil has long been a vital part of Southeast Asian economies, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Policymakers, corporations, and consumers all have a role to play in supporting sustainable palm oil by demanding it to pave the path for greener practices and more economic benefits from the palm oil sector and the people affected.
In my everyday life, there are a few steps I choose to promote sustainable palm oil, first, by choosing certified sustainable products. Second, by promoting certified sustainable products from sustainable palm oil with my circle and spreading awareness.
What message would you like to give fellow youth about seeking sustainable palm oil?
Get engaged with the general public and join or be involved in programmes on awareness in sustainable palm oil. Be informed through social media and information sharing, as it nurtures the understanding of the impact of sustainably-grown palm oil in everyday life. Be vigilant in sharing information about sustainable palm oil practices and their impacts on our daily lives through social media channels. You will soon be motivated by many pals and people who have the same drive and be the voice that raises and challenges the status quo in the local or broader business environment.