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SG Climate Rally 2023 Shines Important Emphasis on Inclusive Climate Justice

“Climate justice focuses on the intersectionality and inequalities of climate change. Simply put, climate change affects the vulnerable communities more – be it lower income families, migrant workers, disabled communities … often times, these people contribute the least to carbon emissions, but are the ones who feel the brunt of this heat more … so climate justice, it points the conversation to that direction – we do need to talk about climate change, but we also need to talk about the inequalities caused by climate change.”

The above said by Shawn Fang, SG Climate Rally 2023 MC during the rally.

The SG Climate Rally was back in person this year on Saturday and – highlighting an important emphasis on inclusive climate justice as defined above.

We at DPA applaud the efforts of SG Climate Rally – especially on their focus and intentionality to ensure discussions on the issues of climate change and the climate crisis and discussions on solutions of climate justice pay particular attention to vulnerable populations that are affected the most – including persons with disabilities.

With the topic of climate change in the news – thanks to groups such as SG Climate Rally, below is an overview of ways that climate change affects persons with disabilities – especially in the Singapore context.

Climate Change in Singapore

Singapore like other countries around the world is not spared from the effects of the climate crisis.

According to the Singapore National Climate Change Secretariat, the annual mean temperature has risen from 26.9 °C to 28.0 °C between 1980 and 2020 – with rainfall also intensifying between the same period – with an average increase of 67 mm per decade between 1980 – 2019. Other reports show that the past decade was the warmest in Singapore on record and that daily temperatures in the city-state could reach as high as 40 °C by 2045 if significant steps are not taken to reverse climate change.

The geographical position and nature of Singapore also exacerbates the effects of global warming on the island nation. For example, the low-lying nature of Singapore’s land – with approx. a third of the country just 5m above sea level – makes Singapore even more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and especially in the prospects of more frequent and intensive rains. Additionally, Singapore as a large city situated near the equator makes it more vulnerable to the effects of global warming due to what is known as the “urban heat island effect” – where buildings and other urban infrastructure retains and/or produce heat more easily compared to less urban areas or natural landscapes. Moreover, Singapore as a small country and a city-state is directly affected by natural disasters in other countries around the world. As a small country and a city-state, Singapore imports approx. 90% of its food source from other countries – imports that have and will continue to be impacted by natural disasters such as floods, droughts, or typhoons and hurricanes accelerated and intensified by climate change.

Impact of Climate Change on Persons with Disabilities in Singapore

As Fang noted during SG Climate Rally 2023, climate change exacerbates and worsens pre-existing inequalities faced by vulnerable populations – including disabled communities.

For example, as rainfall intensifies due to climate change, so will the number and intensity of flooding incidents – causing more disruption to roads, walkways, and even indoor vicinities. Singapore as a large city already contains a number of times of disruption to such commuting pathways – especially during times of construction which is frequent within Singapore. Even with the absence of such times of disruption, persons with disabilities – especially individuals with visual impairments and mobility disabilities – often have to spend significant time planning commutes – calling venues or meticulously mapping out an area to make sure it is accessible – especially if it is a route or vicinity they have not visited before. Times of disruption are access barriers that make the difficulty of commuting for persons with such disabilities even more arduous and time consuming – and climate change will only increase such times and incidents of disruption.  

As highlighted during the rally, climate change bears financial costs on individual people. One of the speakers during SG Climate Rally 2023 – community worker, Ms. Marlina Yased, eloquently articulated this issue – noting how the heat and rising temperatures – especially in sweltering Singapore, accelerated by climate change, leads to increased water usage and consumption, the need to rely on more cooling devices such as air conditioning units, and heightened health issues such as skin problems – all of which bears significant financial costs especially for individuals from low-income backgrounds. 

In Singapore, according to the latest census statistics, persons with disabilities are twice over-represented in the lower income brackets – with persons with disabilities comprising of 6.93% of the total resident employed population aged 15 years and older, but comprising of 12.03% of those who earn below $2,000/month – making persons with disabilities more vulnerable to experiencing such afore-mentioned financial-related effects of climate change. The point raised by Yased regarding heightened health issues such as skin problems is particularly important as well as such climate inducing health risks (including other issues such as heat stress) are particularly more heightened for individuals with significant chronic health conditions – many of whom have disabilities.

Towards Disability-Inclusive Climate Justice

As per other issues, persons with disabilities not only need to be consulted but rather the leaders in designing and implementing solutions towards climate justice. As briefly outlined, aspects such as infrastructure and inequalities in our economy and job markets directly lead to increased vulnerability for historically-marginalised populations such as disabled people in bearing the brunt of the negative and harmful effects of climate change. An inclusive solution forward must thus take into account the multi-facetted nature that climate change encompasses.

Additionally, solutions need to ensure that the largest contributors to carbon emissions and climate change are targeted, rather than scapegoating the least contributing factors. For example, disabled advocates in countries around the world have noted how the popular plastic straw ban implemented by many jurisdictions and corporations harm disabled people and end up having a very miniscule impact in reducing plastic waste. Such advocates note that plastic straws greatly help some persons with disabilities with muscular impairments eat or drink (better than other straw alternatives) – and that plastic straws comprise 0.025% of the total plastics that are disposed in the ocean each year. Thus a focus on banning plastic straws disregards the realities of disabled people while having very minimal impacts on improving the climate.

The need to ensure that solutions properly focus on the largest contributors was brought up during SG Climate Rally 2023 where Yased noted in her speech that the household produces 7.6% of emissions that worsens our temperatures compared to that of industries that produce 60.6%.

Disabled people thus need to be at the centre of climate justice solutions alongside other historically-marginalised demographics including when advocating for climate justice.

To this end, the SG Climate Rally 2023 also provided a glimpse of how inclusive climate activism can be done. During Saturday’s event, there was Singapore Sign Language (SGSL) interpretation provided at the event. The event was also streamed online – assisting individuals who have disabilities that result in difficulty navigating crowds (such as individuals with various chronic immune health conditions or individuals with significant noise sensitivities). The venue was also made accessible for wheelchair users to navigate – with booths intentionally set up to ensure that wheelchair users can navigate accessibly via the pavements – avoiding the grass which tends to be harder to navigate. All such accessibilities and others were also made known via the SG Climate Rally website – including information on the nearest wheelchair-accessible bathrooms.

As noted, DPA commends efforts by SG Climate Rally, and welcomes collaboration with any partners to advance the cause of disability-inclusive climate justice.     


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