Six young climate activists to watch

As the world’s attention turns towards COP26, meet activists who are fighting for their communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis

The Secretary-General has called the most recent IPCC climate report a ‘code red for humanity’ and 2021 as a make-or-break year in reconciling human activities with climate and nature.

Young activists are fighting for their communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis across the world. As the world’s attention turns towards COP26, which takes place in Glasgow between 31 October and 12 November 2021, meet some of these activists and hear their insights into the realities of this crisis and the desperate need to turn it around for people and planet.

They highlight that we must flip the script on climate for bold and transformative leaps forward as the United Nations calls on governments to abide by the Paris Agreement and accelerate their ambition to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, combat deforestation, protect biodiversity and achieve net-zero carbon emissions.

Let us know which other activists that you admire — tag us at @SDGAction and use the hashtags #Act4SDGs #TurnItAround.

1. Mitzi Jonelle Tan

The Global North should take accountability for the climate crisis

“The Global North isn’t supposed to give money as ‘solidarity,’ you’re supposed to give that money because you caused the climate crisis. Framing it as a solidarity fund erases the accountability of these countries that caused the climate crisis.”
—Mitzi Jonelle Tan, Turning Point Dialogue

Mitzi Jonelle Tan is a climate justice activist based in the Philippines. She is the convener and international spokesperson for Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP), the Fridays For Future (FFF) of the Philippines and is active in FFF International. She advocates for climate justice and makes sure that the voices of Most Affected Peoples and Areas (MAPA)’s strikers are heard, amplified, and given space. She first became an activist in 2017 after integrating with indigenous leaders of her country, which pushed her to realize that collective action and system change is what we need for a just and greener society. Follow Mitzi on Twitter and Instagram.

2. Adriana Calderon

Demand justice for environmental defenders

“If we have the opportunity and the tools to defend the defenders of the earth, let’s do it because they are not only looking out for our home, but they’re protecting where we all live. We have to demand justice for them.” — Adriana Calderon, Turning Point Dialogue

Adriana Calderon is a youth climate activist and feminist based in Morelos, Mexico. She is part of FFF Mexico, FFF MAPA, is active in FFF International, and is a regional club leader for Girl Up. Her activism focuses on advocating for the people in the most affected communities, creating new strategies to impact girls in her country, and making activist spaces more collaborative and accessible. She is also focused on spreading the word and working through a feminist approach to achieve climate justice. She has worked in campaigns such as #CleanUpStandardChartered targeting the UK climate killer bank and in national and international climate strikes. Follow Adriana on Twitter and Instagram.

3. Rosario Garavito

Respond to COVID in a way that does not affect the planet

“We are facing two two crises — the health crisis caused by the pandemic and the climate crisis. We need answers that will help us face the different challenges of both crises. If we respond to COVID, we must respond in a way that does not affect the planet, nor our ecosystems.” — Rosario Garavito, Turning Point Dialogue

Rosario Garavito is the Founder and CEO of The Millennials Movement in Peru, a youth-lead movement to promote empowerment in local communities. She also serves as a Latin American youth Focal Point at ECLAC. Her work focuses on supporting youth, women and grassroots organizations to join the global efforts to achieve a more inclusive, peaceful, and sustainable world and support the achievement of the SDGs. She is currently a Fellow for the 2021 — Women Empower LAC Program of the Ban Ki-moon Center and is a 2019 Obama Scholar and 2015–2016 UN Women Champion. Follow Rosario on Twitter and Instagram. Watch her dialogue.

4. Esther Maina

Denounce injustices and bring about transformative change

“We want to denounce the sameness of injustices, violations of indigenous rights, the same deforestation, the same damages, the same promises, and the same results and embrace a paradigm shift towards ensuring that we realize a transformative change.” — Esther Maina, Turning Point Dialogue

Esther Maina is a nature, climate and ocean advocate based in Kenya. She is the acting Grassroots Coordinator for Kenyan Youth Biodiversity Network, an Ocean Advocate with Ocean Conservation Trust and is honored to work in cooperation with the Ocean Literacy community through the National Marine Educators Association. She has a background in Environmental Science and is an Associate Environmental Consultant. Her goal is to increase waterways and ocean knowledge/awareness, inspire a land-to-sea conservation and galvanize action for coordinated protection of these ecosystems. Follow Esther on Twitter and Instagram.

5. Okalani Mariner

Listen to indigenous voices as stewards of the environment

“My vision for COP26 is to see more indigenous people of color involved in these conversations — we have always been the conservators and stewards of our environment, and have always had a symbiotic relationship, relying on nature to survive, we respect it.” — Okalani Mariner, Turning Point Dialogue

Okalani Mariner is a Youth Climate Activist with Pacific Climate Warriors in Samoa. She is the Vice President and co-founder of the first environmental student body at the National University of Samoa — Lanulau’ava Student Association, a youth-led organization founded in September 2020 that aims to raise awareness about the effect and impact of climate change on Small Island Developing States, as well as provide a platform that empowers youth to raise their voice and tell their stories. The association has worked with local and regional NGOs to promote Climate Action, Adaptation and Resilience in the Pacific.

6. Vanessa Nakate

Fight climate change by educating women and girls

“My call to action would be for people to actually advocate for the education of girls and women for climate. Girls who are educated make better decisions and know how to live and get out of poverty. Good secondary science education brings a better understanding of climate change and a greater agency to tackle it. Today’s girls are going to be tomorrow’s doctors, scientists, and campaigners!”
—Vanessa Nakate, SDG Action Zone

Vanessa Nakate is a Ugandan climate activist born in 1996. Inspired by Greta Thunberg and worried about the unusually high temperatures in her own homeland, Nakate started to strike in front of the parliament of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, alone. One of her main campaigns is the protection of the Congo rainforests. Nakate has founded the Youth for Future Africa and The Rise Up movements. Follow Vanessa on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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