As someone born at the dawn of the 21st century, I’ve seen the world uncover, deny, accept, deny again, protest, and fail to act on climate change. Aside from personal projects, I’ve largely been a spectator waiting for a hero to solve this impending crisis. However, the longer I wait, the more I realize that very few people out of our 7.5 billion are willing to drive meaningful change.
Currently, humans emit around 51 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually. By 2050, we must drive this number down to zero to avoid an unthinkable climate disaster. This will be the most challenging task humanity has ever taken on. As a species, we have never done anything this drastic, fast-paced, or collaborative.
At my age (19), the status quo for climate action is attending protests and buying reusable straws. I have never done either of those things. However, as a spectator and avid learner about the issue, it is becoming largely apparent that what is needed to solve this issue is not more metal straws. We need activators. No, not activists (although they are also extremely important); Activators.
A climate activator is someone who makes sh*t happen. Allow me to explain: Politicians, company leaders, and other powerful individuals are world-class promise makers. They are not world-class promise keepers. It is clear that important research has caught the attention of influential people, whether or not they decide to “believe” it. It is also clear that intelligent, well-informed professionals have presented goals and plans to help said powerful people facilitate action. However, a clear gap lies between the plan and the results. Some may call that gap ‘making sh*t happen’.
Powerful people, like most other individuals, are lazy by nature. Because of this, there is one very important piece of information that they do not want people to know: Solutions to the climate crisis exist now. Excellent green alternatives for large-emitting industries have been begging for attention for decades. Forward-thinking people in other industries with less-developed solutions, such as agriculture, have been calling out for resources to research and develop green solutions faster. If this is the case, why has there been so little action? The answer lies in governments and policy. To solve the climate crisis, we need policy reform.
Why Policy Reform?
I only recently came to accept the importance of policy regarding the climate crisis. I was reluctant to admit that governments are critical to solving this crisis because governments move slowly. They are designed to make sure no rash decisions slip through the cracks. Furthermore, leadership changes regularly in most democratic nations. It is difficult to drive meaningful change on important issues when the teams and strategies are changing all the time. Imagine trying to coach a soccer game (sorry, I’m Canadian… football?) if you had to work with an entirely new team every ten minutes. It’s hard. All this being said, policy reform is necessary to reach global 2030 and 2050 climate goals.
As previously mentioned, solutions to the climate crisis exist now. Whether it be a technological solution a reasonable price (ex. Solar energy), a feasible industry remodel (ex. Plant agriculture), or a promising budding technology with slightly more research needed (ex. Hydrogen energy). These solutions may not be easy to adopt, but at least they are here. With time, the public would eventually come to use these solutions without any government aid; The world would run out of fossil fuels to burn, and the droughts and flooding would force us to find new ways to feed our growing population. However, climate change is on a tight timer. We wasted a lot of time listening to oil companies trying to convince us that this issue is not real. So, we no longer have the temporal budget to wait for technology to advance naturally with economic pressure, or for dinosaur-energy to run dry.
This is where policy comes in. Currently, incentives for high-emitting sources have been put in place by many world governments. Fossil fuels are subsidized in countries such as China, India, U.S.A. (for now), Russia, Iran, and many more. Canada is increasing fossil fuel subsidies in 2021, despite Trudeau’s recent promise to reduce GHG emissions by 40–45% by 2030. These current government incentives make it more difficult to eliminate what is currently emitting our 51 billion tons for CO2, and delaying the implementation of systems to replace these emitters.
Policy reform is necessary to allow for systemic changes to take place.
This is, however, a drastic over-simplification. These policies are not a magical switch from “bad for planet” to “good for planet”. If it was that simple, even Trump would have done it. To make these changes, money from taxpayers will be spent. Jobs, initially, will be lost. Markets will be disrupted. The time frame that we are working with to solve this issue is far from ideal for everyone. However, the alternative is much worse.
Why Am I Getting Involved in Climate Policy?
Excellent question. I’ve never worked in a political environment, nor have I spent much time looking into politics. But, as I said, the climate crisis needs activators. Unfortunately, I don’t think many people in politics are good activators. Even incredible forward-thinking American politicians such as Bernie Sanders and AOC have been wildly unsuccessful at actually passing bills. Politics is complicated. So is the climate crisis. Put them together and we’ve got a complex web to untangle in the next few years. We cannot rely on politicians taking bold action by themselves.
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, policy expert, podcast host, and conservation strategist, is often asked the question, “what’s one thing I should do for the planet?”. Her answer is always the same. It’s not going vegan, nor is it planting a tree — she suggests making the following Venn diagram:
This is what I came up with:
The result of this thought experiment is the climate action startup that I launched in 2021 with my best friend. We are creating a community of the most knowledgeable, driven, and experienced youth working in climate change to develop policy recommendations for COP26 in November. Following the conference, our community will begin working with large corporations and innovative climate-tech companies as private consultants. We call ourselves The Climate Crew.
Nazra Noushad, my co-founder, and I may be inexperienced in the world of politics. However, climate tech, consulting and community-building have been our primary focus for the past four years: During high school, Nazra and I both developed projects in areas of climate technology such as artificial intelligence, solar energy, and cellular agriculture. I spent my junior year building transparent solar panels, and Nazra was invited to SXSW (one of the world’s largest tech & movie festivals) to speak about her work in cellular agriculture. In 2018/19, we both took a gap year from school to build and lead Community for an international startup. While doing that full-time, we also worked as private climate consultants for World Tour Foundation, 501CTHREE, Aquila Capital and more.
If you put those experiences into Dr. Johnson’s Venn Diagram, The Climate Crew is what would emerge in the centre.
The Youth Community Making Sh*t (finally) Happen: The Climate Crew
Nazra, my co-founder, and I founded TCC to create climate action. We have been invited by AQ Green Tec to accompany them at COP26 this November and represent a youth perspective on the climate crisis. COP26 is the U.N. Conference of the Parties — the most significant climate event to happen each year. COP21 yielded the Paris Climate Agreement. This year, the world’s most influential decision-makers will gather to discuss, negotiate, and amend the Paris Rulebook.
The U.N. Secretary-General, António Guterres, declared that 2021 is “a crucial year in the fight against climate change”. Looking back, I would not be surprised if COP26 is viewed as one of the most important events of the decade or even century.
Our community is growing strong with policy experts, researchers, activists, and climate consultants under 25 years old from all around the world. By August, we will have policy recommendations prepared for the most impactful countries surrounding industries including energy, transportation, industry, plant agriculture, ocean health, and animal diversity.
After COP26, where ambitious and realistic goals are hopefully set, TCC will work further with these governments to help move these goals into action. We will also continue our climate consulting and begin working with large corporations and innovative climate-tech companies to set them, and the world, on a track to net zero.
Personally, I’ve never been one to ask the question “why me?”. Instead, I ask “who else is doing this?” and “are they doing it well?”. In the case of climate action, people are doing it, but few are doing it well. So, insert The Climate Crew.
The young generation has the most to lose from climate change, and therefore, we’re the most passionate. We feel betrayed that those before us were given the facts and still left us with a soon-inhabitable planet, and therefore, we’re the angriest. As much as that is true, TCC is not driven by anger. We are not here to yell at people. Or scare people. Or remind everyone of how doomed we are. Fear does not create sustainable action. Fear is the primary reason that some people choose to deny climate change. Without hope that this crisis is fixable, there’s no point.
The hopeful, bright, driven youth of the world are perfectly suited to create the necessary change.
See you on the other side of climate change.