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Gen Zero: Meet the next generation of climate campaigners - Izzy Warren

·3-min read
Gen Zero: Meet the next generation of climate campaigners - Izzy Warren

As we edge closer to the COP-26 climate conference next week, the environmental crisis can seem like a daunting beast to tackle head-on.

Our Gen Zero climate activists break down their efforts to address different aspects of this pressing global issue: campaigning for cleaner air, involving BAME people in the climate conversation and fighting eco-anxiety, the feeling of helplessness in the face of climate inaction.

We marvelled at Greta Thunberg’s dedication to climate justice - now Gen Zero are showing us that young people across the UK have taken up the mantle, with some balancing their A-levels alongside their visions for a greener future.

Izzy Warren

USP: She went viral in 2019 for confronting Michael Gove at Channel 4’s leaders’ climate debate

As a shy 15-year-old suffering from social anxiety, going head to head with Michael Gove would perhaps be the worst imaginable way for Izzy Warren to spend a Thursday afternoon. But when Boris Johnson failed to show up to Channel 4’s leaders’ climate debate in November 2019, sending the two men in his place, Izzy took the opportunity to barrack Gove in the public foyer.

“In all honesty I have no idea how I got the confidence to do that - I'm not a confrontational person but I was really angry,” she says.

“For Boris to not even show up was just insulting. But I’m glad I did say something because he wasn’t able to defend it.”

Izzy, who goes by @orangutan_lady on Twitter, was first inspired to get involved in climate action as a 10-year-old watching an orangutan conservation documentary. Throughout her early adolescence she was involved in fundraising for conservation charities, but this didn’t feel like enough – she wanted to do something more hands-on.

When school children across Australia took to the streets to protest about climate change in November 2018, Izzy was spurred into action to create an equivalent movement in the UK. She contacted a group of other students and together they created the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN), from which the UK’s Youth Strike for Climate movement was born.

With 100,000 people on the streets of London, and 7.6 million people striking worldwide, it is no wonder Izzy described the student climate strikes of September 2019 as her proudest moment as a climate justice campaigner.

“None of us really thought it would be possible to get those numbers; it was something we had been hoping for in an almost joking kind of way. Seeing it actually happen was incredible.”

If there’s one change people can make to lead a greener lifestyle, Izzy says it is simply to pay more attention.

That doesn’t necessarily mean being more aware of how you travel or what you eat, but also being aware of what’s happening in the world, what the politicians you elected to represent you are doing, how they’re voting and who they are taking money from.

“Inaction on climate change relies on people not being aware of it and not knowing enough to care.”

Looking ahead to COP26, Izzy’s overwhelming feeling is frustration.

“It’s the 26th COP and climate change is a bigger problem than ever. Something clearly hasn’t been working. What we need now is legally binding pledges that centre equity and global responsibility. We can’t have another year of rich countries in the global north talking about how terrible climate change is and leaving developing countries out of the conversation.”

In 10 years’ time Izzy wants to be a marine biologist and a conservationist, protecting those endangered species that first inspired her when she was 10 years old. “I want to be contributing to the science that right now I am screaming at politicians to listen to.”

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