The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations are a call for action by all countries to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. These global objectives have broadly attracted attention from the public, including the growing group of the younger generation. Student-led organisations as well as young individuals are actively engaging in climate actions, making their contributions and shaping the future vision.
We spoke to the United Nations Youth Ambassador for SDGs, an outstanding student advocate for climate action, Aliza Ayaz, about how she started her journey and her visions and ambitions for the future. If you are also interested in making your contribution to the environment and becoming a leader, from this personalised scoop of Aliza’s thoughts, you could explore your inspiration for starting it.
Introducing Aliza Ayaz
Aliza Ayaz is an international climate activist and a current MSc student at University College London. She was appointed as the United Nations youth ambassador for Sustainable Development Goals in October 2020, the second Pakistani student after Malala Yousafzai to have received this honour.
She is also the founder of the Climate Action Society at UCL, which helped inspire UK-wide youth action against climate change, leading to the climate emergency declaration at the UK Parliament.
Q1. You founded the Climate Action Society during your time at UCL. Can you tell us more about the start of your journey there?
I am not sure if that was the real start in relation to climate action. The idea was in the back of my head since secondary school.
My bachelors helped me solidify the belief that I need to address the urgent climate crisis. The BSc in Population Health Science established the clear impact of climate on health. It’s devastating.
At the same time, my academia gave me a lot of flexibility in terms of professional choices or taking up different interests. UCL is the first university across the world to teach this course at an undergraduate level, and that meant I was one of the few dozen undergrads equipped with this unique, niche skill set. All my course mates have gone on to do a variety of fantastic things.
Q2. How do you think individual action fits into public activities?
If I had to give you a crash course into individual impact; Start asking any organisation, group, friend or relative three simple questions about cutting their carbon output: “How much, how soon, and how.”
Q3. What’s the modern perspective that we need for climate action?
Unlike the direct benefits of carbon mitigation which are ultimately long-term and understood in terms of damage limitation, the health co-benefits of ambitious climate policies have an immediate positive impact.
The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change research has proven this just this year. They looked at the health impact of boosting national climate action plans to meet the Paris targets to avoid dangerous climate change across nine countries, including the US, China, Brazil and the UK. A great many number of lives lost to air pollution, inactivity and unhealthy diets could be saved each year if the UK takes the action needed to tackle climate change. More active travel such as walking and cycling would save lives as well as curbing emissions.