Get to know the world's top five youth climate activists

The future of the planet belongs to the young, while the responsibility of enacting change now goes to adults. These are the faces the world unites behind.

The old will die, and the young will inherit the planet. Some youths recognise this fact very well. Since there will be no planet to inherit if the climate crisis destroys it, the youths below have taken a step further to do their part in mitigating climate change.

Youth has taken over the mainstream imagery of public discourse on climate change. While the changes in business practice corporations large and small are making will enact this change, these young leaders provide the rallying cry the public can unify behind. 

So, it is important you know who they are.

05: Leah Namugerwa

Ugandan youth climate activist Leah Namugerwa is known for leading tree-planting campaigns and starting a petition to enforce the plastic bag ban in her home country. Inspired by Thunberg, she began joining school strikes in February 2019 with Fridays for Future Uganda. 

On her 15th birthday, Namugerwa planted 200 trees as opposed to the traditional birthday party. Shen also launched the Birthday Trees project, an initiative that gifts seedlings to those who choose to celebrate their birthdays by planting trees.

A leading voice in pressing the Ugandan government to fully implement the Paris Climate Agreement, Namugerwa organised marches in 2020 to mark the global climate strike on November 29.

"Most people do not care what they do to the environment," Namugerwa once said. "I noticed adults were not willing to offer leadership and I chose to volunteer myself. Environmental injustice is injustice to me."

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04: Anuna De Wever

Belgian climate activist Anuna De Wever Van Der Heyden was born on June 16, 2011. She is among the first ones who promoted the school strike for the climate movement in the country. 

De Wever was among the youngest climate activists to board the Regina Maris for a low-carbon trans-Atlantic journey to the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Santiago, Chile. Later in 2020, the young activist did an internship with the Greens–European Free Alliance in the European Parliament.

"This is what the youth wanted, a seat at the table," De Wever was once quoted as saying. "But of course nothing concrete has happened yet. Drastic measures must be taken to prevent global warming." 

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03: Jerome Foster II

American climate justice activist and voting rights advocate Jerome Foster II is history's youngest US White House Advisor. He serves on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council in the Biden administration. The 19-year-old is one of the major organisers of Fridays for Future in Washington and is a prominent figure in climate activism among the Black and indigenous communities. 

At the age of only 14, he served on the Washington DC State Board of Education's Advisory Council. Later at the age of 16, he served as a congressional intern for US Representative John Lewis.

"Adults take note of this message: Young people like myself should not have to take on this burden, this is supposed to be your job but now we have to go on hunger strikes, meet with government officials, and start a global movement for you to even notice," he said during a climate strike at the front gates of the White House when he was 16.

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02: Haven Coleman

American climate and environmental activist Haven Coleman is the co-founder and co-executive director of US Youth Climate Strike, a nonprofit organisation aiming to raise awareness and demand action concerning climate change, which she established together with fellow youth activists Alexandria Villaseñor and Isra Hirsi when she was 13. 

Coleman is based in Denver, Colorado and is currently studying at Denver Public Schools. She is also a writer for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a nonprofit organisation focusing on science and global security issues.

"Adults won't take climate change seriously. So we, the youth, are forced to strike," she wrote on the bulletin.

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01: Greta Thunberg

Unarguably, the most prominent youth activist Greta Thunberg, without whom there would be no youth climate strike movement. The 19-year-old Swedish climate activist rose to fame when she was 16 and started to strike outside the parliament building in Stockholm in August 2018.

"Our house is falling apart and our leaders need to start acting accordingly because at the moment they are not," Thunberg was quoted as saying when she spoke to the Members of the European Parliament and EU officials in Strasbourg in April 2019.

Greta has inspired more than 1.6 million youth around the world to take action, namely by coming down into the streets to demand more impactful efforts in combating climate change. Thunberg might be young, but as she said during the 2018 COP24, "You are never too small to make a difference. And if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to."

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