17 Young Indian Leaders Join UN for Climate Action

The United Nations in India launches its climate campaign to promote green solutions pioneered

Young Indian collage

The United Nations in India has announced the launch of its climate campaign, We The Change, which aims to showcase climate solutions pioneered by young Indians as a celebration of India’s climate leadership. Through the #WeTheChangeNow call to action, 17 young climate champions will invite young Indians to join the movement by sharing their climate action stories on the campaign website.

“The campaign – inspired by the stories of India’s young climate leaders – encourages us to adopt a more solution-based, innovative approach to fight climate change. We know solutions are already within reach to solve the present climate crisis. We hope that through the #WeTheChangeNow campaign, we will inspire bolder climate action from people, communities and the national and state governments,” says Deirdre Boyd, UN Resident Coordinator in India.

The campaign celebrates and curates innovative, sustainable and equitable climate solutions and actions being pioneered by young people in India.  The focus is on strengthening engagement with governments and civil society for a more collaborative approach to climate action.   

“We need enabling spaces for co-learning and collaboration for effective climate action. It’s inspiring to be part of a journey that allows me to meet other young people who are championing climate action and advocacy while collaborating with various policy makers and other climate stakeholders.” says Archana Soreng, young climate campaigner and member of the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change.

A UN note says that India has shown leadership in combating climate change through its strategic and timely climate policies. Currently, India is on track to meet its Paris Climate Agreement commitments and is likely to outperform its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in critical sectors, including renewable energy. Challenges remain, and  the valuable contributions of young people in green action and recovery, can propel breakthrough innovations to protect India and the world, especially the most vulnerable, from the impact of climate change. 

Over the course of the campaign, the initiative plans to create spaces for young people, civil society, climate groups, media, and governments to collaborate through online dialogues, discussions, and face-to-face interactions. 

The campaign’s 17 young climate leaders represent innovation and action across diverse sectors, including renewables, forest management, financing, climate entrepreneurship, sustainable agriculture, disaster risk reduction, ecosystem restoration, water conservation and waste management.  “We can still make a difference, restore our planet and make peace with nature. These 17 young climate leaders, the faces of the We The Change movement, are showing us the way ahead towards climate justice and climate action. Their stories have inspired me and I hope they inspire people everywhere to share their climate actions, big or small, using #WeTheChangeNOW,” says Dia Mirza, UN Secretary-General’s Advocate for Sustainable Development Goals, actor and producer, who has lent her support to the digital campaign.

Young Climate Leaders

Garvita Gulati | Technology and Innovation

Garvita has been recognised by the Earth Day Network as an ‘Earth Day Network Rising Star’; was titled the “Water Girl of India” by CNN India and the Jal Shakti Ministry; was named one of the 40 under 40 environmentalists of the year in 2019, and was also shortlisted for the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list in 2021. 

In 2015 she founded Why Waste? which has worked with over 5 lakh restaurants, 10 million people and prevented over 6 million litres of water from being wasted. 

Kriti Tula | Sustainable lifestyles: fashion, consumption, food and food waste 

A trained apparel designer and design manager, Kriti has worked in the global apparel industry for more than 10 years. After studying and working in London she returned to India to expand her label, Doodlage. Her aim is to create India’s first global, sustainable and affordable fashion brand, focussing on reselling, repairing and upcycling while including ethically made recycled fabrics. Her work has been covered by many global organisations like Duetsche Welles, Brut, Apple Inc, Fashion Revolution, Sophie Australia, and Facebook India.

Akhilesh Anil Kumar | Ecosystem restoration

Akhilesh is an avid environmental activist from India working in the field since 2019. He has engaged with and developed multiple social campaigns and has also founded Bring Back Green Foundation, a non-profit organization that works across different environmental activities at scale, and deals in policy making activities. He is also the brain behind ‘Sustainability: The Green Game’, a podcast focused on sharing relevant and lesser known topics on climate change and sustainability.

Sneha Shahi | Water conservation

Sneha is a conservationist and has been affiliated with the UNEP – Plastic Tide Turner Campaign. She has worked with the Centre for Environment Education on water policies and climate change and has led a stream restoration program for conservation of urban rivers and its diversity with an emphasis on Mugger Crocodiles.  Sneha is currently a first year PhD Student at ATREE studying Conservation Science and Sustainability.

Ganesh Kumar Subramanian | Waste management

Ganesh is an engineer, self-taught programmer and co-founder of Kabadiwalla Connect, an organization which works to provide decentralised waste management solutions that’s powered by the informal sector. Ganesh’s work focuses on developing and implementing scalable and inclusive solutions to the collection, aggregation and processing of post-consumer waste in cities. His interests lie in social entrepreneurship, technology & product development, informality and the circular economy in the developing world. 

Berjis Driver | Sustainable Urban Planning

Berjis Driver is an architect, urban planner (M.Plan Master of Urban Planning, CEPT University), and associate member Institute of Town Planners, India, a Indian Green Building Council accredited professional. He has contributed to statutory urban policy and guideline preparation in Mumbai and Amaravati, and has worked as an urban consultant to secure India’s oldest and first Green SEZ in Kandla, Gujarat, the prestigious IGBC Green Cities Platinum Rating for Existing Cities.

In 2020, he was selected as one of five national recipients of the Water Seeker’s Fellowship. At present, he is working in an NGO, Waatavaran, where he is helping prepare a pilot People’s Biodiversity Register.

Heeta Lakhani | Environmental Education

Heeta Lakhani is a climate educator from Mumbai. Her journey began when she attended COP21 in Paris in 2015 and has been engaging locally with school students and with the official youth constituency of the UNFCCC, YOUNGO.

Heeta is the current focal point from the Global South for YOUNGO and is also the delegate for the pre-COP26 youth-focused event on climate change, titled ‘Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition’ organised by the SG’s Envoy on Youth. She has also started the Green Warriors program on climate education, which continues to grow till date. 

Sanju Soman | Water Conservation

Sanju comes with over 7 years of experience in working with vulnerable communities, training youth leaders, mentoring climate start-ups, working in wetland conservation and research in the area of climate change. In his home state of Kerala, Sanju has created the first model wetland village with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE).

He was selected for the Public Entrepreneurship Programme organised by the University of Monterrey, Mexico, and launched the largest upcycling effort in Kerala converting 30 tonnes of cloth waste into reusable products. Sanju has also worked with UN-SDSN as a Global School Ambassador and has launched SUSTERA Foundation through which he curated the first Climate Leadership Program in Kerala.

Aditya Mukarji | Waste Management

Aditya believes in ‘Individual Social Responsibility’ for a sustainable planet. He has worked extensively to curb the use of single-use plastics in Delhi and has interned with UNDP India’s plastic waste management programme, under Dr. Prabhjot Sodhi.

Aditya was the “Voice of the Youth” at the CII-FICCI seminar in 2018, was selected by the JSW group to help make their plant and township in Kerala single-use plastic free, and was selected by the United Nations to attend the UN Youth Climate Action Summit in 2019.

Hina Saifi | Clean air & renewable energy

19 year old Hina has been associated with 100% Uttar Pradesh Campaign & The Climate Agenda since 2018. Ever since, she has been advocating for climate consciousness and educating locals from her village in Meerut through several public mobilization activities like marches, pamphlet distribution, public meetings, chaupals, door to door activities, and surveys. She is currently associated with En Bloc, an NGO based in Meerut.

Varsha Raikwar | Grassroots climate storytelling

Varsha works as a radio reporter for Radio Bundelkhand 90.4FM for 4 years and has contributed to programs that aim to empower women,  discuss climate change and sustainable livelihood opportunities.

Through her community and on-ground work, she covers issues related to heritage conservation, Bundeli legislation and policy making, health and cleanliness, as well as awareness on prevention of early marriage of girls, voting awareness and new dimensions of agriculture.

Soumya Ranjan Biswal | Biodiversity Conservation

Soumya has been actively involved in wildlife conservation activities with a focus on the protection of Olive Ridley sea turtles. He has organized and participated in 230 beach clean-ups, and has worked with multiple stakeholders including the forest department, local communities, and youth volunteers across Odisha to restore wildlife and encourage long -term wildlife management.

Sarath K R | Sustainability through ancestral practices

Sarath is a folk arts enthusiast and is associated with Vayali Folklore group in multiple capacities. He has volunteered at ICS (International Citizen Service), a program by Volunteering Service Overseas and Pravah, a Delhi based NGO.

He has worked as a Seed Group member for Community Youth Collective and received the Changelooms 2018-2019 Fellowship organised by CYC and Pravah, representing AlterSchool, Thrissur. Sarath has also been instrumental in establishing the Friends of Bharathapuza programme with Vayali.

Neha Shivaji Naikwade | Livelihoods & Intrapreneurship

Neha is a mechanical engineer by training and co-founder of Parvaah, a youth-cell working toward zero-waste initiatives. She has worked extensively on policy making and CSR initiatives through her corporate work and experience as a Policy in Action Fellow at Young Leaders for Active Citizenship (YLAC). Neha was also shortlisted for the Global Policy, Diplomacy and Sustainability Fellowship. She currently works with the Climate Collective Foundation as a Project Manager where she helps develop and strengthen climate-oriented start-ups and early-stage climate-tech entrepreneurs.

Siddhartha S. | Financing & Disaster Risk Reduction

Siddhartha is a Sustainability and Climate Risk practitioner within the financial risk management domain. He is also the founder of the investech company CredFIC, and has previously served as its CFO before exiting in 2021. As the Founding Curator of the Global Shapers Guwahati Hub (an initiative of the World Economic Forum), Siddhartha co-leads its climate and environment agenda.

Over the last two years, he has directly worked with various communities providing them with relief and rehabilitation opportunities and has engaged with nearly 10,000 flood affected individuals. With the Shapers from Guwahati Hub, Siddhartha has received high praise from the deputy commissioner of the Barpeta District for the efforts during the Assam Floods of 2021.

Medha Priya | Green infrastructure

Medha is an Architect who works through sustainable infrastructure development to optimize the relationship between people, buildings and the environment. She has been a part of the winning team to design the 200-acre college campus of IIM Visakhapatnam that was rated 5-stars on GRIHA, the highest rating for green buildings in India.

She is also a Green Buildings Analyst and designs and implements assistance through building certifications such as WELL, LEED, GRIHA, and IGBC. Currently, Medha works at an advisory firm that provides expertise in the domain of green buildings.

Archana Soreng | Raising Indigenous voices

Belonging to the Khadia Tribe of the Sundergarh district of Odisha, Archana’s focus has been on preserving and promoting the traditional knowledge and practices of the Adivasi and forest dwelling communities. She holds a Master’s Degree in Regulatory Governance and has been the National Convener of Tribal Commission, also known as Adivasi Yuva Chetna Manch of the All India Catholic University Federation. She has worked as a Research Officer at the Tata Institute of Social Science’s Forest Rights and Governance Project, Odisha in 2018 and currently works as Research Officer in Vasundhara  Odisha, a policy research and advocacy NGO. Archana has been selected as one of the seven members of United Nations Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change and is a member of YOUNGO,  the official children and youth constituency of the UNFCCC. 

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