Jaya Scott brings youth voices to world leaders. This 24-year-old is a Canadian delegate to the climate discussions of the leaders of G7 countries at their June summit.

This piece is part of a series of profiles highlighting young people across the country who are addressing the climate crisis. These extraordinary humans give me hope. I write these stories to pay it forward.

Jaya Scott speaking at the Edinburgh Sustainable Innovation Conference in April. Photo courtesy ESIC

Tell us about your work.

The G7 countries have established a formal process for ensuring the youth of each member state has a voice in their deliberations. As the Canadian delegate for the meetings in June, I helped prepare the climate and Ukraine-specific peace demands. Our work can be found in our communiqué here. We have presented our demands to the G7 president, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and will continue advocating for our demands to our respective leaders.

Can you summarize the main points in the communiqué?

Many world leaders now recognize 2050 is too late to avoid the human rights and ecological disasters we will face with more than 1.5 C of warming. We ask that youth participate in the anticipated acceleration to help ensure a generationally just transition. We also want governments to adopt an international carbon price floor, stop new investments in fossil fuel projects, accelerate low-carbon transportation, meaningfully protect nature, and provide 80 per cent of the funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation by 2025 and more for biodiversity protection.

The Y7 Delegates working on the Green and Sustainable Planet Track finish their portion of the communiqué. Back row, left to right: Mafou Aidara, Senegal; Nanami Okiyama, Japan; Hannah Hopper, South Africa; Aurora Audino, Italy; Hannah Schartmann, Track Sherpa (co-chair); Yuliia Kotelnikova, Ukraine; Felix Kaminski, Track Sherpa (co-chair); Annabel Rice, U.K.; Jannis Krüßmann, Germany; Jaya Scott, Canada. Front row, left to right: Rosalind Skillen, EU; Amira Bilqis, Indonesia; Cécile Génot, France; Jordan Lee, U.S. Photo courtesy Jaya Scott

Tell us about the process.

Twenty-four-year-old Jaya Scott is a Canadian delegate at the summit running from June 26 to June 28. #G7Summit #Climate Crisis #YouthClimateAction

Each of the G7 countries and four partners — Senegal, South Africa, Ukraine and Indonesia — selected four youth delegates. Within our “tracks” or topic-focused working groups, we shared our visions and values. We met with government officials in our home countries and researched ambitious policy. The Canadian delegation consulted with Canadian youth using social media, a survey, and some face-to-face virtual meetings.

After hundreds of hours of work, the climate track reached consensus on our nine demands. When we presented our communiqué to the G7 president, I was tasked with asking him to commit to ensure youth voices were heard and to find out where he stood on the future of fossil fuels. He was very attentive and said he plans to guide both Germany and the European Union towards renewables and away from fossil fuel dependency and is deeply committed to an urgent, just transition. We hope Canadian politicians will be as receptive but at the time of writing, despite numerous invitations, Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault has not engaged with us directly.

The Canadian Y7 delegation. From left: Hargun Kaur, Michael Lecchino, Prativa Baral and Jaya Scott. Photo courtesy Michael Lecchino

How did you get involved?

My undergraduate degree is in human rights and international relations, but once I realized I could not protect human rights without working on climate justice, I enrolled in a master’s program in environmental protection and management at the University of Edinburgh. I wanted to have some exposure at the global level, so I was thrilled to be appointed by Young Diplomats of Canada, the non-governmental organization charged with the responsibility of identifying young people to participate in international decision-making bodies.

What makes your work hard?

How can it be that we must work so hard on this issue? How can such a small number of people intent only on profit-taking have so much power to continue this destruction? The science is clear that the stakes are high and we need to act now — but it is also clear that we have a remarkable opportunity to create a better world. We know the continued burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests and soils will make life difficult for millions of people.

At present, we can still recover from extreme weather events, but there will come a time when this will not be possible. And life after fossil fuels will be so much better! All children will have clean air and drinking water. Nature can rebound rapidly if we give it a chance. I am motivated because I believe a sustainable, flourishing planet is possible.

The Green and Sustainable Planet Track delegates at the German Bundestag. Back row, left to right:
Mafou Aidara, Senegal; Annabel Rice, U.K.; Aurora Audino, Italy; Cécile Génot, France; Rosalind Skillen, EU; Hannah Hopper, South Africa; Jannis Krüßmann, Germany; Yuliia Kotelnikova, Ukraine. Front row, left to right: Felix Kaminski, Track Sherpa (co-chair); Amira Bilqis, Indonesia; Nanami Okiyama, Japan; Jaya Scott, Canada; Jordan Lee, U.S. Photo courtesy Jaya Scott

What gives you hope?

The passionate and smart young people all around me. Our youth climate delegation alone includes an environmental engineer, a financial consultant, a biodiversity policy expert and a future climate litigator. We all share a vision of a better world and we are determined to make that happen.

How did the way you were raised impact you?

My parents raised me with a sense of gratitude for the natural world and a sense of justice and responsibility. My mentors and teachers provided me with so many opportunities. For example, I love ballet and Irish dancing and an ancient Indian dance form called Bharatanatyam. My education of all kinds was seen not as filling a vessel, but rather nurturing a flame.

Students of Kala Mandir Bharatanatyam dance school. Jaya Scott, Meghan Scott, Lauren P. and Charuta Sahasrabudhe. Photo courtesy Jaya Scott

What advice would you give to other young people?

Don't wait to become an expert to jump in. When I started this process in March, I knew very little about either the process or international policy in this field. Three months later, I was talking to the president of the G7!

What about older readers?

Climate change is an intergenerational project. Have our backs. Be there for us.

Keep reading

Does their plan start with their own flying miles? I'm just dumbfounded by how Greta Thunberg became a hero for not flying, but absolutely nobody is following her. Well, I think there are some European tourists switching to train vacations, but climate activists fly all over the world to tell people to stop using carbon.

Honestly, they're embarrassing.