Young Chinese student devoted to climate response, seeking to influence people on environment issues at COP27
Published: Nov 21, 2022 09:12 PM
Editor's Note:

Young Chinese people in the new era are confident, aspirational, and responsible. With a global vision, they stand at the forefront of the times ready to fully commit to a more global outlook. Chinese people accept and quickly respond to the world's trending schools of thought. Some members of China's Generation Z have begun to practice the tenets of their "global citizen" identity and use their actions to influence the society.

The Global Times has therefore launched a series of introductory stories on China's Gen Zers who are interested in different global topics, such as environmental protection, equality, and employment issues, and invites them to share their stories, sentiments and ideas.

Recently, we spoke with two excellent Chinese students who care about climate change and just returned from the recently concluded 27th session of the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP27) in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. They, representing the young generation, made their voices heard while gaining experience and honing their leadership skills by engaging with their communities and driving climate actions.

Xie Canyang, wearing Hanfu, at the COP27
Photo: Courtesy of Xie

Xie Canyang, wearing Hanfu, at the COP27 Photo: Courtesy of Xie

Xie Canyang walked into the venue of the COP27, wearing a Hanfu, a traditional Chinese garment.

Curious passing-bys would ask if the costume was Korean or Japanese, and Xie would reply patiently it was Chinese. "I met many young people there wearing their traditional costumes proudly, including some from indigenous communities. COP is a place that gives the opportunity to showcase diversity," Xie, who just returned from the much anticipated event, told the Global Times.

But Xie did much more than just a spokesmodel for the beautiful traditional Chinese garment in Egypt.

As a young delegate at the COP27, and having graduated after studying environmental and climate issues, the 23-years-old has had several different roles to play, making his schedule extremely full - he worked with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat to host events; he organized activities at the China Corner with his peers from the Global Alliance of Universities on Climate (GAUC); with a particular interest in climate negotiation, he observed four negotiations at the venue being undertaken covering different fields.

"COP27 is an event of information explosion," Xie said when talking about his feelings from his first ever COP event, adding, "I witnessed the enthusiasm from and abilities of the young generation on climate issues."

Passion to change the world

As a native of Chuxiong, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, famous for its beautiful and diverse ecology, it is not hard to trace the roots of Xie's environmental passion. 

He chose environmental engineering as a degree course to pursue when applying to Tsinghua University after sitting for his Gaokao. 

At the start of his term as a freshman, Xie's interest in climate change grew.

"I took a class taught by my current graduate tutor. I learned about the carbon market and carbon trading in that class, and I felt it was very special," he said. He began to take up various courses related to climate change - science and engineering, technology management, and policy. 

He also completed several internships related to climate change . 

Now, Xie is a post-graduate student in the Global Environmental Leadership Program at Tsinghua's School of Environment. He also serves as the head of the Student Association on a Net-Zero Future at Tsinghua.

"Climate change is a global environmental problem which requires our collective global efforts to solve it," Xie said, talking about why the topic attracts him so much. "Secondly, it is an interdisciplinary issue. It not only requires our scientific and engineering solutions, but also requires us to tackle it through management and policy."

"Moreover, I think it is one of the biggest global challenges that we humans are currently facing. If I can participate in the process of solving the challenge then it would be my honor, so I am very interested in climate change and our actions," he said.

Xie Canyang at an academic event hosted by the University of Oxford during the COP27. Photo: Courtesy of Xie

Xie Canyang at an academic event hosted by the University of Oxford during the COP27. Photo: Courtesy of Xie

Power for the future

In recent years, Xie has been harnessing his abilities to influence others to change the world.

"I have some research experience in climate negotiations and climate investment and financing, and I have authored some papers," he introduced. 

"Through this way, we can enable more professionals or non-professionals to deepen their understanding of climate change. Also, the world could realize that we young people are making some professional contributions to this field," he said.

He has also been devoted to some youth climate leadership and empowerment activities, as he believes educating the young generation is very important. And through the voice of the young climate leaders, more students could pay attention to climate change and realize that the climate crisis is actually close at hand, and it is closely related to each of our lives.

Xie also adopted a green, low-carbon life style. He would rather take public transport than call a cab. He also opts for sustainable, low-carbon products to reduce his own carbon footprint.

With encouragement, his friends and family, who had initially believed that climate change is a far-away topic, began to realize that they could also help make certain changes to the world.

He is also pleased to see that the country and the people are paying more attention to climate issues.

"China's policies in tackling climate change have steadily been promoted. It is not a slogan, but the country is truly publishing rules and guidelines in seeking to realize its carbon peak and carbon neutrality goals," he said.

Xie himself has participated in the compilation work of two books discussing environment and pollution.

"The global sustainable development challenges we are facing are very large. Every young person has the responsibility to pay attention to this issue and try to contribute to solving these challenges," he said.

Talking about young delegates' role at the COP27, Xie said that one important part is to serve as a voice and as an observer, to constantly amplify the voice of the youth in the venue every day, to urge leaders of various countries make ambitious concessions and reach agreements as soon as possible.