Some competitors pitched sustainable innovation ideas at the University of Sussex ‘Pitch for the Planet competition’ in a bid to win a portion of £20,000 in funding and a place on the Sussex Accelerator scheme to help turn their ideas into reality. The competitors attempted to find solutions to difficult climate-related problems such as high energy consumption, high water consumption, carbon capture and/or compensation, sustainable education and/or community engagement, protecting or enhancing biodiversity, sustainable food and/or agriculture, or sustainable travel.
Other students won COP Climate Leader Prizes worth £3,000 each as recognition for outstanding climate leadership in the ‘run-up to and immediate aftermath’ of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).
A glimpse at the women behind climate action
The three winners included Young African Environmentalist, Author, and Marine Biologist, Temilade Salami. She is the founder of Eco Champions, one of Nigeria’s largest networks of professional environmentalists, leading environmental change through climate education and advocacy, tree planting, and plastic waste management in Nigeria. She has over four years’ experience steering youth-led environmental sustainability initiatives across Nigeria. She is a member of the UNESCO SDG4YOUTH Network and has written two illustrated environmental books for kids- as she advocates for Climate Education inclusion in Nigeria’s education system.
The Chevening scholar is currently pursuing a master’s in Environment, Development, and policy at the University of Sussex
“It is surreal to have won this prize, it feels so good. I will be using the money to help fund a project supporting climate leader scholarships for 30 African students. The way that Sussex prioritises sustainability was one of the reasons I wanted to come and study here. Not a lot of universities would put a spotlight on climate change action and climate change education like this,” she told the judging panel.
Salami has also been recognised for her contributions to environmental policies and practices when she was named 2020 Nigeria’s 25 Under 25 Leader on Energy and Sustainability, 2018 LASEPA Ambassador against Noise Pollution, 2018 Idea Hub Africa Talent of the Future, and a 2018 US Consulate’s Carrington Youth Fellow.
Eco Champions- raising the ‘now and next generation of Environmental leaders’
Eco Champions is an organisation that promotes environmentally conscious practices and strives to raise the next generation of Environmental Leaders. It campaigns climate education, environmental advocacy, plastic waste management, and tree planting.
It has projects like the Eco Kids Klub that focuses on raising a new generation of environmental leaders through tailored lesson plan and activities that help learners transform “sustainability” into an actionable concept.
“If children are well informed about taking care of the environment at their early age, they would be able to make informed decisions as they grow.” She said in an interview with the Green Institute.
And an annual Climate Awareness March where volunteers, partners, and team members walk through communities and sensitise people about climate change and the need for urgent actions.
They also have a fellowship that combines knowledge expertise and mentorship to cultivate climate leaders across Africa. These change-makers could lead the climate action initiatives and help change policies to shift the focus to sustainability and regeneration.
These young leaders can also help to educate the masses on the international policies that come from high-level forums and their local implications. This priority responsibility can no longer be left to the small existing group of climate activists.
Work by young African environmentalists like Salami is, therefore, a critical component of raising political, cultural, and social ambition for the actualisation of universal agreements on climate change. Additionally, young climate advocates have a greater stake in the future and are better placed to promote environmental awareness because of their access to information, education opportunities, and networks than the older generations. We are rooting for them all!