Pakistani student campaigns for climate change in UK universities

Aliza Ayaz has collaborated with international NGOs such as Friends of Earth

Murtaza Ali Shah
Aliza Ayaz (right) has collaborated with international NGOs such as Friends of Earth

LONDON: A Pakistani student has been recognised for her efforts to lead the climate action campaign across UK universities.

Aliza Ayaz was invited by Baroness Young of Homsey to a round table discussion at the House of Commons on the dangers of climate change and why it is important to ensure the participation of all ethnicity, disciplines and genders in solving the problem of climate change.

Aliza Ayaz studied at Karachi Grammar School and joined University College London (UCL) in 2017 to study Global Health and founded the Climate Action Society (CAS) – the first Pakistani student to start a society affiliated with the UCL’s student union.

She has supported UCL’s climate policy and lobbied for a greenhouse gas assessment. Her organisation CAS is the only student-led organisation in the UK that strategically facilitates the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDG) for 2030. Just recently, she was welcomed on board the UCL Policy Commission on Climate Change as a lay member.

Aliza collaborated with international NGOs such as Friends of Earth, Fossil Free, and Corporate entities to fight the monochrome picture of climate action. Most notably, her climate-themed environmental risk workshop with the Bank of England, and environmental-friendly fashion panel discuss with ZARA and H&M was attended by students, faculty, and professionals, as well as MPs.

Climate Action Society at University College London

London was recently rocked by climate change non-violent protests as thousands of people took direct action against climate change to force the government into initiating new policies and legislation around the climate change issues. The Extinction Rebellion blocked London from five central points to all traffic and jammed there for nearly three weeks. More than a thousand people were arrested during the non-violent protests.

Students in London took part in the strikes in large numbers in order to persuade governments to do something about climate change.

Speaking to this correspondent, Aliza said: "The climate crisis is a crisis of a capitalist system which not only oppresses women globally but places the burden to fix the crisis predominantly on women through its emphasis on consumer action. It is also disproportionately women of colour who are the victims, yet their voices are those excluded from the discourse around climate change the most. Only through collective action against the interests of fossil capital will we deliver justice to communities on the front lines of the climate crisis.”

She explained that she decided to found the Climate Action Society to dispel the impression by some that climate action is a frenzy - an obsessive topic for overly enthusiastic geography students. “But the point is that I am not a Geography student, and you do not need to be a Geography student to navigate climate change. No matter what you study, wherever you are from and whatever you plan to do in the future career-wise, climate action is still very relevant to you. We all have a moral responsibility towards climate change. The issue is that even those who know about climate change and realise their association with it, they are unaware and ill-equipped to start taking action. This is what CAS is here to do. To equip students to take action for a sustainable future.”

While studying in Karachi, Aliza was part of the Karachi Grammar School debate team and won outstanding delegate at the eighth session of the prestigious Harvard Model United Nations.

Climate change should be a turning point for Pakistan, she said. “The current generation of Pakistani students certainly has the ability to take on this challenge but there needs to be further work on our will. It won't be easy. Progress won't always come quick. But we cannot be complacent. We are at a time in history where anyone with a conscience must recognize their role in a kind of change that affects everything in our current societies. The bigger the carbon footprint, the bigger the platform, the bigger responsibility to lead.”