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Student heading to UN climate change conference seeks a better environmental future

Christa Croos, a fourth-year environmental science and chemistry student, is attending the UN conference on climate change as a delegate. (Photo by Ken Jones)

When Christa Croos visited her homeland of Sri Lanka this summer, she witnessed the destructive effects of global warming that fuel her passion for environmental activism.

This week, the University of Toronto Scarborough student will see how policymakers are combating the problem when she attends the United Nations conference on climate change in Marrakesh, Morocco, as a youth delegate. Croos is one of 17 young people from across Canada chosen for the delegation by the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition.

“I applied on a whim, because I didn’t think I had enough experience,” says the fourth-year environmental science and chemistry student.

“It’s a huge opportunity for me, and I was so excited to be given this platform to use my story and my skills to further the climate movement.”

Croos’s story starts with immigrating to Toronto in 2001 at age seven. Right away, she missed the seaside village where she grew up strongly connected to the natural world.

“We tried in those first few years to remain close to nature, but with a newly immigrated family lifestyle there just wasn't the time or the means,” she says.

To renew that connection, she joined every school club and activity that focused on environmental sustainability, from promoting recycling to building butterfly gardens.

When she travelled to Sri Lanka several years after leaving, she was saddened to see her country confronting sea level rises, drought and other long-term consequences of climate change.

“On my most recent trip a few months ago, I tried to see some of the country’s natural wonders, but everything had been affected in some negative way,” she says. “It painted a grim picture of the future of Sri Lanka’s environmental health. And it’s the same in many countries in the global south.”

Sri Lanka’s struggles are a central motivating force behind Croos’s environmental advocacy efforts, which have intensified during her years at U of T Scarborough. She’s been a member of the Environmental and Physical Sciences Students’ Association, played an active role in the Divest Fossil Fuels campaign at U of T, and participated in various marches and sit-ins aimed at increasing awareness of global warming. Set to graduate this spring, she is currently applying to law school with the ambition of practising environmental law.

As a youth delegate to the Conference of the Parties (COP22) meeting – the 22nd annual event aimed at driving the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – Croos will be authorized to attend most of the sessions.

“Our plan is to interact directly with negotiators and other political players who can advocate for us,” she says. Croos names Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May as two key people the youth delegation hopes to sit down with.

She says young people have the most to lose when it comes to climate change, and she feels a responsibility to speak for them.

“We’re inheriting all the problems, and we’re often dismissed as not caring enough, knowing enough or being realistic enough. I’m excited to use my voice as a young person at this conference, and join the chorus calling for climate justice.”

 




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