Leading the charge on climate change


Western Engineering News | February 26, 2019

“Listening to and appreciating the diverse views of young people will help us turn the vision of a more peaceful and prosperous planet into a reality.”  – Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and Minister of Youth

Western’s second-year integrated engineering student Elijah Dietrich joined the Prime Minister’s Youth Council (PMYC) in June 2018, serving alongside 20 other young Canadian leaders aged 16-24. Initiated in 2016, and choosing its members from a pool of over 16,000 applicants, the PMYC advises the prime minister and the Government of Canada on policies and programs that are important to young Canadians.

The Youth Council members are provided with engagement opportunities to take action on the issues that are important to them, including employment, mental health, innovation, environment, and climate change.

Dietrich’s passion lies in environmental stewardship. He founded his high school’s Environmental Action Committee and has conducted multiple research trips to study climate change in Churchill, Manitoba, and in the Arctic Sea.

In December 2018, an opportunity arose for Dietrich to join the Canadian Youth Delegation to attend the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24), held in Katowice, Poland. He was one of two PMYC members to take on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and attend COP24, representing the interests of young Canadians in the development of international environmental policy.

“I believe that youth are in a perfect position to mitigate climate change and its devastating effects through technological entrepreneurship,” said Dietrich. “Attending COP24 proved to be an incredible opportunity to learn what needs to be done to mitigate the climate crisis directly from the scientists studying it, and to make it clear to decision-makers that stronger action is urgently needed.”

Over the course of the conference, Dietrich attended and reported on the progress of negotiations pertaining to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which covers market mechanisms and private sector engagement.

Outside the negotiations, Dietrich spoke on a panel of commentators, where he called on youth who live in fossil fuel-dependent economies, such as Alberta, Venezuela, and Poland, to lead the charge on initiating and framing a just transition to a decarbonized economy.

“It should be up to youth in these areas to lead the charge on framing what a just transition looks like and how it can be effectively executed,” said Dietrich. “At the end of the day, today’s youth will be the people who bear the brunt of climate change and its related transitions.”

Dietrich’s two-week experience at COP24 allowed him to make connections with politicians, advisors, scientists, researchers, and other youth from Canada and around the world. Making these connections, both globally and locally, have helped Dietrich to discover his niche.

This past summer, Dietrich worked as a targeted marketing Intern with TD. Through networking with the company’s Environment Team, Dietrich learned about the field of sustainability consulting and connected with past and present sustainability consultants to explore it as a potential career path.   

“I had no idea that sustainability consulting was even a career field,” said Dietrich. “But I’ve always been really interested in the environment and how business ties in. [Sustainability consultants] advise companies on how to meet their sustainability or emissions targets or how to reduce their impact on the environment. I thought that sounded like something I’d love to do, and where I could have a big impact!”

Looking ahead in his pursuit of environmental stewardship, Dietrich plans to complete a concurrent degree with the Ivey Business School in order to help further his skillset as a community leader in the fields of entrepreneurship, technology, the environment, and public policy.