Cause for Optimism: Youth Climate Action Leader Pooja Tilvawala Speaking at PT2050 Symposium

February 2, 2024
Pooja Tilvawala

The closing keynote speaker at this year’s Planet Texas 2050 Symposium, Pooja Tilvawala, has emerged as a formidable leader and voice for young people around the world who are passionate about taking meaningful climate action. As the founder and director of Youth Climate Collaborative (YCC), she steers a global hub that offers tools and programs designed to empower young individuals and communities to find solutions rather than simply identifying the problems.

YCC's mission is clear and ambitious: to accelerate access to, and strengthen retention of, youth in the climate movement through access to capacity-building, storytelling, intergenerational power-sharing, climate mental health, green jobs and finance for youth-led action. The organization serves as a catalyst, equipping young leaders with the skills and resources they need to make a tangible impact in the fight against climate change.

YCC’s two main initiatives are its “Jaali Map,” an interactive web-based tool that helps aspiring activists find organizations across the globe, and the Climate Courage Program, a guided mental health journal designed to help people navigate their emotions, anxieties and thoughts related to climate change.

With the help of several consultants, the program recently concluded sessions with its first cohort and is planning to launch a consistent space in May.

From Side Hustle to Shared Hustle

Tilvawala's leadership journey dates to childhood, when she watched nature documentaries with her family. In 2018, she graduated from American University in Washington, DC, armed with degrees in economics and international studies. Her academic background laid the foundation for a career dedicated to collaborative problem-solving on environmental issues. Following her graduation, Tilvawala joined the Meridian Institute as a project associate, a role that further fueled her commitment to addressing complex environmental challenges.

The turning point came in August 2020, with a serendipitous LinkedIn posting. While researching environmental organizations, she stumbled upon a posting for a fellowship from The Climate Initiative (TCI), a non-partisan, solutions-based organization pushing for local, tangible solutions to the global challenge of climate change. The application process required candidates to submit plans for educating, empowering and activating youth in the climate space.

Tilvawala had just such a plan in hand and was looking for the right opportunity to make it a reality. Six months earlier, after a conversation with a professor at her alma mater, Tilvawala had brainstormed solutions and then, as a side project, drafted a detailed blueprint outlining how to engage with young people passionate about climate change — which, as fate would have it, happened to mirror TCI’s proposal request. Tilvawala refined and submitted her proposal and, out of 200 applicants, was named TCI’s first “Climate Career Winner.”

Since November 2020, she has been able to work full-time on her plan — often 60 – 80 hours a week — receiving mentorship from the team at TCI. The result is an organization well on its way to achieving its vision: “A world that enables young climate leaders to elevate their voice, maximize their impact, and thrive with joy.”

Pooja Tilvawala will be the closing keynote speaker at Planet Texas 2050’s annual symposium. She is an award-winning global climate justice leader who founded Youth Climate Collaborative in 2020. YCC strives to make the climate movement more just, inclusive, intergenerational, and one that activates and sustains youth. Tilvawala’s talk, "Why Youth are Active in the International Climate Space," will take place at UT on February 29. Learn more and register here. 

Grand Challenge:
Planet Texas 2050