Meet Kayla: Regional Coordinator for OECD Pacific

Student Energy’s Global Youth Energy Outlook is led by a team of 12 youth Regional Coordinators who are working together to reach a total of 50,000 young people around the world in 2020 and 2021. As they engage young people in their region through a two-phase research process, the Outlook’s Regional Coordinators will be gathering insights and recommendations to develop the final Outlook report, with key findings set to be shared at COP26 in 2021.

In this interview series, we get to know each of our Regional Coordinators in-depth:

Introduce yourself and where you come from. 

I’m Kayla Choi from South Korea, majoring in Civil Engineering at Korea University. Taking from the word ‘civil’, everything that relates to civilization is what I consider my lifelong research quest, whether that be the subject of transportation, energy, wastewater treatment, or buildings.

As a young person, what are your concerns when it comes to climate change? What concerns are you seeing from other young people around you?

When it comes to climate change, I am concerned about the uncertainty, about the time we’ve really left, and our willingness to change. I picked ‘uncertainty’ because what we’re battling against is intangible. We don’t know what the ‘end’ or the tipping point looks like, but we feel the worsening repercussions that environmental damage causes. I chose ‘time’ as well, since some say we have a few years to turn it around, but unforeseen factors (such as release of stored methane, sudden bursts of wildfires, etc.) could cause 1.5 degrees to be reached a lot faster than we’d expect. Finally, I pointed out ‘willingness to change’ for both those who don’t believe it to be true and for those who do but feel hopeless about the matter.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges to transitioning to a sustainable energy system in your region?

One of the biggest challenges is ‘starting from scratch’. We have to completely overturn the current energy system, which has been so deeply rooted in society, and build a more sustainable one bottom-up. It’s hard to believe the old and the new one can ‘co-exist’ since even the way electricity is generated and transmitted by these two systems is so fundamentally different. This change would not only affect energy systems but also cause reformation in social and economic systems as well.

Why is it important to hear the perspectives of young people in your region? 

When you’re trying to create a revolution, especially of this scale, I feel it is crucial to determine that your desire for change is a shared sentiment or at least is well heard by the mass. It is especially essential to hear perspectives of young people in my region because they are the ones who have the most to lose and by really listening to them will we know which areas to focus on, to pay attention to, and to highlight in order to best address the existing needs and problems that arise when tackling the issue.4