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What Katie did next – from talking torque to climate campaigner

Friday 31 January 2020

When car-mad Katie White left Leeds Girls’ High School in 1999, the leavers’ book recorded her aspiration to drive a cool car. She does… and it’s electric.

Katie, the guest speaker at this year’s Speech Day at Leeds Town Hall, is a climate campaigner who was awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to climate change engagement. This year she joined WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) as executive director for campaigns and advocacy. So how did she go, in her words, “from car girl to climate girl?”

She told her audience that it was almost accidental. An internship in Washington DC opened her eyes to the issue of global climate change and she returned home fired up and determined to work in that area for a year or so before getting a ‘serious’ job.

That serious job turned out to be campaigning with Friends of the Earth, taking on MPs and climate sceptics. The hard work paid off when the Climate Change Act 2008 passed through Parliament. In the subsequent decade Katie has built an impressive career as an independent campaigns advisor.

Despite highlighting the climate crisis in her address, Katie concluded with three reasons to be cheerful. In the UK last year she said that a third of all electricity came from renewables; new ways are being found to take carbon out of the atmosphere; and 10 per cent of all new cars in the UK are now electric or hybrid.

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