Zhao Jiaxin and Howey Ou are trying to convince Beijing to take radical carbon-cutting action
One is a student engineer who became obsessed after watching an incendiary film about air pollution. The other is a 16-year-old who went on Chinas first climate strike.
Zhao Jiaxin and Howey Ou are part of a small but growing minority of young Chinese determined to press their country towards more radical carbon-cutting action. The pair are also Chinas sole winners of carbon neutral green tickets the UN is providing to 100 young people around the world.
China is the worlds leading carbon emitter. It generates 60% of its electricity from coal-fired power and coal consumption and carbon emissions have risen for two years in a row after a plateau between 2014 and 2016. Emissions are expected to rise again in the figures for this year.
Yet within the country, the positive half of the picture is more likely to be heard: how devoted the nation is to Xi Jinpings goal of constructing an ecological civilisation, how China is a climate change leader compared with the US, and how much record-breaking renewable energy capacity it continues to install.
Howey does not think this is enough. She conducted a public climate strike in front of government offices in Guilin in southern China for several days in late May Greta Thunberg called her a true hero before the authorities said she had to stop because she did not have a permit.
The 16-year-old, who spends her spare time planting trees around her hometown, was nominated to travel to this weeks United Nations climate summit in New York by the youth activist group Earth Uprising and nearly had to back out of attending because her chaperone was worried she would not stick to the Chinese government script.
People in China dont know the situation and think the Chinese government is doing a lot and is great, she said.
The point is that people here cant petition to protest and do something about the climate. Even if people want to change [things] they think activism in China will fail and the cost is too [high].
In a country where the party line controls the climate debate to the extent that a general apathy infuses the broader public, Howey and Zhao are the sudden, fresh young faces of environmental activism.
There are some signs they are not alone. Young people and women living in cities are increasingly aware of global climate issues and Chinas place at the centre of them, according to a recent study in the journal The China Quarterly.
In China, the good news is that compared to the population, younger Chinese tend to be more concerned about climate change, said Liu Xinsheng, the lead author of the report from Texas A&M University. The bad news is that overall, average Chinese climate change concern is low relative to many countries around the world.
Zhaos passion for climate issues was triggered by the documentary Under the Dome, which he watched four years ago while studying engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.