Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Ailis Watt, The Wildlife Trusts

This new series profiles the members of edie's 30 Under 30 - a nomination-based community of 30 hugely talented young sustainability and energy professionals who have already achieved great things or are showing fantastic promise. Up next, Ailis Watt, public affairs officer at The Wildlife Trusts.


Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Ailis Watt, The Wildlife Trusts

Ailis joined The Wildlife Trusts straight after graduating

More than just a list, edie’s annual 30 Under 30 initiative shines a spotlight on talented sustainability and net-zero professionals – aged under 30 – who are delivering on efforts to build a better future and showing fantastic promise for their future potential.

After a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, the initiative has returned for 2023-4, with the new class having been announced last September.

In this weekly series, we will be sharing their stories and successes beyond the group, giving edie readers insight into the minds of those who will be leading the charge in creating the low-carbon, resource-efficient economies of the future.

Our next profile interview is with Ailis Watt, policy officer at The Wildlife Trusts – a collaboration between more than 45 independent wildlife conservation charities across the UK.

How I got to where I am now: 

“I studied for an undergraduate degree in economics and politics at Glasgow University between 2015-2019. In 2020, I began my Masters degree at Glasgow University, studying Earth Futures: Environments, Communities, Relationships. This interdisciplinary degree allowed me to narrow my focus to the specific issues of environmental policy and sustainable development which had always been important to me.

“I started my career in conservation as a peat policy officer for The Wildlife Trusts. In this role, I advocated for the UK Government to implement better protections for peatlands and worked with NGOs across the third sector to campaign for a change in attitudes towards these vital habitats.

“I then moved into a role in public affairs. In my current role, I work to build support in Westminster for policies that can address the interlinked nature and climate crises.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been:

“In 2022, I led on a piece of research that shed new light on the scale of emissions produced by the extraction of peat for horticulture. This revealed that the policy failure to stop peat extraction has caused up to 31 million tonnes of CO2 to be released since 1990 – equivalent to the annual emissions produced by more than seven million cars.

“This research has since been cited by national media outlets including The Times, The Guardian, The New Statesman and the Ecologist.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered has been: 

“Impostor syndrome. I began my career with The Wildlife Trusts the day I handed in my Masters dissertation, going straight from university into an environment whereby colleagues had a vast amount of experience expertise in their respective policy areas.

“However, this in turn allowed me to learn an incredible amount in a short period and provided me with a real source of inspiration at the beginning of my career in conservation.

If I had to describe my generation in a word or phrase, I would say: 

“Determined and unwilling to accept the status quo.”

A successful 2024 for me looks like:

“Seeing the general election manifestos of all major UK political parties including an explicit commitment to halting and reversing nature’s decline.

“Nature must no longer be seen by parliamentarians as something which can be bolted on to government agendas.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy:

“Running – I participated in two half marathons last year. I’m also passionate about time in the outdoors and enjoy exploring the Scottish Highlands and the islands of Scotland’s west coast.

“When spending time indoors, I enjoy experimenting with new recipes and trying out new restaurants and cafes across Glasgow.”

My  ‘Mission Possible’ message for business leaders is:

“Businesses must give equal weight to actions which address the climate crisis as to those which are aimed at reversing nature’s decline; one crisis cannot be solved without action to solve the other.”

What advice would you give a young person entering your profession?

“It can be difficult to escape feelings of despondency, but in pursuing a career in environmental policy you will surround yourself with like-minded, passionate individuals who will pick you up when you’re feeling down.

“It is not too late to enter into a career in conservation – every victory secured by our generation will help to make the world a more livable place for all and will save lives.”

The full 30 Under 30 Class of 2023 membership is detailed here

To stay in the loop for the next round of annual nominations for the 30 Under 30, email [email protected].

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