by Martin Banks
The public has been urged to get involved in a citizen-led movement designed to tackle the climate emergency.
Called “Climathon”, the initiative gives people the chance to work directly with their local towns and cities in addressing climate change.
Most recently, over 6,500 people joined forces to participate in a “hackathon” on Global Climathon Day” (25 October). The 24-hour event took place in 140 cities in 56 countries around the world with the overall aim being to intensify climate action.
From Europe, Sri Lanka and Sudan to Honduras and Pakistan, city majors linked up with entrepreneurs and citizens in an effort to foster innovative solutions to local climate challenges.
The Climathon concept is the brainchild of EIT Climate-KIC, Europe’s largest public private partnership, which addresses climate change through innovation to build a net zero carbon economy.
While the Global Day is the annual focus of such efforts, Climathon is, in fact, a year-round programme seeking to translate climate-related initiatives into tangible projects. Climathon also aims to support start-ups and offer practical support to “climate positive” businesses throughout the whole year.
Partnering with Crowther Lab, a world-leading climate research lab, EIT Climate-KIC is launching the Climathon Global City Awards (applications close from 17 November) to tackle major issues including: air pollution, fair, prosperous and sustainable local economies, clean and efficient mobility and energy systems. Cities can enter their new systems level solutions to tackle the worsening climate crisis.
Examples of such endeavours abound and include a project in Basel, Switzerland where food waste is being used for soup and another scheme in Khartoum, Sudan which is pioneering early flood systems.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, is now urging even more people to get involved in Climathon, saying, “The science is telling us that the climate crisis is accelerating and cities must adapt.
“Innovation will be a powerful tool to address climate change and fast-track the decarbonisation of cities.”
Andersen added, “I hope city leaders come forward and engage with the Climathon to create climate-resilient societies in which natural ecosystems and people thrive.”
Further comment comes from Kirsten Dunlop, CEO of EIT Climate-KIC, outlining the importance of Climathon: “By 2050, more than two-thirds of the global population will live in cities and climate change is expected to affect every country in the world.”
She adds, “Climathon is an empowering movement that offers people the opportunity to work directly with their cities to address the climate emergency.
“We need radical and transformative ideas—made by people, for people and for the places they live in—that have the power to change the world and prepare cities for the challenges ahead.”
Far from another ‘talking shop’, previous Climathons have proved effective in turning citizens’ innovations into reality.
One such example is Ecoten which last year designed an ‘Urban Heat Vulnerability Map’ at the Vienna Climathon. The temperature map identifies neighbourhoods most vulnerable to extreme heat. After the Climathon, the team worked with Vienna city officials’ to plan and ensure that heat does not impact vulnerable groups such as children or the elderly.
Bernd Vogl, Head of the Energy Planning Department of Vienna, commented, “Cities play a key role in tackling the big challenges of climate change and they will gain further importance in the future. As a model city in climate protection, Vienna uses Climathon to develop sustainable innovations together with citizens and its creative start-up community.”
Further comment comes from Sumeet Sandhu, founding member of Protea in San Francisco, who said, “Climathon is a well-established brand and platform. It is the most efficient way to get cities and their communities involved in action and solutions—anywhere on the planet.
It’s also a platform for sharing city experiences globally so that smaller cities can learn from the experiments of well-resourced cities.”
Chiara Appendino, Mayor of Turin, agrees, saying the Italian city is supporting “innovative ways to find answers to the challenges of climate change and the circular economy.”
Appendino goes on, “We have opened the doors to innovation but we do not want to be just a city to experiment but generators of ideas. Thanks to Climathon we are confronted with new possibilities to build a sustainable city.”
Looking to the future, teams with the most inspiring ideas will have the chance to showcase their projects at the “CHANGE NOW” summit” in Paris in 2020.