America Gave Up On Climate Change, So These Global Efforts Stepped Up
The UN honored big thinkers addressing climate change around the world.
Photo via UN Environment
At the end of COP23 -- the twenty-third round of UN talks to lower carbon emissions and curb climate change -- there were two award ceremonies to promote a string of social and business initiatives aimed at accelerating climate action. VICE Impact chose to highlight some of the most innovative projects honored by the UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change awards and the UN Climate Change’s Global Youth Video Competition on Climate Change, which was developed with UNDP GEF-Small Grants Programme, Connect4Climate and Television for the Environment (tve), in partnership with the BNP Paribas Foundation – an official partner of the UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC) at COP 23.
The Momentum for Change awards ceremony recognized “Lighthouse Activities,” which are practical, scalable and replicable examples of how people, businesses, governments and institutions are tackling climate change. We picked one winner per category.
Women for Results
Fragments of Hope is an organization that provides women in Belize with grant-funded or subsidized training programs on marine tourism and lagoon ecology to restore coral reef habitats.
“Gender equality has come a long way in Belize over the past two decades,” founder Lisa Carne told VICE Impact. “Our work has provided training and opportunities for women in the marine tourism industry as divemasters and dive instructors earn much higher income than housecleaning or the service industry”.
Thanks to their efforts, 90,000 corals have been transferred from nurseries into nature in three different national parks and marine reserves. Carne hopes to tackle more environmental problems, such as mangrove restoration or crab farming, using similar principles and expand abroad.
Climate Neutral Now
The UAE has the world’s highest carbon footprint per capita and the world’s most polluted air. But plans by the Emirates to achieve the world’s lowest footprint by 2050 have prompted the city of Dubai to roll out a road map to build the world’s first carbon neutral police force by 2020.
Dr. Tamim Alhaj, the Dubai Police Force’s Director of Environment Health and Safety wants to bolster community awareness about climate change mitigation. “As the world’s first carbon neutral police force,” Alhaj told VICE Impact, “we are helping the country work towards this goal by promoting environmental education and awareness and by building strong community engagement practices to reduce carbon emissions.”
Dubai’s police force has identified 18 strategic measures related to conservation to reduce electricity, water and fuel consumption. It recently unveiled plans to cover 400 building rooftops with solar panels. Alhaj is confident that if a police force which primarily focuses on safety also tries to tackle climate change it can promote personal responsibility and set an example for other organizations.
CREA Mont Blanc, a local scientific NGO has built an innovative Biodiversity and Climate Change Observatory on the Mont-Blanc mountain in the Alps to measure and report the impact of climate change in the region. Temperatures have risen there at a whopping 0.5° C per decade. Using 70 tailor-made temperature stations, distant-monitoring software, and connected webcams and camera traps, the collected data has shown that there are 25 fewer days of snow per year above 7,000 feet in altitude.
“In terms of temperature conditions, 0.5° C represents about a 100m difference in elevation. Meaning that in order for species be able to stay in the same temperature conditions, they would need to move 100m upslope,” Hilary Gerardi, the NGO’s development officer, told VICE Impact. Data collected by CREA are made available in open-source to the public, the scientific community and environmental organizations. “Our 10 years of data and analysis is available to the public, decision makers and to other scientists, meaning it is an important contribution to the scientific community,” said Gerardi.
Trash disposal and recycling infrastructure hardly exist in Haiti. As a result, plastic waste covers the country’s beaches and ends up flowing into the ocean and water streams. This inspired David Katz to launch the Plastic Bank, a private company that recycles plastic to one of 20 recycling markets, where it is exchanged for cash or critical essentials, such as school tuitions.
Katz attributes his company’s success to the support it provides regional governments. “We offer a recycling solution that costs them nothing,” he told VICE Impact. “For instance, when we opened our new location in Kenscoff, Haiti, the Mayor of Kenscoff held a ribbon cutting ceremony and proudly announced that soon Kenscoff will be the cleanest city in Haiti, and that is something we can all be proud of.”
The Plastic Bank has introduced programs to encourage plastic recycling directly from homes, businesses, schools and churches before it becomes waste.
Financing for Climate Friendly Investment
COP 23 attendees reaffirmed the need for more investments in clean energy infrastructure in Africa, which is considered the most vulnerable continent to climate change. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s investment arm, injected private-sector capital into the development of KaXu Solar, one of the world’s first large-scale concentrated solar power plant in South Africa.
For Kruskaia Sierra-Escalante, Manager for the IFC Blended Finance (Climate), Kaxu Solar One has reconciled climate action and economic growth, but more importantly it has boosted local economic development. “The KaXu Solar One project is not just a climate-smart solution, it is also helping stimulate long-term local economic growth,” Sierra-Escalante told VICE Impact. “Since 2012, the plant has generated about 4,500 temporary and 80 permanent construction jobs in the Northern Cape region of South Africa”.
The project’s innovative ownership structure allows the local community to take part in the project through a 20 percent equity stake. The plant now powers 80,000 South African households, mitigating an estimated 315,000 tons of GHG emission annually, the equivalent of removing 66,000 cars from the road.
On November 16, the range of partners held the award ceremony for The Global Youth Video Competition on Climate Change. “We are committed to identifying innovative and non-profit projects, talents and personalities that shape a better world now and for the future,” said Jean-Jacques Goron, Managing Director of the BNP Paribas Foundation.
There were 247 videos submitted from 94 countries and one winner was picked in the following two categories.
Oceans and Climate Change
23-year-old science student and filmmaker Ardarsh Prathap’s video captures his journey across Pichavaram, Tamil Nadu, one of the largest swamp forests in India. A staunch believer in youth-led climate action, his work addresses environmental challenges through visual media. His video Let Mangroves Recover, stresses the role of mangroves in shoreline protection and the preservation of ecosystems.
Mangroves play an essential role in building climate resilient habitats, shielding villages from tsunamis and natural disasters and saving thousands of lives. The video features insight from indigenous populations to amplify their voices.
Climate Friendly and Resilient Cities
Last year, Youne’s Lamsaoui’s hometown of Marrakesh, Morocco was picked to host COP22. This primary school teacher decided to take advantage of climate change momentum in Morocco to submit a video about the city's green transition in his short film Turning Green. The film highlights how the city’s public transportation network relies on a fleet of electric buses and one of the first bike-sharing systems introduced in the region.
The film also highlights how most mosques in Marrakesh now run on renewable energy thanks to the readily available sunlight. Turning Green also addresses ecotourism and the need to welcome foreigners in sustainable fashion. Lamsaoui organized climate change workshops with his pupils to educate them about environmental matters at the earliest age.
“The competition gave me the opportunity to share this example with the world as well as to show how education is important and how powerful the youth contribution can be for the change,” Lamsaoui told VICE Impact.