This week I have been remembering a cartoon that used to be stuck on my computer screen for many years. It asked what if climate change was a big hoax and we created a better world for nothing? I’d forgotten all about it, but this week I have been reminded of it many times.
At nearly every plenary session, I heard how the poorest and most vulnerable are the ones worst affected by our changing climate. Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director at Oxfam International, told us that the global south is suffering disproportionately from the effects of climate change, created largely by the global north. Rising sea levels and severe weather events are literally destroying lives.
I was talking to a US Senator over coffee and he told me that here in the US, heat waves are causing more deaths in cities than all other disasters combined. I looked it up and he is right - if you examine the figures more closely it does not take long to see that it is the poorest, the oldest and the most vulnerable who are disproportionately represented.
It’s just the same at home in the UK. It’s often the poorest who have the coldest, dampest homes, the worst transport services and the dirtiest air to breathe.
At the C40 cities conference I spoke to many global mayors and it was great to hear how they, like us, are increasingly understanding, that by responding to their citizens’ - on the surface unconnected - needs, they are able to start to actively deliver their climate strategies. It was great to hear as it fits neatly with our strategy here at Ashden.
At Ashden we know from our winners all about the co-benefits that sustainable energy projects bring. Benefits like better health and cleaner air as a result of sustainable transport. Like warmer, cheaper to heat homes from insulation programmes. Like new jobs from installing solar on all our rooftops. Higher rates of education in countries that have access to affordable, reliable, clean energy sources. We know it, our winners know it, their beneficiaries know it - but many of our politicians and decision makers still do not.
To change that, we are collaborating with our winners, partners, local citizens and storytellers to engage with Metro Mayors and their teams to demonstrate those benefits. To show them how they can solve the housing crisis, clean up polluted air, create jobs and economic prosperity whilst tacking climate change at the same time.
We know that sustainability has a raft of wider, lasting benefits for cities and if those benefits are better articulated, they can be used as a case for action, aligning low carbon efforts with the priorities of local citizens.
We know our Metro Mayors have a limited time in office and want to prove themselves, and as Anne Hidalgo Mayor of Paris and Chair of the C40 Network said; “It (action on sustainability) is what our citizens expect and we have to act in the public interest. That is our responsibility”.
Climate change isn’t fair. By working together to stop it however, we can improve hundreds of thousands of lives.
P.S. Our friends at the Grantham Institute have just produced a really great one minute film about co-benefits. You can see it here.