Semi-finalists from five global cities and 10 citizens from eight nations attended the recent ChangeNow summit in Paris for the inaugural Climathon Global Awards.
The city of Penang, Malaysia, and Tallinn, Estonia, were named winners of EIT Climate-KIC’s Climathon global awards for innovation in the face of the climate crisis at local level.
Semi-finalists from five global cities and 10 citizens from eight nations attended the recent ChangeNow summit in Paris for the inaugural awards, which were held by European knowledge and innovation community EIT Climate-KIC in partnership with the Crowther Lab, ETH Zurich.
The Pocket Parks and Blue, Green Corridors programme by Penang scooped the first-place cities project and focused on improving social resilience, as well as nature-based solutions to reduce the heat island effect. The winning citizen project from Estonia, Woola, tackled waste by replacing e-commerce packaging with sheep wool.
Both winners will receive a cash prize to invest in their project and ongoing technical support from the Climate-KIC network.
“There are places in the world where the climate in 2050 will be vastly different from what it is today. Penang is one of these cities – this is the challenge,” said Sofia Castelo, senior programme manager – landscape architecture and climate change adaption, Think City.
“We also hope to raise awareness and increase understanding that climate change impacts have to be tackled in the hearts of our cities.”
“We believe that our nature-based approach can make a real difference to the lives of Penangites, who are already regularly suffering the impacts of extreme weather, including flooding, heat stroke and heat stress.
“Our research will begin with climate-resilient species of trees that can help cool our communities and prevent flooding, and we also hope to raise awareness and increase understanding that climate change impacts have to be tackled in the hearts of our cities.”
Anna-Liisa Palatu from Woola, said the real value of winning the award is in the recognition it gives to the project, increasing credibility as well as providing a capital boost to test the solution. She added: “We know that the planet’s resources are finite, and we have to rethink how we approach materials and waste. Businesses are using the wrong kind of materials, 96 per cent of it isn’t recycled and it takes a huge amount of energy to produce.
“We think sheep’s wool is an ideal solution – our project is shock-proof, heat-proof and totally compostable. When we’re talking about climate change, raising awareness is always good, but a practical solution is always better.”
As part of the awards, a Global Climathon day took place in October 2019 in which 6,500 participants participated in 24-hour hackathons in 56 countries spanning four continents.
Other city finalists included Dublin with its rain gardens and natural water retention project, and Miami with its reimagined streets programme that seeks to put people first. A new approach to car-pooling in Vienna, roof-based urban gardens in Zurich and turning hotel waste into hygiene projects in Cairo were among the citizen solutions reaching the finals.
This year’s Climathon will take place in November during COP26, aimed at offering citizens from all over the world a pathway to positive action, and through that mobilisation the possibility to spark systemic change.
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