From net-zero concrete to ‘citizen scientists’: innovative projects tackling climate change 

Date: 19 October 2021

A new international competition, run by The Young Foundation in the UK and by Metrolab Network in the US, today announces its shortlist of twelve partnership teams.

The Climate Challenge Cup competition celebrates innovative projects tackling climate change. The winners will be announced at a showcase and live final at COP26, the United Nations Climate Change conference in Glasgow.

The Young Foundation’s CEO, Helen Goulden, says: “We can’t fight the climate crisis in silo, so it’s important to enable innovation partnerships between universities, civic bodies and communities to avert a climate catastrophe.” 

Kimberly Lucas, Interim Executive Director at MetroLab Network, agrees: “The presence of locally-focused and locally-led projects as part of the official COP26 programme sends the strong signal that trusting, meaningful partnerships between communities, researchers, and local government can have direct, innovative impact.”  

Shortlisted projects include a way of injecting CO2 into concrete to reduce its carbon footprint by 60% on UK construction sites. Another is a process to trap up to 25% of airborne CO2 into soil. This is being trialed in Texas and Yorkshire, allowing private landowners to monetise soil carbon storage as a property right. In Hampshire, a partnership is helping farmers produce food on chalk soil in a carbon-neutral way. 

Climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather events, such as flooding, heatwaves and wildfires. One partnership in Los Angeles surveyed citizens on low income who depend on public transport, and then designed new bus shelters that provide shade and hydration stations. In Glasgow, a city-wide citizen engagement project is helping people reconnect with the local river’s history. And in Pittsburgh, a partnership between the city, charities, a local university and citizens spearheaded the restoration of 1,200 acres of green space to prevent future landslides and flooding. 

Dr Atyia Martin, who was the first Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Boston, and is one of the Cup judges, says: “Often, it is the most ignored and underestimated communities who are most affected by climate change. They are left out of designing resilience strategies, which reinforces oppression. The Climate Challenge Cup will showcase projects that include community members in the design, development, and implementation of local solutions to this global issue.” 

Professor Alex Halliday, Founding Dean of Columbia University Climate School and Director of The Earth Institute, and one of the Cup judges, says: “The climate crisis demands innovative solutions, developed as partnerships between researchers, businesses, decision makers and communities. The Climate Challenge Cup is a great way to focus attention on some of these breakthrough ideas.” 

The competition final will include a panel discussion with speakers including Dr Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, and Daze Aghaji, a young UK climate activist. Helen Goulden will Chair the event. 

Book your tickets for the virtual awards ceremony and showcase on 10 November.