Christiana Figueres: Shining a light on transformational climate action

21 August 2014

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), writes about garnering momentum for climate action, as we approach critical global events such as the UN Climate Summit during Climate Week NYC next month, which is convened by The Climate Group.

One of the questions I struggle with on a daily basis as Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC is this: how can we scale up and speed up the transformational change needed to tackle climate change?

By “we” I mean all of us. And by “transformational” I mean radical. This is not hyperbole. The world’s top scientists tell us that we need to transform the way we use the planet’s natural resources – from forests to soil to oil – to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

It may sound like a Herculean task but here’s a little-known fact – it’s not. Transformational change is already underway. It may not be happening at the scale or speed we need but it is happening.

There are thousands of examples of communities, cities, businesses and governments around the world already making the shift to a low-carbon future. The problem is that these good news stories are often eclipsed by negative news about the state of the planet. This makes climate change a communications challenge as much as it is a social, political and economic challenge.

It’s critically important to share positive stories about climate action because it inspires others to take similar steps, which, in turn, can provide deeper support for political leaders to legislate change and for business leaders to go green. It’s like a snowball building upon itself as it rolls down a hill, growing larger and picking up momentum as it goes.

This snowball effect is what was going through my head when I decided to establish the Momentum for Change initiative back in 2011. I wanted to find a way to shine a light on all the good work underway across the globe to address climate change, in the hopes of inspiring others to do the same.

This year, we’re looking to do things a little differently. We will still shine a light on small, entrepreneurial solutions that are changing communities, as well as large initiatives that are transforming cities, businesses and governments. But we are also looking for activities with a larger impact. We want to highlight transformational climate action needed to tackle climate change.

Winning activities will be announced in November and officially recognized and celebrated during a series of special events in December at the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru.

The high visibility of the UN climate change conferences creates a prominent platform on which the Lighthouse Activities are showcased and publicized, resulting in spin-off benefits that help the activities expand even further. For example, 2013 Lighthouse Activity winner Bernice Dapaah, whose organization builds bamboo bicycles in Ghana, was recently named a 2014 Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Demand for her bamboo bicycles has spiked so dramatically she can barely keep up with orders pouring in from across the globe.

Seeing these activities grow and replicate is the really exciting part. It’s what takes me, and hopefully all of us, one step closer to answering the question: how can we scale up and speed up the transformational change needed to tackle climate change?

Article originally posted by the United Nations, republished with permission 

Find out more by following @Momentum_UNFCCC

For a full list of Climate Week NYC events, please visit and follow the conversation on Twitter using #CWNYC.

You can also see our Climate Week NYC media resources for press releases, contacts and more info.

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