Despite the global challenges posed by COVID-19, one thing is for certain: climate activism is still going strong. The conversation has shifted from the record-breaking climate marches of 2019 to a deeper conversation concerning personal consumption.
“We’ve seen that COVID has made a positive impact on climate and people are asking themselves if the consumerist lifestyle is something they truly value,” said Bjarke Kovshøj, Climathon Lead for EIT Climate-KIC.
The topic of climate change has remained high on the political agenda and fresh on people’s minds, despite the incessant news coverage of the global pandemic. However, Kovshøj argues that climate activism has become less “visible” as activists transition from the streets to the digital space.
“COVID has spurred a new wave of climate activism online,” explained Kovshøj. “There are a lot of events now happening virtually. Suddenly, it’s become more accessible to take part in climate activism around the world, beyond your city or region.”
An Outlet For Activists
One such event is Climate-KIC’s flagship Climathon, a city-based programme that offers an opportunity for cities and citizens to co-create local ideas to shared climate challenges. Last year, 145 cities hosted over 6,000 participants to reimagine the future of how we produce, move, and consume. In 2020, the ideathons have transferred online to highlight truly transformative solutions within a digital environment.
“The fact that participants can’t meet in person is obviously a limiting factor when it comes to ideating. But thanks to the Internet, we are able to bring in outside perspectives. This is one of the upsides for Climathon this year,” explained Kovshøj.
The online format supports the programme in achieving a united global movement. Without physical borders, Climathons can band together digitally and elevate their challenges to new heights. For example, Germany will host a nation-wide Climathon involving seven different cities. A shared, virtual platform will allow keynotes, workshops and pitches to take place at the country-level for the first time.
“Participating in Climathon is no longer confined to where you live. Cities can now attract people who are not necessarily citizens but might have really great ideas that can bring positive impact to their local climate challenges,” said Kovshøj.
Despite the advantages of hosting the event online, there are still lingering uncertainties surrounding Global Climathon Day, launching on 13 November. Many local organisers in charge of their city’s Climathon have been hesitant to commit. As a result, many events have been postponed to December but participants can expect the phases of ideation, pitching and jury conclusion to unfold over multiple days.
“Typically, Climathon is a one-day event but now the whole excitement of it can be extended. There’s an opportunity to prolong the process, making it easier for teams’ ideas to progress and allowing the organisers to plan more activities,” explained Kovshøj.
Although Climathon 2020 may look different from years past, it will absolutely deliver on its mission to unite a global community of change-makers and innovators working together to help humanity achieve net-zero emissions. Participants are encouraged to partake in any challenge of interest, regardless of their location.
“Climathon teaches you about the real-world climate challenges facing cities all over the globe and it’s a great learning experience overall. This is your chance to take climate action locally - or even globally - to elevate your voice and have your ideas taken seriously,” affirmed Kovshøj.