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Beyond the climate bubble: London’s diversity in action

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Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

London’s long history tells a global story. Of migration and conquest. Of 2000 years of battling floods, fires, hunger, plagues and armed invasions. A history of invention and resilience. Now with more than eight million inhabitants and 300 languages spoken, London is very much a global city. In its intense diversity – one in three Londoners is born overseas – London is a microcosm of the world. It is also a great place to find solutions.

In imagining London’s first-ever climate action week, we wanted our city’s history and the diversity of our communities reflected in the search for solutions. We didn't want the agenda to be seen as dry as dust but connect with the real dilemmas our city faces. Climate change is a challenge that will confront every Londoner and require every Londoner to respond. To succeed, we need an education and engagement process that unleashes ideas and builds the social consensus needed for deep change to occur.

Our vision was to engage and profile London’s leading global and national institutions involved in climate action, but equally to go beyond the usual suspects and connect the climate change agenda with the lives of Londoners themselves. Given the international links so many of us have, engaging Londoners means engaging the world.

The fruits of the efforts of the past few months have been remarkable. Although this is only a start, we now have a broad spectrum of London’s communities engaged in London Climate Action Week ranging from faith, arts and culture, to sports, schools, film, media and entertainment. These complement the more traditional groups active on climate change and sustainability issues from the policy, finance, business, diplomacy and advocacy communities.

Some highlights from the week are in order: Tuesday 2 July will see the premier of Benjamin Britten’s opera Noye’s Fludde by the English National Opera, featuring school children from Tower Hamlets and a climate & flood-themed cross-cultural community engagement programme led by ENO Baylis. Young people feature strongly throughout with a special climate education resource for all of London’s schools prepared collaboratively by the World’s Largest LessonLondon Sustainable Schools Forum and GLOBE International.

For the first time an event at the House of Commons will open with a Youth Poet, when GLOBE International kick off the week on Monday 1 July with Roundhouse Spoken Word champion, Rokaya Fatema at a special event at Parliament on the climate emergency with the Club of Rome and the UK Net Zero Alliance. Students will engage in a Schools Climate Conference on 3 July and young Londoners and will be the focus of a key event at the Greater London Authority organised by London’s Commission on Sustainable Development on 4 July evening.

The emphasis on student citizenship will take a practical turn on Friday 5 July with London’s first-ever Student-MP Climate Surgeries. A fresh take on #FridaysForFuture, bringing the political voice of young people directly to MPs on their traditional constituency surgery day.

Saturday 6th July will mark London’s first Green Shabbat with support of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and leadership of Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg from Eco-Synagogue. The Shabbat will close on Saturday night with a midnight Interfaith Climate Night Walk through London’s oldest boroughs bringing the faith, health and wellness communities together in a reflection on past and modern climate challenges, including tackling air pollution, ending in the early hours of 7 July at Southwark Cathedral.

The River Thames, called London’s ‘biggest open space’ by Sir David Attenborough, is the subject of an international event at Southwark Cathedral Sacred Rivers & Climate Change: Exploring the Thames, Jordan, Indus and Ganges bringing diverse faith, social justice and environmental groups together. From community gardening to community energy, Londoners will demonstrate local projects that work. The Ashden Awards on sustainable energy on 3 July will showcase award-winning global and local initiatives.

With both Wimbledon and the World Cricket Cup taking place during LCAW, both sports will have an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to climate action. 

London’s international linkages will be highlighted with several prominent jurists, lawyers, academics, activists and community leaders from LDCs and diaspora communities engaged in numerous events throughout the week. These include events at the Supreme CourtLondon School of Economics, the Royal Geographical Society and IIED.

London’s film and entertainment industry is not typically thought of as belonging to the climate change cluster, but that will soon change through the efforts of bodies such as Film London and companies like Greenshoot, which promote environmentally responsible film production. Film London will be hosting a special event on Green Filmmaking & Cinema with a private screening of Aquarela, the stunning cinematic ode to water by filmmaker Viktor Kossakovsky on 5 July. The sustainability efforts of the broader London-based creative industries will be celebrated at the Creative Green Awards 2019 organised by Julie’s Bicycle on 1 July evening.

Those looking for light relief at the end of a truly energising week will be able to attend a special Climate Comedy night at Theatre Deli in Burgess Park on Saturday 6 July.

The final ‘act’ of London Climate Action Week will appropriately feature the culture community with Culture Declares Emergency hosting a Peoples Assembly on Monday 8 July. Celebrated artist, Olafur Eliasson who made his name highlighting the climate crisis will be the subject of a special retrospective at London's iconic Tate Modern.  On the Monday 8 July evening Eliasson will close LCAW with a public talk on Art in Real Life: Addressing the Sustainability Challenge in the Tate's Turbine Hall.

With the enthusiasm and creativity already unleashed for London's inaugural climate action week from so many diverse communities, there is good reason to be optimistic. Most events are free and tickets sales are picking up. Please help get the word out and come along and support the many amazing communities involved in LCAW 2019!