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Why London Climate Action Week is not just another climate change conference

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Photo by Jessica Podraza on Unsplash

At the time of writing this the UK has gone seventeen straight days without burning any coal to generate electricity - the longest stretch without the fossil fuel since before the turn of the 20th century. London was the power engine that led us into the industrial revolution, it is thus fitting that the global city wants to help lead the world out of it.

That in essence is what London Climate Action Week is all about – taking action and making the necessary decisions to deliver on promises and pledges like the Paris Agreement to carry us into a healthy, equitable and prosperous future.

Despite messy national politics, the UK has been striving to implement their climate agenda, setting a benchmark for an ambitious future. The Climate Change Committee’s recent report recommending the UK set a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is potentially a game-changer. Pair that with the performance of Green parties in the recent European elections; the growing awareness of climate risks by financial actors, led by the Governor of the Bank of England; and continuing public protests and civil disobedience campaigns and we can see decision-makers feeling the pressure to do their part to deal with climate change.

I specifically use the term ‘decision-makers’ as opposed to ‘politicians’ or ‘leaders’. Politicians in many parts of the world, while in positions of authority, are not showing signs of leadership on this defining issue of our time. Meeting the goals set in Paris requires the wholesale rewiring of our economic and social systems and can’t be achieved without the active participation of decision-makers from all sectors, at all levels. The challenge of climate change requires each and every one of us to develop ourselves, our communities and organisations in new ways.

Bringing diverse groups of actors together is the organising principle behind LCAW. It is conceived as a gathering to help us increase our capacity, confidence and connectedness to act, outside of rigidly defined roles and silos.

And it is very timely. LCAW is set to be a distinct event in the global climate calendar, complimenting other major gatherings, such as Climate Week NYC and the One Planet Summit. Coming on the heels of the UNFCCC intersessional in Bonn and the Abu Dhabi climate meeting in June, the timing of the inaugural LCAW also provides a steppingstone towards the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September and the UN COP25 hosted by Chile this year.

We often hear from international climate negotiators at these events that they would benefit from deeper engagement with professionals from other walks of life. We can only make progress on climate by taking climate out of the bubble. That is the unique selling point of London- the ability to bring world-class businesses, policy-makers and engaged communities together to join forces, focus their energies, develop ideas and most importantly, take action on climate change.

London is an international hub for multiple industries including banking and finance, law, engineering, creative arts and design, NGOs, and academia. As such, it is an ideal place to work across boundaries, tapping into talent and crowd-sourcing the creativity required to chart a different emissions trajectory. The green bubble can’t meet this challenge alone, it’s going to take a whole economy approach to implement Paris commitments and get countries to enhance their climate ambition. Which is why LCAW is so special – we are taking a whole systems silo-busting approach to climate action.

The long-term aim for LCAW is to become an annual event, evolving in scope and scale over time; especially with the UK applying to host the UN climate conference next year. The support and ownership of LCAW by London-based businesses, NGOs, cultural groups and communities has been critical and will remain so as London strives to drive action on climate change.  

The UK’s record streak without coal for the first time in 137 years did not happen by accident; it is the result of forward-looking decisions made against the odds. This is what we are hoping to emulate during the first-ever London Climate Action Week.