London Climate Action Week: An opportunity for new collaboration

Now in its fifth year, London Climate Action Week (LCAW) has become an important moment in the calendar, providing a global platform for convening key stakeholders on climate change issues. Around the world, many individuals and organisations are focused on accelerating progress through their own activities, initiatives, and policies – and last week was a chance for many of us to pause, reflect, share learnings with others, and forge new collaborations.

This year is a significant moment for climate change action. The first global stocktake of the Paris Agreement will conclude at COP28, which is also the first COP to include a day dedicated to the health impacts of climate change. The global stocktake will be a critical assessment of the world’s collective progress toward achieving the purpose of the Paris Agreement – and the outcomes from events like LCAW will have a part to play in identifying opportunities for enhanced action and support.

Throughout LCAW (26-30 June), there were challenging, realistic and optimistic conversations around a range of topics from building sustainable and healthy cities, investing in nature, and putting health at the centre of climate action, which is a particular focus for us at Bupa. As the next steps following LCAW are defined, I’ve reflected on some key takeaways ahead of New York Climate Week in September and COP28 in December.

1) We can’t underestimate the power of key stakeholders coming together

No individual, business or country can address the climate crisis in isolation. Collaboration is vital to achieving long-term, meaningful change which keeps the world within the 1.5C pathway.

It was inspiring to see mayors from different cities, business leaders, climate experts, NGOs and communities, all together around the table, talking about how they can use their position and power to shift the dial. These in-person conversations and debates can help form new partnerships and agreements which will be powerful in influencing the action we need to move faster on this agenda.

2) Cities present an opportunity to accelerate action

There was a clear consensus on the challenge but also the opportunities that cities present. Cities are a significant contributor to climate change, as urban activities are major sources of carbon emissions – according to UN Habitat, cities produce more than 60% of GHG emissions. It is in cities where most people live and where the effects of a changing climate will affect people the most, especially the less advantaged communities.

Addressing the future of cities requires focusing on; mitigation against the current effects of climate change on city structures and the people that live in them; adaptation, with cities at the forefront of the energy transition; and resilience, helping city populations withstand the health impacts of climate change.

These were elements discussed on a panel featuring Bupa, Google and C40 which looked at the importance of cities in achieving a net zero future. From the conversation it was clear that taking action doesn’t sit in one sector or country; it will require cross-industry and cross-border collaboration to create healthy, sustainable cities where all people can thrive.

3) Health needs to be part of climate conversations

The health impacts of climate change cannot be ignored. The World Health Organisation is already known for stating the climate emergency is a major threat to our health. The IPCC report earlier this year further emphasised this message by making it clear that climate change impacts human health.

There was an awareness during LCAW that business have a responsibility and opportunity to increase awareness that the climate crisis is also a health crisis, reflect this in their own operations and use platforms such as the Climate and Health Coalition and the Sustainable Healthcare Coalition to act together.

4) There is no pathway to net zero without action in nature

Nature is a critical ally in the fight against climate change, and nature-based solutions have the potential to provide one-third of the solutions needed to stay within the 1.5°C pathway, according to McKinsey and the World Economic Forum.

However, nature damage and loss are ongoing issues with negative implications for human health and key ecosystems. At Bupa we’re focused on the interlink between climate, nature and health as part of our sustainability strategy. This involves our commitment to doing ‘more good’ by becoming a regenerative business and improving the health of people and planet through the regeneration of nature.

We’re early in our journey and know we need to work with others to have the impact we want. It was really encouraging for us to hear that other healthcare and academic organisations are also exploring this important area – for example, we attended a great event hosted by GSK and Pollination, about how investments in nature can and should also explicitly be investments in human health. This is an area of amazing potential for healthcare companies to step up.

5) The road ahead is hard – let’s not forget about our own wellbeing

LCAW filled me with great energy – it was great to connect with colleagues and peers, old and new, who are passionate about driving fast action on climate change. However, I could also feel a sense of burnout. The complexities of the sustainability issues at stake can take their toll. Prioritising our well-being may feel counterintuitive as there’s so much to do, but we must all remember to consciously stop, breathe, exercise and re-energise with people around us.

Looking ahead: New York Climate Week and COP28

Connections that are formed at international events like LCAW will help build a stronger, global force which can have a real impact.

Last week set the stage for action on critical topics including sustainable cities, climate and health, and investing in nature. Now we must turn our attention to New York Climate Week and COP28 which will be an opportunity for stakeholders to translate the energy and ambition from LCAW into collective and bold action, leaving no one behind.

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