Climathon: 16 Cities, 24 Hours, 1 Goal

Climathon: 16 Cities, 24 Hours, 1 Goal

Weekends are generally considered to be a time to put down your pen and switch off.

Not so for 60 passionate Kiwis who chose to dedicate theirs to working on the world’s biggest challenge, at Wellington’s Climathon last weekend.

Driven by Climate-KIC, Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership, Climathon is a global 24 hour hackathon-style event focused on generating climate change solutions. In Climathon’s inaugural year, the timing of the event was set to align with Pope Francis' recent Encyclical on the environment.

Sixteen cities across the globe opted-in to this simultaneous global initiative on 18 June, with Wellington leading the way for the Australasian region. Addis Ababa, Boston, Gothenburg, New Delhi and Sao Paulo all held events, and #Climathon has been trending globally across Twitter networks for the past week.

Participants ranged from students, to business and government professionals, researchers, scientists and accountants, developers, engineers and designers. Despite the array of backgrounds, everyone was there to tackle just one thing: climate change.

If climate change is our generation’s Everest, I would applaud New Zealand leading the race to the top. This is up to you.
— Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

To open the New Zealand leg of the event, Catherine Leining from Motu outlined the root of the problem at hand with hard statistics. Her challenge to the room was to come up with solutions that not only bring in the new quickly and beneficially, but usher out the old in a fair and constructive way while motivating people to change. No small task!

Climathon is a way to focus quickly on action, learning and collaboration... rather than spending 45 minutes debating whether we’ll take a 15min break.
— Catherine Leining, Policy Fellow, Motu - Economic & Public Policy Research

Enthusiastic and eager to begin, participants split themselves into six teams according to the theme they felt most drawn to: Business & Policy, Culture, Energy & Water, Food, Transport & Aviation or Urban Cities.

In an approach similar to Startup Weekend, the following 24 hours saw teams form, dissolve and reform, as everyone worked their way through problem definition, experimentation and market validation. A wide variety of projects began to emerge.

I didn’t expect there to be so many people here with such a diverse range of perspectives. It’s been completely inspiring.
— Paul Weatherall, 19, Participant - Geography & Public Policy Student, Victoria University

With the best ideas from around the world set to present globally at the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris this December, many teams found themselves facing an interesting dilemma:

Identify an existing problem within the local environment and come up with a tangible solution within 24 hours? Or take a risk on a fresh, big-picture idea; one that could potentially catch the judges attention and find them winging their way to Paris?

Our team is looking at ways of inspiring people to take up the climate change challenge in their lives... and it seems that this weekend is actually the best example of that.
— Rosalind McIntosh, 72, Participant - Retired Science & Research Professor

 Judge Philippa Howden-Chapman gives her thoughts on the Po0ol project.

 Judge Philippa Howden-Chapman gives her thoughts on the Po0ol project.

By 6pm on Saturday evening, the ten teams had dreamed up and developed a range of projects ready to present to the judging panel. Ideas ranged from a phone app which maps your meal’s carbon footprint, to a business consultancy for New Zealand’s aluminium smelter.

Special mention from the panel went to project ‘Tax Haven’ for their fun, unusual presentation-style and partnership potential.

Team Tax Haven present a pop-up shop skit to demonstrate their idea.

Team Tax Haven present a pop-up shop skit to demonstrate their idea.

The three favourites selected to move forward to the next stage of support, all showed strong tactical plans and had considered funding options.

1. Conscious Commuters

A bike-on-trains connector to tackle our cities biggest carbon emissions contributor, the transport sector. 

2. Our Space

This project aims to identify vacant land and utilise relocatable pre-fab housing models, to create denser urban environments and build stronger communities.

3. Po0ol

The final winner was an initiative to help small-to-medium businesses meet ISO standards, by measuring and combating overconsumption of resources.

It was awesome to see New Zealand’s Climathon event sell out in just a few days. It proves that this country is full of passionate people with great ideas - it’s a privilege to be able to help them turn their ideas into action.
— Silvia Zuur, New Zealand Climathon Coordinator

At the end of 24 hours, I walked away satisfied that Climathon has the potential to become the globally-renowned impact incubator for the future, with emphasis on collaboration rather than competition. It could be said that the real winner from the weekend, was the success of Climathon itself.

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