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Inaugural Climate Challenge Cup winners announced at COP26

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A new kind of activism is taking hold’: first ever Climate Challenge Cup winners announced at #COP26 showcase (@the_young_fdn)

On Wednesday night [6-9pm, 10 November 2021] two innovative projects took home the first Climate Challenge Cup, following an innovation showcase and live final at COP26 in Glasgow.   

The international competition, supported by the Department of Business, Industrial Strategy and Science, uncovered civic research partnerships in the US and UK that are tackling climate change. The final is a fitting precursor to COP26’s last themed day (11 November 2021), focusing on communities, cities, regions and the built environment.  

“The Climate Challenge Cup shows a new kind of activism is taking hold,” said Helen Goulden, CEO of The Young Foundation, the UK’s centre for community research and social innovation, which delivered the Cup. “It celebrates social, sustainable innovation that busts through silos, disciplines and sectors to bring actors with a shared vision but different resources together to create real change.”  

The Green ERA Renewable Energy and Urban Farm in South Chicago was awarded the prize for climate adaptation. The project recognises that while demand for locally-grown food is increasing, there is an inadequate supply of clean, healthy soil as it is often contaminated with high levels of lead, toxins from gasoline, and heavy metals from factories. A vacant nine-acre brownfield site is therefore being transformed, creating 25 jobs and diverting inedible food waste from landfills to produce clean, renewable energy and nutrient-rich soil. This will be used to grow more fresh, local food on the rest of the site. Partners include the University of Illinois in Chicago, Green Era, who will run the site, and Urban Grower’s Collective, a non-profit led by black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) who have a longstanding relationship with the local community. 

In the UK, Concrete4Change won the prize in the net zero category. Concrete4Change has developed a new technology that can extract carbon from the air and store it in concrete. This can reduce the carbon footprint of concrete by 60%. Concrete4Change worked with multiple partners, including universities and construction professionals, to assess the robustness and environmental credentials of the product, which is now being trialed on sites around the UK.   

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A finalist in each category was also ‘highly commended’ in the Climate Challenge Cup awards gala; the Marshall Plan for Middle America was celebrated in the net zero category, for helping the Appalachian region of the US move to regenerative industries, as was a project training citizens to capture temperature and water level data to help local government model the impact of climate change in South Florida in the climate adaptation category.  

“The Climate Challenge Cup showcases the need for people from different parts of the system – government, universities and communities – to work together on creating a regenerative, rather than extractive, society,” says Daze Aghaji, a climate and justice activist, and a Climate Challenge Cup judge. 

Fellow judge Professor Alex Halliday, Founding Dean of the Columbia University Climate School and Director of The Earth Institute, says: 

“The climate crisis demands innovative solutions developed as partnerships between researchers, businesses, decision makers and communities. The Climate Challenge Cup is a great way to focus attention on some of these breakthrough ideas.”  

 
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