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The road to climate action


Heat, drought, torrential rain… Across Europe people are experiencing the effects of climate change, the defining challenge of our time. Mitigating and adapting to the ongoing or inevitable impacts require fundamental changes to societies and behaviours worldwide.

Urgent climate action has the broad support of people around the world and a multitude of possible actions are well known on an individual and political level. However, most citizens do not get involved in climate action until they are personally affected by the consequences of climate change.

There is no shortage of information.
What is missing is action.

Our modern society still relies on resources or services provided by the natural world. The integration of environmental and climate concerns into a wider range of policy areas should generate solutions that are economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable. There is no shortage of information about climate change. What is missing is action.

As a result of this, the TeRRIFICA project emerged to influence climate change policies by fostering Responsible Research and Innovation in six European regions. TeRRIFICA contributes to the reduction of the harmful effects of climate change through mitigation and adaptation and by involving a diverse number of stakeholders from scientific experts to citizens and decision makers. The project group built co-creation teams, looked for best practices and transformed the six pilot territories into living labs to create climate action plans.

The students have a powerful instrument
in their hands to start to drive change.

In Spain, a group of Environmental Science students from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) were invited to join a seminar and introduced to an innovative crowd-mapping tool developed by TeRRIFICA. Using this map, anyone can report positive and negative signs related to temperature, water, wind, air and soil quality and climate emergency management. The data is centrally collated, and hotspots identified, with the ambition of using the evidence to drive policy change. Our students now have a powerful instrument in their hands with which they can start to drive change.

The Civic Square, a concrete slab at the centre of the campus, is at the heart of the concerns of the Environmental Science students from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) who participated in the TeRRIFICA project.

The group of students contributed to the map by identifying places where they felt the consequences of the climate emergency are palpable. They identified two main issues in their university campus, a place where they spend most of four years of their lives. They reported episodes of extreme heat which are unbearable in the old campus buildings where cement and concrete are king.

The students identified environmental pollution, particularly generated by the high flow of vehicles to the university and along the highways and routes that surround the campus. Pollution that affects both human beings, animals and plants with impacts on the quality of air, soil and sound.

Air, soil and sound pollution affect the UAB and its surroundings due to the high flow of vehicles along the highways and routes that surround the university campus.

A necessary shift from knowledge to action

The crowd-mapping tool engages citizens, and provides researchers with new data to explore and policy-makers with tangible elements to better understand society’s concerns. Involving citizens in the collection of data is only the first step of the process. To tackle climate change, what is missing is action. Therefore, the focus necessarily shifts to planning and implementing solutions by engaging with multiple groups of stakeholders, from our university students to inhabitants from rural areas or massified cities.

Through co-creation, participants in the TeRRIFICA project design themselves the concepts, plans, and solutions. The project engages multiple stakeholders in detecting hotspots – areas in the crowd-mapping tool where several signs of global warming have been identified. They are then involved in the conception of potential solutions, and, ultimately, in the implementation of roadmaps for mitigation and climate change adaptation.

An initiative led by the Adam Mickiewicz University in the Poznań Metropolitan Area is a great example of what co-creation can bring to climate change actions. The university used the TeRRIFICA crowd-mapping tool and then developed a series of participatory events to co-develop a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for urban area. Citizen science thus becomes a cornerstone of regional climate policy through the practice of co-creation. There is evidence that such an approach to policy making ensures a better acceptance by citizens of the unpopular solutions proposed, such as the limitation in private vehicle traffic or the promotion of energy-conscious behaviours.

Increasing stakeholders’ competencies
for climate action and climate change adaptation

By developing collective solutions with different actors, a better range of needs, interests, and expectations are brought into the equation. More than that and thanks to co-creation, all stakeholders – from policy-makers to the citizens – have access to the necessary information to better understand the consequences of their actions and of eventual alternative options. They gain knowledge about climate change and increase their competencies for climate action and climate change adaptation.

Working at a local level, with palpable issues and solutions, has allowed TeRRIFICA partners to encourage the shift needed from knowledge and information to practice. The challenge is now to upscale the initiative beyond experimental territories and co-create a climate-friendly Europe.

TeRRIFICA has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No.824489.

Text by Carina Garcia Mesegué, Communications Officer at the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP) and the Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi), with contributions from TeRRIFICA partners. Video by the Center for Promotion of Science.

Lucie Steigleder, Nicola Hamilton, Cristina Paca and Alix Thuillier (Ecsite) contributed.