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Throughout my life I have visited many communities affected by extreme weather events and other natural hazards. From the South Pacific to Mozambique to the Caribbean and beyond, I have seen the devastating and life-changing impact of the climate emergency on vulnerable communities. Disasters inflict horrendous suffering and can wipe out decades of development gains in an instant. In the coming decades, the world will invest trillions of dollars in new housing, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. Climate resilience and disaster risk reduction must be central to this investment. There is a strong economic case for such steps: making infrastructure more climate-resilient can have a benefit-cost ratio of about six to one. For every dollar invested six dollars can be saved. This means that investing in climate resilience creates jobs and saves money. And it is the right thing to do. It can ease and prevent human misery. I am encouraged by the global groundswell of public support for urgent climate action, and by the many commitments made at the recent Climate Action Summit. We all must now focus on increased ambitions. I call on the world to step up their investments by 2020 and ensure that disaster risk reduction is at the heart of the decade of action. Let us all push for greater ambition on climate action, disaster risk reduction and all other efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
By Rebecca Bonello GhioBANGKOK, 12 October 2019 – As one of the first countries in the region to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Government of Thailand took advantage of the occasion to highlight how it is working with partners to build the resilience of its infrastructure. In its 30th year of celebration, this year's International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, observed on 13 October, focuses on reducing disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services. It highlights the importance of investing in disaster resilient infrastructure, which is relevant to the achievement of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, underpins many of the Sustainable Development Goals, and is key to protecting against the effects of climate change. Thailand, like many countries in the region, is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the dividends offered by resilient infrastructure given the tremendous growth it has experienced in its construction sector due to increasing urbanization and economic growth. As the Chair of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2019, Thailand’s commemoration event also celebrated the ASEAN Day for Disaster Management. The event was organized by the Ministry of Interior’s Department for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM), which has the lead for promoting disaster risk reduction and risk-informed development within the Thai government. A close partner of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the DDPM sought to highlight its multi-partner and multi-sectoral approach to building infrastructure resilience. Praising the participation of many partners, Mr Chainarong Vasanasomsithi, the Deputy Director-General of DDPM, said in his opening remarks: “For disaster risk management to be successful, they require the strong cooperation that we have here today,” adding that “the event today is a good opportunity for the relevant network partners to share knowledge, activities and projects that have been implemented to create safety in schools, hospitals, and communities.” Investments in infrastructure have reached a record level globally, and Asia is expected to need investments of USD 1.7 trillion per year in infrastructure to maintain its growth trajectory. Thailand is no exception as it has become an upper middle-income country over the last few years with the second largest economy in Southeast Asia. From being a predominantly rural economy, more people now live in the urban areas than in the rural areas. Poverty levels have declined substantially over the last 30 years. Such a rapid transformation puts pressure on existing and increases demand for new infrastructure. However, not all of its infrastructure investments are built to be resilient. This puts its development gains at risk from disasters. Asia is estimated to bear direct physical losses of USD 126 million per day as a result of extreme weather events and geophysical hazards. “Thailand is in the midst of an economic transformation. However, unplanned development, climate change, and hazards like earthquakes, are all risks that Thailand faces. Countries must invest to protect against the disaster risk or pay an even heavier price later. The benefits of investing in resilient infrastructure outweigh costs by a ratio of 4 to 1. Yet, resilience is not an add-on to development – we cannot construct a building and then make it resilient. For the resilience dividend to be realised, risk must be embedded into the development planning and processes,” said Dr Animesh Kumar, Deputy Chief of the UNDRR Regional Office and one of the key speakers at the event. To accelerate this, UNDRR highlighted the potential role of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, led by the Government of India with support from UNDRR and other organisations. Launched at the Climate Action Summit this year, the Coalition will function as a multi-country and multi-stakeholder partnership on thematic areas like risk assessments, infrastructure resilience standards, financing and recovery and reconstruction. The event featured various activities organized by partner organizations, such as a knowledge exchange forum, several quiz games, a room-sized earthquake simulator, a virtual reality simulator, and Bangkok Metropolitan’s mobile disaster knowledge car. Sponsors and organizers of the event included the Thai Red Cross, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Thai PBS Television Station, Thai Insurance Association Civil Society, UNDRR, the UN Development Programme, World Vision Thailand, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, Plan International, Stockholm Environment Institute, and the School Road Safety Club.
GENEVA, 11 October 2019 – Climate change is contributing to increasing damage to critical infrastructure around the globe, according to a twelve-year survey of damages caused by small- and medium-scale disasters conducted by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Schools, health facilities and roads are regularly damaged by small-scale weather events which do not grab headlines. The ensuing economic losses and costs of recovery take a heavy toll on the ability of low and middle-income countries to invest in achieving the sustainable development goals including poverty reduction, health and education. A concerted effort has been underway to improve the collection of disaster loss data since the adoption in 2015 of the global plan to reduce disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and some 126 countries are now reporting on disaster losses through the online Sendai Framework Monitor based on data from national disaster loss databases. The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction looked at damage to education and health facilities which were identified as areas of critical concern by UN Member States when it came to measuring progress in reducing damage to critical infrastructure, a key target of the Sendai Framework. Since 2005, on average, more than 3,200 schools have been damaged or destroyed each year in a baseline sample of extensive risk in 83 countries while, on average, over 412 health facilities have been damaged or destroyed every year. The Sendai Framework Monitor data also shows that between 2005 and 2017 over 3,200 kilometers of roads have been damaged or destroyed in these same 83 countries from small and medium disasters alone. “The reports we are receiving are evidence that it is not just the number of extreme weather events that are on the rise but that there has also been a steady up-tick in the number of high-frequency recurrent low-to-medium intensity disasters that are taking their toll in terms of economic losses and disruption of basic services at the local level. This is further proof that the climate emergency is disrupting efforts to eradicate poverty and to put the world on a path to sustainable development,” said Mami Mizutori, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction. Drawn from reports received from 83 countries and territories, the findings are being used to highlight the theme of this year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction which is focused on promoting resilient infrastructure and encouraging more durable and risk-informed construction under the slogan “Build To Last”. Mega-disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis have been excluded from the data sets to ensure that the statistics reflect long-term disaster trends, and the focus of the analysis has been on so-called extensive risk which manifests as large numbers of recurrent, low-to-medium severity disasters mainly associated with localized hazards such as flash floods, landslides, urban flooding, storms, fires and other time-specific events. Ms. Mizutori commented: “Extensive disaster risk is magnified not just by climate change but by other drivers of risk such as insufficiently planned and managed urban development, environmental degradation, poverty and inequality, vulnerable rural livelihoods and weak governance. Achievement of the sustainable development goals will need massive investment in critical infrastructure. Such investment needs to take account of the growing risks posed by climate related hazards. “Most of this type of loss is uninsured and tends to be absorbed by low-income households and communities, small businesses and local and national governments which have few resources to spare.”
By Denis McCleanBEIRA, 10 October 2019 - Reconstruction of housing has yet to get underway in Mozambique six months after Cyclone Idai made landfall in March and followed a month later by Cyclone Kenneth which made came ashore further north. Some 300,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and the road to recovery is beset with challenges including putting in place the necessary finance, training masons and reaching agreement on construction standards to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Housing alone requires $600 million and the rehabilitation of roads and public utilities requires an additional $700 million, according to the Executive Director of the government’s Reconstruction Authority, Mr. Franciso Pereira. “We have to take care about the resilience measures and building to last. This is the main objective of the programme of reconstruction,” said Mr. Pereira who is working out the modalities for accessing finance from donors and supporting efforts to produce strong guidelines for reconstruction. A textbook example of what happens when you fail to build in a risk-informed manner, is cited by the head of UNDP’s sub-office in Beira, Sofala province, Ghulam Sherani. A regular visitor to Buzi, the town in Manica province at the epicenter of the cyclone Idai disaster, Mr. Sherani says: “There is a place there in Buzi called Community 2000 because everything there, the schools, the clinics, the houses were rebuilt after the cyclone and floods of that year. Now everything is destroyed again, and the government is relocating the people.” Hence the urgency felt by UN-Habitat, UNDP and the National Reconstruction Authority to have agreement on resilient construction guidelines which will be applied and adhered to by all stakeholders as funds become available from the World Bank, the European Union and others, to support the reconstruction effort. They are all working together to ensure that the homes which will be built adhere to resilient construction guidelines which will be neither too complicated nor too lax. The guidelines which will be presented to government are designed to be easily understood by masons who will be upskilled in safe building techniques. Currently, 100 masons are undergoing training and they will build 20 model two-bedroom houses which will become templates for the overall reconstruction programme. In Beira itself, Jose Manuel Moisés, city councilor for institutional affairs, says they are moving ahead with a project to build 25,000 homes which will be sold to low, medium and high income families on an elevated location free from the risk of flooding. At the same time the city which was devastated by the cyclone is clamping down on unauthorized construction. It has resettled 110 families away from the exposed beachfront area. “We can’t talk about resilience without talking about climate change,” Mr. Moisés said. The city takes pride in the fact that a World Bank funded programme to upgrade the city’s canal network played a significant role in reducing floodwaters during Cyclone Idai by channeling much of the heavy rain out to sea. The local government also plans extensive coastal protection measures including a system of sand dunes to augment what remains of the city’s mangrove forest. “We’re only really getting started now on rehabilitation after the cyclone. It will take time but we want to build back stronger for the future,” said Mr. Moisés
By Denis McCleanDELHI, 7 October, 2019 - It’s comfortable, affordable and carries 2.5 million passengers every day relieving to some degree the pollution and traffic congestion which is the bane of the city’s life. The Delhi Metro as a stand-alone asset is an example of how to build to last when it comes to quality resilient infrastructure in the heart of one of the world’s most active seismic zones. The last time Delhi experienced earthquake tremors in 2014, the metro trains came to a halt within minutes as the state-of-the art sensors kicked in. “It has been built to the highest seismic standards. All this is acknowledged but it has also succeeded in bringing great risk along with it as an unintended consequence,” says Garima Jain, Urban Risk and Resilience Specialist at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, who has carried out an in-depth study of the Delhi Metro. This risk becomes all too apparent if you take the Yellow Line from the heart of historic old Delhi to the futuristic environment of the new districts which have sprouted up along the rail corridor in recent years. Apartment buildings and office blocks dot the skyline soaring to over 20 stories in height in some cases. A key element in attracting people to live in these new commercial hubs was to create housing and provide them with parking usually on the ground floor which was enforced by a planning bye-law. The unfortunate outcome which India’s National Disaster Management Authority is now grappling with, is that many of these buildings have what is called a “soft storey.” “Essentially you only have the columns and no walls at the ground level. Columns not supported by walls means that the whole thing just falls down in an earthquake. This was a big issue in the Nepal earthquake. A lot of buildings that failed had a soft storey built in. They are now going to change the bye-law so that there is no requirement to provide a soft storey for parking,” said Ms. Jain. She points out that “the behavioral momentum is there now to provide parking in the construction industry. Something else has to be brought in so that people are not required to build their own parking. People should be incentivized to rely less on cars and the Metro needs to increase its capacity.” Kamal Kishore, Member, India National Disaster Management Authority, agrees that a solution has to be found to reduce the possibility of large scale loss of life and significant economic losses in the event of a major earthquake striking the capital. “It’s a classic case of the need for systems thinking. Because of the metro line the value of land has increased and there has been a lot of development where soil conditions should not allow it. We cannot look at the asset in isolation. Downstream risk is created in the absence of a systems view. “The challenge is how do you come up with a planning system that can reconcile the everyday needs with long-term resilience. I see three possibilities. Awareness raising, legislative action and incentives for retrofitting. “We are working on raising awareness and creating a social demand for strengthening the soft storey. The building stock belongs to upwardly mobile people willing to pay a premium for safety.” A second possibility is to take strong legislative action and Mr. Kishore cites the example whereby two years ago, the local government closed down the market place in Defence Colony because of commercial activity taking over residential space in the upper stories of the buildings and the consequent risk of fire. A third possibility under active consideration by the NDMA is creating market incentives through tax rebates as part of soft loan packages, to have vulnerable buildings retrofitted. “If you calculate the cost of not having resilience over the long-term you clearly see that it’s worth spending 10% extra to avoid the future loss. All these solutions require groundwork, they cannot be done at the flip of a switch. The NDMA has produced guidelines on retrofitting and they are being implemented by some builders but more needs to be done,” he said.
By Denis McCleanGENEVA, 4 October, 2019 - There is a striking contrast between the death toll in India and Mozambique from two equally strong cyclones this year. Pre-emptive evacuation of a million people before Cyclone Fani made landfall on the coast of Odisha, ensured that deaths from the category 5 storm were kept at a reported 72. Warnings were well disseminated and most people in harm’s way managed to get to a safe place. In Mozambique things did not go so smoothly. Pre-emptive evacuations were not the norm as Cyclone Idai bore down on coast of Sofala province and travelled inland across Manica province. The official death toll of 605 may be a significant underestimate given the lack of registration of births and other means of verifying the true death toll. Evidence taken from women in two resettlement camps indicates that very few heard the early warnings on radio or television and the few who did ignored them as unreliable or simply because they had no idea what to do. It is clear from talking to these women in the protected spaces provided to them by UNFPA that while many of them believe that the climate is changing and see the impact on their farming activities, they have little or no understanding of how to prepare for, or respond to, sudden on-set, life-threatening natural hazards like Cyclone Idai which struck in March or Cyclone Kenneth which struck in April. At a meeting of some 90 women in Mandruzi resettlement camp, Dondo, Sofala – home to 375 families – only 12 hands went up to indicate that they had heard a warning about cyclone Idai. Doca Bande (32) received a phone text from an uncle but she chose to go a cultural activity in her community and found that it had been cancelled. “The community leader said ‘you want to dance when the cyclone is coming?’” She eventually escaped the cyclone’s wrath by taking her six children to a nearby school. In Matua resettlement camp, Eliza Mapangue, a mother of six children, said: “It was a new experience and we did not know what to do.” She heard the warning on her daughter’s TV but went to the market anyway. It was difficult to say what they would do the next time because all the houses made of local materials collapsed, she said. Otililia Luiz used to make a living selling bread and cold drinks on the streets of Beira. She heard the warning two days before on TV but on the day itself she decided “I will continue doing my business.” She went home early because the weather started to change. At 7 p.m. part of the roof collapsed and an hour later it was all gone. She escaped with her husband and two relatives to the Beira Transport Company warehouse where about 500 other people also gathered. Many people were injured when the roof collapsed. They remained there pressed up against the walls until they escaped to the Samora Machel Secondary School where they remained for a week. On reflection, she admits that she should not have gone but rather concentrated on saving what possessions she could, instead of losing everything including her TV and fridge, all her clothes and business stock. Hortensia Mussalama (60) heard no warning and scrambled up a tree to escape the floodwaters holding on to her ten-year-old granddaughter whom she tied to her with cloth so she would not fall to her death in the floodwaters as she saw happen to two of her neighbours. They were in the tree for five days without food or water until they were rescued. One woman summed up the situation. “The next time the warning must be early and the people evacuated to a safe place.”
By Denis McCleanBEIRA, 30 September 2019 - At the best of times, children in Mozambique struggle to attend school up to the age of 13 when poverty often blocks a move to high school. At the worst of times, they sit in hot tents or in cyclone or flood shattered buildings with the roof and windows gone. Even in a normal year, the country loses 600 classrooms to weather events and Cyclone Idai last March destroyed or damaged over 4,000, putting enormous pressure on the surviving facilities to cater to one of the youngest populations in Africa. The Escola Completa 25 de Junho in Beira caters to 4,871 students aged six to 12 in four three-hour shifts throughout the day from 7 a.m., according to school principal, Federico Francisco. Local people have started to call it the “Escola secretario geral" - Portuguese for secretary-general - in honour of the recent visit there by UN chief, Antonio Gutteres, who drew attention to a pavilion of three classrooms that withstood the 220 kph winds of idai, while many other classrooms in the compound lost their roofs. Thanks to the work of UN Habitat, the Ministries of Public Works and the Department of Education and support from the World Bank, new standards for resilient school buildings are now being applied in Mozambique. There is hope that the experience of Cyclone Idai has transmitted the message that it is better to "build to last", the theme of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction on October 13. UN Habitat architect, Fernand Ferreiro, who has worked for 12 years in Mozambique, said a key milestone came in 2016 when wind speed maps were adopted to guide school construction standards. The 93 classrooms that were built to those standards all survived the cyclone. According to UN Habitat Coordinator in Beira, Juan Hurtado, it is estimated that US$32 million is needed to rehabilitate schools in the central provinces of Sofala and Manica which were the worst affected by Cyclone Idai in March this year. He is also hopeful that the same principles of resilient construction can now be applied to other sectors including hospitals and housing. Unicef representative, Eimar Barr, says a key challenge is getting children from resettled families back into education given that over a million people were affected by the damage or destruction to some 300,000 houses from the cyclone season. Funding has now been secured for the rehabilitation of 157 classrooms in Sofala and Manica provinces and to provide some teacher training and materials for the children over the next six to nine months; a modest start compared to the scale of the needs for which adequate funding is not yet forthcoming. Mr. Barr emphasizes that a key aspect of the rehabilitation programme will be to ensure the classrooms are accessible to children with disabilities. His estimation is that enrollment in primary schools is high across the country at between 80% to 90% and there is parity between boys and girls but the transition to secondary or high school is low “because of poverty.” He also flags the fact that Unicef is working against the problem of early marriage and welcomes the new law which makes child marriage a criminal offence for both parents and the man involved. The scale of the problem is revealed by the fact that UNFPA has provided ante-natal consultations to 71,000 girls aged between 15 and 19 since April this year across the cyclone affected areas.
By Omar Amach and Jeanette ElsworthNEW YORK, 25 September 2019 – The UK, Japan and Bhutan announced that they have joined the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, following its launch this week by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. Speaking at an event in the sidelines of the high-level meetings in New York, Prakash Javadekar, India’s Minister for Environment and Climate Change, stressed the need for collaboration and cooperation at the heart of the initiative. “It is important that this initiative is seen as an initiative that brings together developed and the developing countries, small island states, landlocked countries, countries with advanced infrastructure systems, and countries with large infrastructure deficits. In doing so we must actively seek to build synergies with the ongoing initiatives, whether it is the work of the World Bank on the Lifelines report, the work of the Global Commission on Adaptation, or the work of the Insurance Development Forum,” said Mr. Javadekar. Over the next twenty years, an estimated $94 trillion US Dollars will need to be invested in infrastructure to meet growth, and 60% of this investment will take place in developing countries. The impact of disasters on infrastructure manifests itself either as the outright destruction of an infrastructure asset due to a high-intensity disaster event, or the gradual degradation of assets over successive medium or low-intensity events. The poor typically bear the worst brunt of such events as they often lack adequate resources for coping with disasters. Thus, the downstream effects of the loss and damage to infrastructure may be felt for years after the disaster, including through its cascading impact and service disruptions. “Ensuring infrastructure assets and systems are made resilient is one of the most important commitments we can make to protect lives and livelihoods,” said Ms. Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, highlighting the benefits UN Member States, both developed and developing, stand to gain from joining the Coalition. The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure has the potential to be a lifeline for countries vulnerable to disasters and could help them achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This was the main message of the 2019 SDG Summit side-event ‘Resilient Infrastructure: Key to the Success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,’ co-hosted by the Government of India and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) in New York. “If we can learn to deal with our risk, we can use this as part of our adaptation to climate change”, said Matthew Rycroft, the Permanent Secretary at the UK’s Department of International Development for the UK as he confirmed the country’s membership in the Coalition. In his statement, Mr. Rycroft also encouraged other countries to join the 12 initial members; Australia, Bhutan, Fiji, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and the UK. A number of development partners, including the World Bank and the Green Climate Fund, voiced support the Coalition’s launch and pledged to work closely with its secretariat, which will be based in India’s capital, New Delhi. In its initial phase of operations, the CDRI will support capacity development, collaborative research and knowledge exchange, data standardization, and establish a forum for members to work on areas of common interest.
By Stephanie SpeckNEW YORK, 24 September 2019 – The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, welcomed the launch of the global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) is an international partnership that will support countries- developed and developing- to build climate and disaster resilient infrastructure. The Coalition’s secretariat, supported by UNDRR and based in Delhi, will facilitate knowledge exchange, provide technical support and support capacity building. “Our urban environments are increasingly threatened by extreme weather events. More than two-thirds of economic loss is caused by damage to infrastructure. Seven million people have been displaced this year alone, through cyclones that have laid waste to towns and homes in the Bahamas, India and Mozambique. A lack of risk-informed resilient infrastructure results in lost lives, lost homes and lost livelihoods. “The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure is a transformative initiative that will help cities, communities and governments of the world to build to last. We can prevent and mitigate earthquake, tsunami, flood and storm impact by ensuring that affordable housing, schools, health facilities and public utilities are built in line with robust standards required to survive any natural or man-made hazard likely to occur in a particular location,” SRSG Mizutori said. The government of India, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and partners have together worked on the CDRI initiative in response to Prime Minister Modi’s call for action to reduce damage to critical infrastructure at the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2016. “68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050; getting the built environment right is critical if we are to significantly reduce economic losses, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where such recurring losses undermine efforts to eradicate poverty and to achieve the sustainable development goals,” SRSG Mizutori concluded.
By Jeanette Elsworth22 September 2019, New York – Passion and urgency may not be two of the most common words associated with events at the United Nations headquarters in New York but that is certainly what delegates and speakers brought when they convened at the Youth Climate Summit. A day after millions of young people globally marched and rallied for urgent climate action, young leaders brought their message to the ministers and leaders, both at the dedicated youth event and later, at the Climate Action Summit. Speaking at the opening of the Adaptation and Resilience track, Marwa Elmenshawy, a representative from Egypt, summed up the events of the previous day and spoke strongly about the need for sincerity. “Don’t invite us in once a year. Keep us engaged. Allow us to challenge you. If you ask us to work together, the UN should lead by example. We are being asked to change our habits, our lifestyles and our privileges. However, you’ll need to change yours too. “If you ask us to give you ideas, you should act on them. The youth are rising for climate action, so what have you done to save their future?” said Ms Elmenshawy. While adaptation and resilience were the centre of the day, many of the speakers acknowledged the important role of disaster risk reduction in protecting development gains and future-proofing climate action. The Summit—the first time the UN has convened a summit for young people completely devoted to climate action — gives voice to the demands of young people to take far swifter action to reduce the emissions that, without action, are on track to reverse the development gains of the recent decades that have improved the lives of millions of people. Hosted by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, the Youth Climate Action Summit brought youth climate champions together from more than 140 countries and territories to a platform to share their solutions on the global stage, and deliver a clear message to world leaders: we need to act now to address climate change. The outcomes of the Youth Climate Summit will feed into the Climate Action Summit, which will be attended by heads of state and government as well as business CEOs and civil society leaders. The two-day event featured a range of lively events focused firmly on action and ideas. At the Climate Slam, a poet, a film-maker and other youth actors brought their challenges to the public in a rapid-fire dialogue. “When I left Guyana to come here,” said Rashulata St Louis, an engagement specialist, “My dad told me; ‘You’re going to the UN, don’t come back without answers.’ What am I going to tell him?” Rameshwa Bhatt from India asked people to focus on “behaviour change, not climate change”, while Victoria Murphy from the USA, delivered a passionate poem. “We’re fighting like our lives depend on it, because they do,” said Ms Murphy. “We’re fighting, and we want to know: will you fight too?”