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Pitch

Create a global network of MIT alums focussed on cities to catalyze and implement innovative climate solutions to help stay within 2°C.


Description

Summary

Recent estimates [1, 2] show 54% of the world’s population living in cities, only expected to grow in the coming years. Being where most people live, cities are also where we generate most CO2 and where many climate solutions are implemented. While some effective global networks of local governments (e.g., ICLEI) exist, they are only indirectly linked to innovative technology and policy research being conducted at leading institutions such as MIT. MIT itself has many initiatives linked to cities globally (e.g., SMART/Singapore) focused in part on innovations with climate implications.  Given the urgent need to be on a critical path to staying below a 2°C increase, linking, integrating and implementing the most promising innovations in cities is essential.  MIT and its alumni globally can play a critical role here.

Implementing innovations - particularly in cities - often requires integration across disciplinary lines. These include most of the skills represented by MIT alumni, from architecture and planning to engineering and science as well as management, policy, and activism.  Successful field implementation is often correlated with advocacy by respected community members - as MIT alumni are likely to be. We propose actions to harness the breadth of expertise among alumni worldwide to get city-based climate innovations in place faster and more effectively than otherwise. Resulting will be specific mechanisms (e.g., online forums, searchable databases, links to web-based information) to support MIT alumni, researchers and field practitioners, as well as the Institute itself in reaching or exceeding its climate goals.  

We will work with alumni across the world to pilot test the concept in MIT's own backyard, Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Focused on the transportation and building domains, and on MIT’s research and activities related to them, all alumni with relevant experience or skills will be actively encouraged to participate


What actions do you propose?

Core Tasks

  1. Articulate the top climate issues in Cambridge (including MIT) and their points of contact;
  2. Summarize lessons learned from collaborative tools that link field practitioners and researchers (e.g., Thriving Earth Exchange) in the arena of climate change and sustainability;
  3. Create the initial learning network by identifying
  • interested alumni via LinkedIn, MIT Alumni Association tools (e.g., listservs);

  • MIT research (and leaders) relevant to top climate issues in Cambridge; and

  • Cambridge partners for implementing innovative solutions;

4. Crowd-source - via MIT alumni, researchers and Climate CoLab staff - Cambridge-specific climate solutions (similar to the approach there in 2014 to heat islands);

5. Summarize results of Cambridge pilot test and potential for scaling up network; and

6. Publicize cases (via a subsite of the Climate CoLab) in which networked alumni help accelerate developing and implementing critical path climate solutions in Cambridge, for example:

Novelty

Cambridge, Massachusetts provides an excellent laboratory for starting to harness the global power of MIT alumni focused on municipal climate issues.  Not only is Cambridge a founding member of ICLEI, MIT alumni inside and outside government are having a major impact on the city’s climate initiative. For example, two of nine city councilors are MIT alumni active on climate initiatives including net-zero.  The City’s Energy, Transportation and Planning division within the Community Development Department (CDD) is headed by an MIT alumna taking broad action on climate change, e.g., an extensive vulnerability assessment and net-zero planning.  Additionally, a local environmental non-profit,Green Cambridge, is headed by an MIT alumnus, spearheading many climate change initiatives including net-zero, sustainability planning and urban tree protection.

Impact

Being focused on Cambridge, MIT’s home location, the pilot also provides a strong motivation for alumni to help the Institute meet and even exceed its climate goals.  Subsequent phases of this work could expand geographically and by sector, while applying lessons learned from the Cambridge pilot.  Ultimately, this work could lay the foundation for a climate corps of MIT alumni spearheading climate action wherever they are, as well as being available to others needing their expertise.

References:

  1. Kaiser Family Foundation: http://kff.org/global-indicator/urban-population/#notes

  2. World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/

  3. http://neighbormedia.org/news/cambridge-uncovered-ep-11-sustainability-cambridge