ICLEI members tackling climate change invited to apply for $25,000 Keeling Curve Prize

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The following guest post from the Keeling Curve Prize committee provides the ICLEI USA network with a call to appy for the next prize cycle, deadline February 10, 2020.

Especially at a time when Americans cannot look to Washington for leadership on climate action, local initiatives are essential for demonstrating practical and effective ways to reduce greenhouse gases or increasing their uptake. That’s why the Keeling Curve Prize organization is interested in receiving applications from cities, towns and counties that are tackling climate change. 

“Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide keep rising, so there’s no time to waste,” said Keeling Curve Prize Executive Director Jacquelyn Francis. “We need everyone — governments, businesses, NGOs, universities  — to do what they can to curb greenhouse gas emissions, which is perhaps the greatest global challenge of our time.” 

Each year, the Keeling Curve Prize awards $25,000 to each of 10 projects designed to reduce heat-trapping emissions or increase carbon uptake. In 2019,  winners ranged from a project to decarbonize the auto rickshaw market in Bangalore, India; to a US/Mexico effort to protect communities, economies and ecosystems from climate change impacts in the Gulf of California; to an effort by churches around the world to engage young people in climate action. 

The 2020 Keeling Curve Prize will be awarded to two projects in each of the following five categories: 

  • Transport & Mobility: From charging stations to freight logistics, mobility is a broad topic with vast room for improvement. This category supports high-impact improvements from personal to industry-level applications.
  • Energy: With growing global population and changing demographics, this category is for projects that promote low-cost and reliable energy as a strategy to replace and discourage the development of continued fossil fuel use. 
  • Social & Cultural Pathways: This category is dedicated to the ‘human question.’ What about our cultural attitudes toward global warming need to change? Who is helping turn the tide and how?
  • Capture & Utilization: From emerging carbon markets to reforestation, this category is for projects that directly sequester, and in many cases, use the captured carbon as a marketable product.
  • Finance: As clean energy applications evolve, so must funding strategies. This category supports projects that work to increase and improve the flow of funding across all avenues of climate solutions. 

The Keeling Curve Prize is named after scientist Charles David Keeling’s iconic graph of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere. It’s based on measurements he began taking at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii in 1958 — measurements that continue to this day. The graph shows a relatively small annual zigzag that reflects plants taking up CO2 during growing season and releasing it into the atmosphere when autumn comes. But the overall trend is unmistakable: it keeps curving upward, charting increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere as net emissions increase.

The World Meteorological Association found that 2018 established a new annual record, with globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide reaching 407.8 parts per million. And in May 2019, the Keeling Curve reached uncharted territory, showing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide topping 415 parts per million — higher than at any other time in human history.

“We must take immediate action to address global warming,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science for the Union of Concerned Scientists and a Keeling Curve Prize judge. “The Keeling Curve Prize is shining a spotlight on practical solutions that can reduce heat-trapping emissions, increase carbon uptake, and slow climate change.”

The 2020 Keeling Curve Prize application period closes on Feb. 10 or when 300 applications are received — whichever comes first. Finalists will be named in the spring, and winners will be announced in the summer.

Keeling Curve Prize finalists and winners are chosen by a panel of esteemed climate scientists, public policy experts, and researchers, including Achala Abeysinghe, Ph.D., of the International Institute for Environment and Development; Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, Ph.D., of the Union of Concerned Scientists; Lucas Joppa, Ph.D., of Microsoft; George Polk of Tulum Trust; and Jonathan Silver of Tax Equity Advisors, LLC. 

Winners of the 2018 and 2019 Keeling Curve Prize are listed here. They come from four continents and represent varied and unique approaches to reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Each one of them offers a reason for hope.

“People of all ages and backgrounds are spearheading projects that can help us bend the Keeling Curve and stave off the worst effects of global warming,” said Keeling Curve Prize Executive Director Jacquelyn Francis. “This prize is about supporting and accelerating these efforts.”


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