£1.4m funding to put children at the heart of research and action to decarbonise cities

LSHTM team will use Fondation Botnar grant to set up Children, Cities and Climate (CCC) Action Lab
Art of Health Breathe In design competition winning entry, Collin Makoni

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) will work with children and young people living in urban areas to gather evidence about the impact of climate change and develop a vision for healthy, sustainable cities of the future as part of a £1.4m grant from Fondation Botnar.

This grant will enable the LSHTM team to expand on previous research and for key partners, from specialist organisations YLabs, C40 and UrbanBetter, to engage with young people, policymakers and the public through co-design labs where young people will create plans for improving their cities. The funding will support knowledge sharing and advocacy to inform planning decisions and help to accelerate the shift towards decarbonisation and healthier cities.

Children and young people in cities are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of climate-change related events, such as heatwaves and air-pollution, but are underrepresented in conversations about climate change. Children make up 30% of the four billion people living in cities today and this is projected to rise to 70% of 6.7 billion by 2050. A child born today risks living in a world nearly two degrees warmer than the pre-industrial average while 93% of the world’s children breathe polluted air.

The Children, Cities and Climate (CCC) Action Lab follows an earlier pilot study which found that more than 20,000 cases of childhood asthma, over 43,000 premature births, and over 22,000 low birthweight births could be averted annually across 16 cities if air pollution reduced to net zero levels. This represents almost a quarter of the current number of asthma cases in these cities and a reduction of about 10% for adverse birth outcomes. The 16 cities in the pilot were Bhubaneswar, Dar es Salaam, Dhaka, Freetown, Glasgow, Harare, Jaipur, Lahore, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Manila, Milan, Nairobi, Quito, and Tamale.

In parallel with the modelling work, the researchers surveyed over 3,000 young people (aged 13-25), parents of younger children and expectant parents from 59 cities around the world. The research was carried out alongside a wide range of youth and public engagement activities to understand and communicate the views of young people about their cities and the future.

This new funding aims to put the health gains that decarbonisation of cities can offer to children and young people at the centre of urban policy making, predominantly across the Global South, and to support this with informed policy engagement and advocacy.

Dr Robert Hughes of LSHTM, Co-Principal Investigator of the Children, Cities and Climate project, said: “Many of the next generation are already growing up in hotter, more polluted towns and cities than their parents did. They deserve to have a bigger say in how these urban environments develop and improve as our climate changes radically. 

"We hope that by collaborating with young people and policy makers and doing high-quality research to examine how our different urban futures are likely to affect child health, we can help to build an evidence-based case for how and why we need to decarbonise our cities and towns. We really appreciate this support from Fondation Botnar, and look forward to putting it to good use.”

Activities will include rapid cycle research ‘sprints’ to build the evidence base through modelling of the health 'co-benefits' that could be delivered in different urban futures across a selection of cities. For example, cities that decarbonise could see a reduction in cases of asthma, a common youth ailment, due to reduced air pollution.

The project will also carry out real-time surveys of children and young people to understand their lived experiences of urban living in a changing climate, capturing impacts of at least 10 high air pollution events or heatwaves. In addition to this, researchers will co-develop visions for future cities with young people themselves through a series of co-design labs, alongside advocacy tactics to increase their impact.

The work of the CCC Action Lab will support knowledge sharing across cities and evidence-informed, demand-driven analytical or planning support for a small number of cities that have demonstrated commitment to taking concrete regulatory and policy actions towards decarbonisation and healthier urban environments. 


Image: The image is from the Art of Health Breathe In design competition in Zimbabwe in collaboration with the CCC project, as part of the Zimbabwe LSHTM Research Partnership. This initiative engaged young people with health and wellbeing issues through the creative arts. More information here.

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