Newly launched Pathfinder Initiative will drive practical solutions for a healthy, net zero society

Today, 9th November 2020, the Pathfinder Initiative launches to support rapid progress towards a healthy, zero-carbon society. The project is funded by Wellcome, with support from the Oak Foundation and co-chaired by The Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, Ms. Joy Phumaphi and Prof. Sir Andy Haines.
Green buildings Singapore

Ms. Joy Phumaphi, co-chair of the Pathfinder Initiative, says: We can clearly see how unsustainable practices have harmed our population’s health, increasing rates of disease, impacting food systems and further widening health inequities.”

In response to the need for urgent and decisive action to keep within the 1.5 - 2o C target of the Paris Agreement, the Pathfinder Initiative will increase motivation and capacity by showing how the implementation of well-designed policies and technologies can yield multiple benefits for people and planet.

Prof. Sir Andy Haines, co-chair of the Pathfinder Initiative, says: “To meet the climate target in the Paris Agreement and reduce the risks from climate to health, it is essential to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century at the latest.  Although much is known about what needs to be done to achieve rapid reductions in emissions, progress is too slow, and we need to learn the lessons from putting such policies into practice.”

Scientific oversight for the initiative will be provided by The Lancet Pathfinder Commission, comprised of international experts in decarbonisation from key sectors, including energy, cities, food, transport, health care. They will be supported by a research team from the Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who will analyse and grade evidence from studies around the world, including important case studies of how carbon reduction actions have been shown to work in practice.

Ms. Joy Phumaphi, explains: “Countries are looking for guidance and practical solutions that benefit health, natural environments, and economies jointly. We must be strong and decisive, but positive in our collective mission to create a flourishing society, no longer dependent on burning fossil fuels. It is a pleasure to be working with the pathfinder initiative to help us discover such paths to health and prosperity.”

The Pathfinder Initiative will collect evidence from case studies and synthesis of existing research from around the world to provide practical examples of pathways to a 'net zero society', including through transformations of energy, transport, the built environment, food and agriculture and health care systems. It will document the barriers to change and how these have been addressed in different contexts.

For example, Milan and Paris have recently committed to more street space for pedestrians and cyclists to reduce air pollution, yielding positive benefits for population health. Other cities, such as Singapore, have focused on designing green buildings that have positive effects on the environment, increasing biodiversity and reducing carbon emissions, with joint benefits for people’s mental and physical health.

Prof. Sir Andy Haines, also added: “As a growing coalition of countries, cities, companies, universities and networks come together for the 'Race to Zero', sharing the knowledge from diverse experiences can increase the scale of ambition and accelerate the pace of change towards a healthy, 'post-carbon' society that benefits everyone.” 

The findings will be published in The Lancet medical journal, with the final report published in late 2022 ahead of COP27 and further disseminated widely across different sectors and networks.

The initiative will work with a range of partner organisations including the C40 cities network, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the OECD to ensure the inclusion of diverse experiences worldwide and amplify the impacts of the work. It will also establish a team of Champions comprised of committed individuals internationally renowned for their work on climate change and sustainability, who will provide feedback and ensure that the impact of the work is leveraged through other global efforts.

Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, co-chair of the Pathfinder Initiative, says: “The prospects for global health in a new zero-carbon society are exciting but we must act now to achieve this. We need feasible options for people and governments to transform work, food, travel, and general human living.

“The solutions must be evidence-based so that transformative actions towards a ‘post-carbon’ future are effective and allow global health to prosper in the years to come. I’m delighted to be involved in the Pathfinder Initiative which will help us move closer towards the global sustainable development goals and net-zero.” 

More information about the project can be found here:


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