Meet the incredible people behind the work we do at C40 Cities
What motivated you to work in the climate space, and how did you become involved with C40?
I started paying proper attention to climate breakdown in my early twenties when I studied abroad in Australia. I was struck by how 250 years of an imported European model of development had massively damaged this beautiful and fragile land, after thousands of years where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had an exclusive presence. Worsening soil salinity, invasive species causing biodiversity collapse and extreme weather events felt more real, tangible and visible than in Europe, where we’re more removed from the natural world. All that while watching the COP15 Copenhagen Summit fail to achieve any meaningful progress!
That led me to specialise in environmental policy at university. After that, I inadvertently started to work on sustainable urbanisation policies and programmes, which I loved because, as an avid city explorer, it enabled me to combine two interests of mine. That’s when I discovered C40, and I promised myself I would work there one day.
I ended up working on clean energy policies for various non-governmental organisations for a while, focusing on accelerating the adoption of more decentralised and participatory renewable electricity solutions. My current role at C40 brings all of this together very nicely.
What’s an accomplishment that you are proud of in your work with C40?
One of my priorities since joining C40 has been to strengthen the role of cities in the global energy transition. They are often left out of conversations about the energy sector, despite the central role they play in bringing more decentralised energy systems on the grid, enabling demand-side flexibility or electrifying end uses. Cities are also more ambitious than national governments – so they need to be listened to.
I’m very proud of the C40 Renewable Energy Accelerator launched in 2021, through which I supported 15 cities in making commitments to lead the energy transition, committing to a very concrete list of actions such as deploying solar photovoltaics on their assets and accelerating the phasing-out of fossil fuels. I love that mayors are more and more vocal about the need for a just energy transition away from fossil fuels, using the evidence about the health impacts of coal and gas on city residents that our research team developed and vindicated by their own innovative actions to clean up grids.
On a different topic, I’m proud to be a member of the C40 LGBTQIA+ staff group, and I play a small role in making C40 a more inclusive workplace.
What upcoming initiatives is C40 working on that you are excited about?
A few things are cooking in the energy team that I’m super excited about. First, we will disseminate the groundbreaking work four C40 pilot cities have been doing through the 24/7 Carbon-Free Energy for Cities programme. This is a really innovative approach to decarbonising urban electricity systems that we will encourage other cities to explore.
I’m also excited to scale up the support we offer to African cities, including introducing new resources for South African cities to replace coal with renewable energy sources. The 2030 target for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all is approaching, and we are not on track. This is a major climate justice issue that African cities can help to tackle.
Finally, we will be looking to fight the fossil fuel lobby by accelerating city actions that eliminate the need for coal and gas in our energy systems. Cities want to reduce their reliance on fossil gas for heating buildings, so we will work to ensure that they have the power, resources and skills they need to be able to do so. We’ve got some exciting new research coming out, so stay tuned.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
Having a busy life outside of work helps me cope with the fact that the clock is ticking when it comes to climate change, which can feel very overwhelming.
I love living in London, where, in a single day, I can swim outside in my local pond, visit a Roman temple and see a musical in the West End. It’s perfect for someone like me who prefers to be average at everything rather than excelling at a few things! But this year, I will try to focus my energy more. First, I’ll find more time to improve my ceramic skills. This is one of the most calming activities I’ve ever tried, and I think clay is a great metaphor for how fluid and ever-changing life can be. Second, I’m going to enter a couple of triathlons to push myself to be outdoors running, cycling, and swimming as much as possible. And finally, I want to spend less time online; leaving one particular social media platform a couple of years ago was the best thing I’ve ever done for my mental health!
International Day of Clean Energy is on 26 January. What are you looking out for in the clean energy sector in 2024?
In 2023, renewable energy capacity grew at a record pace, driven by a handful of countries and regions, including China, the EU, the US, and Brazil. The COP28 target of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030 is within reach – with a bit of extra work!
In 2024, I hope to see continued progress on that front and reach record levels of renewable deployment in new regions. New Just Energy Transitions Partnerships could help low- and middle-income countries experiencing rapid energy demand growth to do exactly that. Hopefully, more investments in grid infrastructure will materialise, and it will be interesting to see if offshore wind farms can pick up some momentum after a disappointing 2023 – several national auctions will hopefully yield some interesting results.
I think we will see more cities stepping up their work to decarbonise heating through bans on new gas connections, more stringent energy efficiency requirements, and accelerated retrofits. By phasing out fossil gas use, cities can make a significant dent in gas and oil revenues.
This year is said to be the biggest election year in history. It is almost certain this will lead to regulatory and policy environments less favourable to renewable deployment in at least a few countries. Having cities lead the way on the energy transition will be key to maintaining momentum and putting the world on a path to a climate-safe future.