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29 September 2022

Mass cooperation fuels climate action, say experts at London's Walk2COP27 event

Industry professionals met at King’s this week to discuss the challenges England faces when addressing climate change and urged key players to improve the way they collaborate.


Ahead of COP27, the London townhall for the Walk2COP27 mass participation initiative showcased how climate change is impacting the UK and the solutions that are being deployed.

Hosted by King’s Sustainability and the Department of Geography, the event saw government and industry professionals speak on the implications of climate in England and in particular the transportation industry.

The first panel, moderated by recent King’s graduate and former President of the Environmental Student Society, Thomas Poulin, focused on the climate responses in London and the UK more broadly.

Ruth Beddow, Principal Policy Officer at Westminster City Council referenced the climate action within the control of the local authority. She also cited the many different laws and policies that the council adheres to, making it difficult to act on anything beyond its direct control.

If we’re thinking about carbon emissions from buildings, which is 86% of Westminster’s carbon emissions overall, then within our power is being able to create retrofit schemes to make buildings more energy efficient.

Ruth Beddow, Principal Policy Officer, Westminster City Council

Ruth Beddow: “There are other things that are out of our control. […] It’s difficult for us to influence and have the collective power to [act]. So I suppose, we as a council, make small changes around the things within our control and then try to lobby and work with wider organisations on the bigger picture.”

The Crown Estate, a national body, must also work with multiple actors to decarbonise and manage land sustainability. Fellow panellist and Head of Sustainability at The Crown Estate, Anna Swaithes, highlighted the need for collaboration in a way that’s never seen before.

It’s absolutely clear, in order to affect change – whether it’s decarbonising or accelerating the transition to clean energy, whether it’s understanding and mitigating flood risk – we need to work with other actors in a degree of collaboration we’ve never seen before, and most organisations are not set up to collaborate that way.

Anna Swaithes, Head of Sustainability, The Crown Estate

Anna Swaithes: “Ultimately we need to find a way to navigate through competing industries and not have binary conversations.”

Meanwhile, climate justice campaigner, Simmone Ahiaku, called for more accountability in government.

I think after COP26, a lot of people realised that it wasn’t the government that was going to save us. It is us, as a collective, that will save us.

Simmone Ahiaku, climate justice campaigner

The second panel focused on the travel industry, with consensus in the group that changing the way we travel, as opposed to the method of travel, is still a major part of the conversation.

Anna Hughes, founder of Flight Free UK, called for less business trips and more taxation of the aviation industry.

Rebecca Powell from Transport for London reminded everyone that extreme temperatures have already hit the transport industry, with railway tracks reaching up to 60 degrees Celsius and the underground tube in London also becoming uncomfortably hot.

The Walk2COP27 initiative takes place across 45 days, during which people will make the virtual journey from Glasgow (host city for COP26) to Sharm El-Sheikh (host city for COP27). It aims to bring people together from different countries to inform, educate and connect.

Along the way, there are 12 countries hosting townhall meetings, giving an update on Walk2COP27 and a deep dive on a particular COP27 issue.

As part of King’s commitment to facilitate climate action within and beyond its community, the London Townhall was held at Science Gallery London.

Rachel Mills, Senior Vice-President (Academic), said: “The climate crisis is probably the most important issue of the time and it is global mass movements like Walk2COP27 – getting everyone united behind this one important issue – that is probably the most important thing we can do today.

“We are super grateful to have hosted this event at King’s on behalf of London. We have to make sure the momentum at COP26 is maintained for COP27 and this issue is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. That government’s across the world continue to commit and take significant and serious action.”

Register on atlasGO to be part of the virtual journey

Register to join Walk2COP27. You can participate in Walk2COP27 by tracking your kilometres travelled on the atlasGO app. Download the app, join the "Kings College London" team, and be part of this global movement. Trees will be planted by the Jane Goodall Institute for kilometres travelled (walked / run / cycled or travelled in a wheelchair).

About Walk2COP27

Walk2COP27 sets out to accelerate climate action in the run-up to COP27. Its purpose is to build mass participation and engagement: bringing people together from different countries, informing and educating, building solidarity, and creating connections. 

It is an initiative of Change Driver, run by Sam Baker, Natasha Fortuin and Laudie Jamous.

The official 45-day journey to COP27 started on Thursday, 22 September. Catch up with the journey through #Walk2COP27 on Twitter.

Celebrating 100 years of Geography

This event is part of the 100th anniversary programme for the Department of Geography at King's. Join us as we celebrate everything we have achieved, our community and partners, and our research impact.

Find out more about Geography at 100

In this story

Rachel A. Mills

Senior Vice President (Academic)