As the effects of climate change become more apparent and continue to cast doubt over the quality of life of the next generation, young people today have taken it upon themselves to hold governments accountable, call for action and brainstorm solutions, leading the way towards a radical new approach to addressing climate concerns.
Last summer, the Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, in partnership with the UN Technology and Innovation Labs (UNTIL), the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT) and Unite Ideas, initiated the Summer of Solutions – a call for applications for innovative solutions to 3 climate challenges (Climate Information, Circular Economy and Ethical Fashion) developed by and for young people.
After receiving over 150 submissions, five finalists and their solutions were selected. These finalists stood out because of the particularities of their ideas, as they reflect the various contexts and professional backgrounds of their creators: Michelle Han, a high school student from Toronto, Canada, developed the Sustaina-Story app, featuring both a networking platform and a Traceability Tracker, providing ratings and certifications for fashion and accessory brands with regards to their sustainability value; Monika Seyfried, an interaction designer from Warsaw, Poland, came up with the Grow Your Own Cloud initiative, which aims to use the DNA of plants to store cloud data; Edgar Brian Mejia, a Mexican-American mechanical engineer, created the 2 to 3 Project, which takes used plastic material and uses it in conjunction with 3D printing and design to create recycled products of increased value; Brighton Mabasa, a climate researcher from Madosi Menele in rural South Africa, conceptualized the MiWeather app, which equips individuals with the ability to sample, relay, quality assess, analyze and share weather observations using the built-in sensors on their phones; and Anurag Saha Roy, a quantum electronics engineer based in Singapore, designed the Wikilimo app, a platform that provides farmers with agri insights, P2P chat, business and planning services, both on and offline.
These innovators were invited to pitch their ideas before a panel of expert judges and an audience during the UN Youth Climate Action Summit in September 2019.
The selected judges represented a variety of companies and organizations in tech and sustainability spaces, bringing together private sector and UN voices. They were: Carlos Sallé Alonso, the Senior Vice President of Energy Polices and Climate Change for Iberdrola, Suzanne DiBianca, the Chief Impact Officer at Salesforce; Astro Teller, the CEO of Google X; Lucas Joppa, a Chief Environmental Officer at Microsoft; Liz Hartley, a Partner in WeWork’s Creator Fund; Noel Kinder, the Chief Sustainability Officer at Nike; and Avan Salem, the director of the UN OICT.
Hosted by Max Schorr, the CEO of Good/Upworthy, the contestants shared their ideas one after another, receiving comments and reactions from the judges after each pitch.
Once the contestants had delivered their pitches, the judges were given time to discuss and present their final score. After a few minutes of deliberation and assessment, the judges announced the winner: Anurag Saha Roy’s Wikilimo app. As a result, Anurag was invited to join the Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Antonio Guterres, in the Intergenerational Dialogue that opened the Climate Action Summit and will receive support to develop and scale his Wikilimo app.