“As they’re taking carbon out of the economy, they're putting justice back in”: Seven for 7 event celebrates innovation and leadership on energy and health
Hosted by Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) in partnership with Ashden at the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice, the Seven for 7 event gathered honorees from across the sustainable energy movement to share their stories that are supporting faster Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) progress to a full audience of business, policy, philanthropy and UN representatives.
Held during the UN General Assembly week and the day after the Climate Action Summit, this year’s Seven for 7 celebration looked at the nexus of energy and health, highlighting leadership that supported significant progress in the areas of cooling for all, powering health care, clean fuels for all and outdoor air quality.
As emphasized during the event, the world is off track to meet global energy goals, but leadership highlighted by Seven for 7 2019 honorees shows the inspiration and success stories happening on the ground that can help drive faster progress. Opening the evening, António Mexia, Chairman of the SEforALL Administrative Board, CEO of Energias de Portugal, focused on the central role that sustainable energy for all has to support global goals: “SDG 7 is at the core of the other SDGs. Without SDG7 many of the goals will never be reached. We will see a lot of different solutions and hear stories of success so that we can all learn from them.”
He was followed by H.E. Rasmus Prehn, Minister for Development Cooperation, Denmark, who thanked SEforALL for the collaboration on the Energy Track of the UN Climate Summit. He said: “We face a huge challenge, but it can be done if we get all hands on deck and focus our energy on energy.” The Minister added that Denmark is proud to be a front-runner at the national level and willing to continue to lead internationally.
“When working towards energy transition, keep the health benefits in mind,” Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health Department of the World Health Organisation said in her statement. She continued: “People ask me: With seven million deaths every year and the diseases that are caused by air pollution, how do you keep some optimism? I am keeping optimistic because I meet people like you. When I see the examples and ideas that are presented today, this gives me a lot of optimism.”
Harriet Lamb, CEO of Ashden, SEforALL’s partner for this event, said: “We are celebrating seven amazing women and men who are creating the living alternative and showing how another world could look and be. They're doing it not through fancy new technology but sometimes by taking very ordinary everyday objects from paint pots to plant pots. They're doing it by engaging marginalized communities and putting them first, not last. As they're taking carbon out of the economy, they're putting justice back in.”
The seven honorees included political leaders, city governments and businesses that are improving lives globally and locally. They are leading and driving action in Ghana, India and Mexico, and in cities as diverse as New York, Medellín and Ahmedabad.
“We love our world; we love the women, we want to improve health care, we want to improve gender issues, women empowerment, education, well-being of our children. We're trying to fight maternal mortality. We're trying to fight natal mortality. All of these cannot be achieved if we do not address the clean cooking issue,” H.E. Samira Bawumia, Second Lady of Ghana, Ambassador for the Clean Cooking Alliance and first of the seven honorees to speak on the night, told the guests.
“Smallholder farmers that grow the majority of the world's food do not have access to basic technology, training, financing to provide power for their homes, to provide power for their farms. It doesn't have to be this way we could change this narrative”, said Alex Eaton, CEO and Co-Founder of Sistema.bio whose company was honored for creating an innovative biogas system that turns animal waste into clean cooking fuels and produces a planet-friendly fertilizer.
The City of Medellin was honored for its Green Corridors Project that provides shade for cyclists and pedestrians, cools built-up areas and improves air quality along busy roads. “Three decades ago, it was unthinkable that Medellín was recognized for more than its violence. In 1991, we were the most violent city in the world, living every day between pain and fear. Today we embrace that dark past because it brought us to where we are. That adversity allowed us to reach for incredible achievements, working together to turn our difficulties into something better”, said Paula Palacio, Secretary of Infrastructure of Medellín.
The other initiatives presented and honored during the evening were Chhattisgarh State Renewable Energy Development Agency (CREDA) for providing solar power to 900 health care centers and hospitals; Philips Community Life Centers, community-driven and holistic platforms for strengthening primary healthcare, combining renewable energy, energy efficient design and locally relevant medical devices; the city of Ahmedabad for its Heat Action Plan that saved the lives of thousands; as well as the NYC CoolRoofs Initiative for engaging volunteers and green job trainees in applying white, reflective surfaces to roofs.