Climathon Stories

Nancy Saich: "I will be looking for ideas that are genuinely new"

Nancy Saich is one of this year's Climathon Award judges.

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Nancy Saich is one of this year’s Climathon Award judges. Nancy is the Chief Climate Change Expert at the European Investment Bank (EIB), the largest multilateral development bank in the world.

Nancy began her career as a civil engineer, involved in designing infrastructure that would later need to be adapted for a changing climate, such as rising sea levels and higher intensity storms. 

She joined EIB over 20 years ago, working for 10 years appraising infrastructure projects for Bank financing and became a founding member of the Bank’s Environmental Assessment Group. Her role over the last 8 years has centred on a developing a more strategic approach to climate change at EIB: supporting wider thinking on climate change and the links between climate action and overall environmental and social sustainability; going beyond EIB projects into a more systemic approach. 

Ahead of the Climathon Awards, we caught up with Nancy to find out how cities can change their infrastructure to become more resilient, and where we can find the innovative climate-solutions that will protect communities and the cities they live in.

Nancy Saich, Chief Climate Change Expert at the European Investment Bank

One of the most pressing issues facing developed countries today is that their cities are mostly based on ageing infrastructure. Developed cities were designed and built in a different era that didn't take into consideration the future challenges of climate change. 

So, addressing low-carbon mobility, energy efficiency and climate resilience has to be done in the context of old city layouts. Planning for a climate-friendly city is more difficult when so much of the infrastructure is already in place and hard to move. 

The problem of old infrastructure is somewhat less dramatic in developing countries, but they still face the challenge of planning for climate resilience. Developing cities are grappling with some of the fastest-growing populations in the world, resulting in cities transforming at pace, often with informal and highly vulnerable developments. 

However, whether in developed or developing countries, we cannot build our way out of climate change. Solutions must come from the cities, businesses and citizens themselves. 

Small businesses, especially if they are brought together in city or district level discussions, are well placed to develop innovative solutions that can create holistic change. 

A lot of ideas for climate-friendly cities can come from its citizens as well. For example, creating city apps that help spread information, drive the sharing economy, resource efficiency and climate resilience can all have a massive impact. 

Innovative ideas on warning systems and community-wide responses to extreme weather events can also have huge potential in cities for effective adaptation to climate change.

Citizens and cities must work together to tackle the challenges presented by climate change. Due to the urgent need to decarbonise, we need to try all sorts of solutions and work together to ensure that we are successful. By being inclusive we also create stronger communities which are better at dealing with natural disasters. 

While judging the Climathon Awards I will be looking for ideas that are genuinely new and make me say “ah-ha!”. Ideas that could change the way we live and have scale-up potential. I'm looking for win-win ideas with enormous potential impacts on both decarbonisation and adaptation; and hopefully also improving lives at the same time.

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