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Taking the lead for climate action

At the Centre for Public Impact, we’re unearthing approaches to leadership that tackle the climate emergency.

Why we need climate leadership now

Despite global efforts, implementing climate action plans at the local, regional, and international levels remains challenging.

In 2023, the United Nations found the world is on track for a temperature rise far exceeding the 1.5℃ target of the Paris Agreement.

This will increase the negative impacts of climate change, from extreme weather and biodiversity loss to harming food production and human health. These challenges reaffirm the need to adapt, mitigate, and build resilience in the face of climate change.

The challenge

Institutions acting alone cannot tackle complex challenges like the climate emergency. Leaders must think systematically, work relationally and nurture an environment of innovation.

Our experience is that most leaders know this intuitively and are often already trying to change this. Yet the system they’re working in makes it difficult for leaders to examine the underlying assumptions about how the system works, collaborate meaningfully with others or experiment with new ways of working.

Our approach

CPI’s vision for climate leadership is founded on three core approaches:

Embracing complexity

Most challenges we face as a society are multi-faceted by nature. Leaders need to break down silos and understand the whole system, not just one’s area of responsibility, team or organisation.

Taking a human-centred approach

Collaboration relies on the quality of human relationships. Leaders must share power, generate trust and develop emotional intelligence to understand oneself and others.

Nurturing experimentation

Change is constant, and failures are inevitable in the face of complexity. Leaders need to model behaviours such as openness and curiosity to enable a culture of learning and innovation.

We’ve supported a wide range of partners to lead with these approaches, from working with the UNDP on Urban Imaginaries in Europe to driving innovation across US city governments through the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.

Through our climate work, we’ve also seen how these leadership approaches benefit people working within the enormous complexities of the climate emergency.

Our findings

In 2023, CPI undertook research to further explore the overlap between leadership and climate action. We interviewed climate leaders across our global network to understand their perspectives and experiences, building a picture of the challenges that prevent effective climate action.

We heard that there was a climate leadership void in city governments, where individuals didn’t have access to the knowledge and support needed to maximise the potential of their roles. Leaders also struggled to find the time and space to take a more creative and human-centred approach.

We will be exploring these themes in our new ‘Leading Climate Action’ blog series, starting in March 2024. Register your interest to receive these blog updates, plus our latest research findings and climate leadership opportunities.

Register your interest

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