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Together with energy efficiency, clean energy technologies such as solar and wind are central to the fight against climate change. They are available today, getting better and cheaper all the time, and help improve air quality whilst creating new jobs. Photo©UN/Eskinder Debebe

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At the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, the UNFCCC's Momentum for Change initiative is celebrating 12 inspiring projects as winners of the 2014 Lighthouse Activity Awards. From new climate finance in Latin America to climate-friendly homes in Africa to automated flood detection systems in the Indian Himalayan foothills, they are all shining examples of climate solutions. 

This year’s winning activities include both large, game-changing solutions and small, entrepreneurial efforts. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said:

These activities are assisting communities, cities, businesses, governments and institutions to move towards a low-carbon, highly resilient future.

The 2014 Lighthouse Activities have been selected by a 25-member international advisory panel. Momentum for Change is implemented with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation, and operates in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative

Read on to learn about this year's winners.

Resolve: Trash2Cash

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Empowering communities to address climate change

More than 5,000 tonnes of solid waste is generated every day in the city of Kolkata, India. Dumping of this waste is polluting the groundwater and emitting large amounts of methane gas, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

The South Asian Forum for Environment’s Resolve: Trash2Cash initiative is an innovative solution to the city’s solid waste problem. It is an independent community enterprise led by people who live in slums and are trained and paid to collect and recycle corporate and household waste in urban areas. The waste is segregated at the source, diverting organic waste from the landfills to produce compost. Paper waste is recycled into marketable handicrafts in a workshop run by women.

Solar Power Company Group

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Leading a women-powered solar energy transformation

Thailand is on the verge of a solar energy transformation as private companies have committed to investing at least USD 2 billion over the next five years in solar power production. The woman leading the country down a cleaner path is Wandee Khunchornyakong, who runs Solar Power Company Group, the largest solar power generation company in Thailand.

Solar Power Company Group has unlocked private financing to construct a total of 36 solar photovoltaic farms in sunny, northeast Thailand, accounting for 250 MW of installed capacity by the end of 2014. This translates into potential savings of 200,000 tonnes of CO2-equivilent per year compared to Thailand’s fossil-fuel driven electricity generation.

Lighten the Energy Bill

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Saving energy through innovative financing

As a result of rising energy prices and the need to shift onto a more sustainable pathway, many companies, governments and institutions want to reduce their use of conventional energy while cutting costs at the same time.

Belgian-based EcoNation developed Lighten the Energy Bill to promote a unique financing mechanism that enables the installation and management of sustainable lighting systems, by absorbing the entire upfront investment and sharing the profits with the end user. Once the lighting system is installed, customers are charged monthly installments that are guaranteed to be lower than their original electric bill.

SmartSense

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Reducing energy consumption in real time

Industries and commercial buildings are primary power guzzlers in India and Malaysia, where 20% of industrial energy is wasted or mismanaged. Greenhouse gas emissions from rapidly increasing energy consumption in India and Malaysia are contributing to climate change. At the same time, more than 20% of industrial energy in those countries is wasted or mismanaged.

SmartSense is an ICT-enabled solution that is helping industrial and commercial energy consumers in India and Malaysia monitor, analyze and optimize their use of energy. The SmartSense device accesses data from the energy metre and sends it to a cloud server, allowing the user to access this data from any internet-enabled device. SmartSense was created by Ecolibrium Energy, an Ahmedabad-based private company.

Earth Roofs in the Sahel Program

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Improving lives by building climate friendly homes

Millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to decent and affordable housing. Deforestation has led to scarcity of timber and straw for traditional roof construction. Families spend what little money they have on imported and expensive timber and sheet metal to put a roof over their heads, further worsening the vicious circle of poverty in which they are trapped.

Through its Earth Roofs in the Sahel Program: A Roof + A Skill + A Market, the Association la Voûte Nubienne is addressing this problem with a traditional, very low-carbon building technique known as Nubian Vault. The organization supports the training of local builders, in order to create a sustainable and autonomous Nubian Vault market.

Ibu Inspirasi

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Empowering women with green jobs and clean technologies

Despite rapid modernization in recent decades, many Indonesians still rely on polluting and dangerous kerosene lamps and wood-fired cook stoves. Almost half of the population lives in rural areas, and two-thirds of this population lack access to electricity.

Kopernik’s Ibu Inspirasi initiative is bringing low-carbon technologies to women living in remote rural communities across an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands. The initiative works with local women’s groups to provide rural women with the skills and tools to become green technology agents and to sell small technologies that make a big difference. Since 2011, groups of women have sold more than 7,000 solar lanterns, water filters and fuel-efficient cook stoves in their own communities. This provides them with a source of income while replacing carbon-intensive technologies.

EcoMicro

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Unlocking resources for climate action

In spite of demonstrated need and demand throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, many micro, small, or medium-sized enterprises are not able to access funding for clean energy or energy efficiency technologies that could reduce energy costs and improve competitiveness. In addition, finance for adaptation activities is also scarce.

The introduction of microfinance in Latin America is a groundbreaking innovation because it enables these enterprises to access climate finance for the first time. EcoMicro is building the capacity of the region’s microfinance institutions so that they have the appropriate tools and know-how to develop and offer green financial products that help clients address climate change.

Community-Based Flood Early-Warning System 

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Protecting people from floods using ICT solutions

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region is one of the most dynamic and complex mountain systems in the world. It is also extremely fragile and sensitive to the effects of climate change. Climate change is gradually increasing the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events and natural hazards in the region.

To enhance the resilience of 45 vulnerable communities in the Indian Himalayan region to flood hazards, a collaboration encompassing ICIMOD, CICERO and Aranyak created the Community-Based Flood Early-Warning System. The information and communications technology (ICT) enabled system uses a flood sensor attached to the transmitter to detect rising water levels. When the water reaches a critical level, a signal is wirelessly transmitted to the receiver. The flood warning is then disseminated via mobile phones to appropriate agencies and vulnerable communities downstream. Critical flood levels are set with the help of local communities.

National Resettlement Plan

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Resettling families to adapt to climate change

In Uruguay, climate vulnerability from flood risks is one of the most important climate related impacts in the country. During the last decade, more than 67,000 people were evacuated from their homes in 60 cities across the country because of flooding.

The country’s National Resettlement Plan is relocating thousands of families out of flood-prone and polluted areas and into secure housing on secure land to help them adapt to the effects of climate change. The National Resettlement Plan focuses on resettling families that live in extreme poverty and do not have the necessary resources to find housing alternatives or secure land on their own. The USD 42 million resettlement plan also includes job training for family members and the reuse of former flood-risk residential land into other flood-compatible uses.

Building Storm-Resistant Houses

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Increasing people's resilience to climate change

The urban poor living in Da Nang City, Vietnam, are highly vulnerable to storms and floods because their homes are often poorly constructed and maintained, and families frequently struggle to recover from storm damage due to low income and rising costs.

In order to increase the urban poor’s resilience to the effects of climate change, the Women’s Union in Da Nang administers a revolving loan to make their homes resistant to storms. The Building Storm-resistant Houses initiative has helped hundreds of lower-income households rebuild and repair their houses.

A typhoon hit the region in 2013, proving that the renovated homes are in fact saving lives and preventing damage. All of the 245 houses covered under the project (except one under construction) withstood the effects of Typhoon Nari, which caused USD 4.8 million in housing damage to the city.

Bhungroo

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Building agricultural resilience by harvesting rainwater

Drought is a serious issue in the western Indian state of Gujarat, particularly for underprivileged female farmers whose livelihood depends on the monsoon. Limited rainfall in the state leads to water logging in peak cropping season. For the rest of the year, farmers experience severe water scarcity. But thanks to a life-changing technology, poor farmers are now converting crises into opportunities.

Bhungroo is a water management system that injects and stores excess rainfall underground and lifts it out for use in dry spells. Adoption of this technology has decreased salt deposits on soil and increased fresh water supply, saving farmers from drought.

Zurich Flood Resilience Program

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Enhancing flood resilience through insurance expertise

Floods affect more people globally than any other type of natural disaster and cause some of the largest economic, social and humanitarian losses.

The Zurich Flood Resilience Program is an innovative initiative that includes Zurich Insurance, Wharton Business School, International Institute of Applied System Analysis, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Practical Action to look at the role of financing pre-event mitigation measures in building resilience to floods in communities that need it the most. The program is developing early-warning systems and other measures in flood-prone areas of Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal and Peru, with direct benefits to 125,000 people.

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