In the race against the climate crisis, we can’t leave anyone behind.

27 January 2022

Climate change is a global emergency. But it doesn’t affect everyone equally. Ironically, those who have contributed least to the crisis are being hit the hardest.

In vulnerable communities in developing countries, climate change is no longer an abstract problem–people are already losing their homes, their livelihoods and their lives. The climate crisis is wreaking havoc across the world at a scale the humanitarian community and those on the frontlines cannot cope with, and time is running out for millions of the world’s most vulnerable.

World Humanitarian Day (WHD) 2021, commemorated on August 19, offered a key opportunity to focus on the climate emergency and turn a global spotlight on the plight of those facing the immediate consequences of the climate crisis on their doorstep.

Led by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the WHD Campaign was conceived with a single-minded goal: to pressure world leaders to take meaningful climate action for those who need it most. With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) held in November 2021, the campaign sought to build global support and solidarity to ensure the needs of the most climate-vulnerable communities were top of the agenda at COP26, and held World Leaders to their decade-old pledge of $100 billion annually for climate action in developing countries.

From June 2021, Rooftop partnered with UNOCHA in developing a large-scale multimedia campaign to draw support from all corners of the globe and build momentum towards achieving the goals for COP26 and beyond. Inspired by the words of United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, “The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race that we can win,” the campaign called on the global community to join #TheHumanRace–a title encapsulating the fact that we are all in this, the most important race of our lives, together. The key message of the campaign? In the race against the climate crisis, we can’t leave anyone behind.

At the core of the campaign, #TheHumanRace challenge asked people to give 100 minutes of activity for the $100 billion pledged annually for climate action, providing a concrete way to show solidarity on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable bearing the brunt of climate chaos. The challenge was hosted on STRAVA, the world’s leading exercise platform, allowing anyone with a fitness device or smartphone to log 100 minutes of any activity of their choice during the last two weeks of August 2021.

People who did not wish to take part physically could easily add their voice through an online petition hosted on the campaign microsite, with a prompt to spread the word on social media. The dedicated microsite also served as a media hub showcasing headline campaign video content and a ‘learn more’ space that allowed visitors to get up to speed on the campaign and its progress, as well as humanitarian issues surrounding the climate crisis.

Of course, a campaign of this nature would only achieve notable success with an effective multi-faceted strategy to spread the word, raise support and garner active participation.

Partnerships were paramount, and Rooftop and UNOCHA quickly set to work partnering with 30 key influencers including star athletes, celebrities and climate activists. The strategy achieved the rapid traction needed to build campaign momentum: the launch film, featuring elite athlete Fernanda Maciel and Nigerian youth climate activist Adenike Oladosu, was viewed 1.7M times, while Olympic and World Champion, Haile Geberselassie’s bespoke call to action film reached over 635K views.

At the same time, 15 videos produced by activists provided context and depth for the campaign by explaining the impact of the climate crisis in their countries. In addition, various people of influence and celebrities including Nicole Kidman, Edward Norton, Cody Simpson and Pope Francis helped broaden public reach by sharing campaign material and messaging among their networks.

Traditional WHD partners and supporters–from humanitarian organizations to UN celebrity ambassadors–were also activated to rally behind #TheHumanRace, with a partner toolkit and a sustained flow of key social media assets provided to promote participation and campaign messaging.

With momentum building, the campaign began spreading organically. Major humanitarian NGOs and organizations advancing climate action–including the Red Cross Movement, COP26, UNFCC, UNEP, and UN Climate Change–producing and sharing campaign content, backing the CTA and challenging their networks to join #TheHumanRace.

The combined result? From 16 to 31 August, 622,261 people from 183 countries signed up for #TheHumanRace, with 570, 782 completing the challenge. A total of 6,808,804 hours (or 777 years) of activity were logged, equating to an average of 12 hours (700% of the initial ask) per person. Over 100 billion metres were logged for $100 billion–a distance equal to a round trip to Mars. In addition, close to 50 000 people from 178 countries added their voices to the online petition.

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On the digital front, the campaign reached a potential 1.2 billion people through social media on World Humanitarian Day, with campaign video content reaching 3.7 million views on UNOCHA channels. #TheHumanRace was also picked up and covered by an estimated 180 global news outlets (excluding TV and radio coverage and other languages).

Speaking out, setting the example for solidarity and putting pressure on the leaders of climate change action was the crux of the campaign, but of course, we didn’t want it to end there. Both the microsite and the campaign wrap-up called on everyone to continue the race, and pointed them to practical ways to make a difference, whether individually or corporately–emphasising a final resonant message that every action, and every person, counts, no matter how small.

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Andrea Goosen

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