Aspen nonprofit aims to take its game to new level at global climate conference in Scotland

COP26 will draw leaders, activists, climate scientists from around the world

Jacquelyn Francis, executive director and founder of Global Warming Mitigation Project, speaks at a July ceremony naming the winners of the organization’s Keeling Curve Prize. GWMP awards $250,000 annually to innovators in the battle against climate change.
Contributed photo

An Aspen-based nonprofit that has awarded $1 million in four years to fight global warming will attend an international climate conference next month to boost its efforts and shine a light on innovators in the climate battle.

Jacquelyn Francis, executive director and founder of the Global Warming Mitigation Program, will attend the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, known as COP26, in Glasgow Nov. 1-12.

The conference will draw world leaders, activists and climate scientists focused on slowing the pace of global warming.

“What I would like to accomplish in Glasgow is to not only elevate the work that we’re doing but also use that platform to expedite others’ urgency in this area and highlight that solutions are popping up all over the world,” Francis said this week in phone interview from Scotland. “We just need speed and scale to make the energy transition that’s necessary for tackling climate change.”

Global Warming Mitigation Project has for the last four years awarded $250,000 annually to 10 individuals or entities that are making a difference in absorbing or preventing greenhouse gases. It awards the funds through its Keeling Curve Prize. The nomination process for the fifth round of awards opens in November.

Francis said GWMP has been approved to hold two news conferences at the climate conference, which will attract a large international crowd. It will use the forum to highlight the innovators who have received the Keeling Curve Prize and what they do to reduce climate change.

“People are desperate to know what they can do,” she said.

“We are not going to be able survive a world that is 2 degrees Celsius warmer than it is now.” — Jacquelyn Francis, Global Warming Mitigation Project

Emily Graves, the social media and content manager for GWMP, said the news conferences will show how funds can be put to good use in the climate change fight.

“Our organization is answering the question of ‘What can I do?'” Graves said. “We’re not just talking about things. You can really see the impact.”

Through exposure and networking, Francis is hoping to attract more financial support so that the Keeling Curve Prize can award a larger financial purse and provide regional prizes.

“We’re ready to grow as an organization and be more visible and more effective at what we do,” Francis said.

One of her goals is to provide social justice and equity in the climate change fight.

“A lot of people who are suffering the most (from climate change) are ones that didn’t really cause the problem and didn’t contribute to it in any way, shape or form,” she said.

Francis moved to Aspen with her family at a young age and attended the public school system. She recalls taking an interest in climate change while in middle school when her seventh grade science teacher raised the greenhouse gas effect that at the time wasn’t high on global awareness.

“I remember sitting in his science class daydreaming or passing notes to the boy across the room or something silly like that and all of a sudden stopping and listening to what he was saying and thinking that sounds like something really important,” she said.

Fast forward to her post-undergraduate days. She returned to college to get her master’s degree in energy policy and climate science. It inspired her to work to battle climate change and led to the formation of the Global Warming Mitigation Project. The Keeling Curve Prize, named for a graph of the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere, became a tool to assist people working on innovative ways to slow global warming and draw attention to their work.

“Our whole goal is to activate, elevate solutions to removing greenhouse gases throughout the world,” Francis said. “We’re a young organization and we’re looking to scale up.”

She believes COP26 is important because it brings people around the world together — exactly what is needed to make a different on climate change. Climate scientists and activists can be the leaders that show elected officials what actions are necessary, she said. Global Warming Mitigation Project received passes for nine delegates, staff and supporters, at the two-week conference.

Francis said she is a climate scientist rather than an activist. That shapes her view on efforts to prevent catastrophic global warming.

“I consider myself a realist,” she said. “We don’t have a choice. This is something we have to face head on. There isn’t an alternative route.”

She believes more and more people understand the consequences of global warming every day. However, there is still an “education gap.” For example, slowing global warming won’t necessarily mean huge alterations of individuals’ lifestyles.

“As long as big players and the companies that have huge carbon footprints start making the changes that are necessary, then this isn’t going to necessarily affect people as much as they think it might,” Francis said. “They have to let go of this idea that this is going to be so terrible. The future of not tackling climate change is terrible. It’s not a choice. We have to take this step. We are not going to be able survive a world that is 2 degrees Celsius warmer than it is now. It’s not a choice. We have to stop letting people think it is.”