This weekend the winner of the 2015 Sustainia Award was announced at COP21, in the form of the redesign of Indian city, Chennai.

The solution – boasting far-reaching health and environmental benefits – was designed to reduce mounting air pollution and traffic casualties in the area. It is reported that there are more than 10,000 traffic crashes in Chennai every year.

The World Health Organisation warns that urban outdoor air pollution is responsible for 1.3 million premature deaths worldwide per year – this figure is huge and proves that the redesign of Chennai can’t come soon enough. So far, 26 streets now have wide and continuous footpaths, and work on the next 60 streets has commenced. On the streets that have already undergone redesign, there have been no road crash fatalities to date.

Image from Sustainia

"Cities generate the lion’s share of greenhouse gases, but the Sustainia Award Winner from Chennai reminds us that cities also have the agility and power to act quickly and create solutions that benefit their citizens and the planet. I love these kinds of solutions, because they inspire other cities to take action and not wait for their national governments to do it for them," commented Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Governor of California and chair of Sustainia Award.

The Chennai Street Design is a brilliant example of a city taking the lead on bridging the gap between sustainability and health, bringing us one step closer to winning the battle against climate change.

But Chennai Street Design wasn’t the only winner of the weekend, with social enterprise Plastic Bank, stealing the Sustainia Community Award 2015. Voted for by members of the online Sustainia community, Plastic Bank is working to empower communities in Haiti and Peru by inviting them to collect waste and bring to a Plastic Bank facility where it is then repurposed and recycled. 

Image from Sustainia

"The UN Climate Change Conference in Paris is a turning point toward a better future. Meeting the climate change challenge means innovation, new economic models and sustainable growth for the century. The innovations identified and communicated by Sustainia illustrate that new, sustainable business models already exist and that action is happening. This year’s winner is no exception – it is leading the way on sustainable urban development by focusing on investment in the nexus of public health, social mobility and low-emission transportation," explained Christiana Figueres, Executive Director of UNFCCC.

We are filled with hope for what 2016 brings. With an emphasis on political action and global emission targets, it’s clear we need as many of these innovative sustainability solutions changing the way we live and work as possible and we can’t to read about the next 100 solutions.

Congratulations to both deserving winners!