‘Patricia Espinosa is amazing. She is a great ally for me,’ Brazilian bicycle activist Aline Cavalcante said after meeting with the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). We spoke with Aline when she stopped over in Amsterdam on her way back from the meeting in Bonn.

After Aline Cavalcante had delivered her impressive and moving talk at WDCD Live Amsterdam last May, the former mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard, invited her on stage to present her case to the World Mayors Council on Climate Change in Bonn. From this evolved the meeting with Espinosa, Mexico’s former ambassador to Germany, who now oversees the execution of the Paris Agreement on climate change as head of the UNFCCC, also located in Bonn.

Brazilian journalist Cavalcante turned into an advocate for active mobility (i.e. human powered mobility) when she realized how little space is available for pedestrians and cyclists in a city like São Paulo. The overall dominance of the car not only harms the environment but also people’s health and social structures in the city, where people lack opportunity to meet each other in the streets.

Short but important

With support from Ebrard’s Movimiento Progresista Asociacion Civil and What Design Can Do, Cavalcante last week travelled to Germany to meet with Espinosa. ‘It was a short, 30-minutes meeting, but a very important one for me,’ Cavalcante said. ‘Espinosa is amazing, she has this strong, energetic Latin-American spirit. We connected immediately. In turn, she told me she was impressed to hear that we have such a strong movement around the topic of active mobility in Brazil. And she welcomed the manifesto I presented her, because, she said, active mobility is more of a subliminal issue that people may have heard of, but is not a clear topic in policy making. She promised she will spread the manifesto among the signatories of the Paris agreement.’

Faster and simpler

In the manifesto some twenty organizations and activist groups plea for active mobility being included in national plans for climate change. It reads: ‘Active mobility is a relevant, pacifist, human and zero-emission ally in the fight against global warming and also modern diseases such as obesity, stress and respiratory issues. In major urban cities where walking and cycling are recognized as official means of transportation, they can account for 20 to 60 percent of the daily trips. In the transport sector, it is also a faster and simpler way to achieve immediate and great results for our societies.’

Paris mayor

Espinosa also offered Cavalcante to bring her into contact with the Paris mayor’s office to discuss the city of Paris’s ambitious sustainable mobility policy (citizens who give up their car can opt for a €400 reimbursement for a public transport card or the purchase of a bicycle). ‘This is very important for me too,’ says Cavalcante. ‘We are experiencing a pretty bad time in São Paulo right now where the new rightist mayor is turning back all kinds of measures that we have been fighting for over the past years. International contacts may strengthen our credibility.’


Finally, Espinosa offered to connect the manifesto-signatories with the United Nations Environment agency (UNEP), which is another entry to the international stage. In other words, What Design Can Do Live has been instrumental in opening doors for Aline Cavalcante, who stressed this fact by wearing her WDCD t-shirt to the meeting with Espinosa. We’re happy to have been of help for such a good and important cause.

Pedal on, Aline!

Top image: Aline Cavalcante (in WDCD t-shirt) hands over the manifesto to Patricia Espinosa


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