CHOICE Physical Meetup in Athens, Greece

In a significant step forward, the CHOICE consortium met in person during the project’s physical Kickoff meeting in Athens, Greece, on January 29 and 30, 2024. This pivotal gathering, successfully organised by the project coordinator, the Institute of Communication and Computer Systems (ICCS), brought together approximately 40 partner representatives from five European Countries, Colombia and South Africa.

Building upon the strong momentum generated by our virtual Kickoff meeting, back in November 2023, the physical meetup in Athens facilitated the efficient exchange of valuable knowledge and insights, marking the commencement of a three-year collaboration dedicated to driving climate-conscious change within the Agriculture, Food and Land Use sectors.

The first day of the project’s Kickoff Meeting began with a warm welcome from the project coordinator, Dr Angelos Amditis of ICCS, who outlined CHOICE’s bold mission to mainstream mitigation pathways for climate-conscious change in the food chain. Following his opening speech, Nick Tantaroudas, project manager and Marilena Xarcha, financial manager from the ICCS coordination team took over. They delved into the meticulous management, administrative, and quality processes established early to align partners’ work with project expected achievements, European Commission’s regulations and the available budget.

After aligning with the project’s financial and administrative issues, it was the turn of Prof. Phoebe Koundouri and Conrad Landis from Athena Research Center to present CHOICE’s efforts in modelling and promoting behaviour change around food, aligning with IPCC Goals for climate stabilisation. The work includes stakeholder mapping, behaviour change modeling, and engagement campaign design. In addition, Yannis Kopsinis from LIBRA AI Technologies explained the use of Randomized Control Experiments in the five pilot sites of the project planned to optimise the design and effectiveness of CHOICE engagement and awareness campaigns.

The first day of the Kickoff meeting concluded with dedicated presentations on Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) related tasks and work foreseen within CHOICE. Specifically, Stefan Frank from IIASA and Sibel Eker from Radboud University (RU) guided participants through CHOICE’s plans to enhance climate policy models for efficient demand-side mitigation. The project approach involves improved representation of actor heterogeneity in IAMs, modelling global behavioural changes, assessing synergies and trade-offs with UN Sustainable Development Goals, and increasing their outreach to citizens, communities and industrial actors in the Food, Agriculture and Land Use sectors.

On the second day of the CHOICE Kickoff Meeting, proceedings commenced with a session centred around the project’s immersive enablers. Yannis Kopsinis from LIBRA AI technologies, Ilias Karachalios from ICCS, Olivia Wester from Inoqo and Jan Steinhauser from IIASA dived into the design of CHOICE digital tools, namely, the eco-labeling app and the “shrink your food waste” app, engaging data storytelling experiences and CHOICE online mini-game. These enablers will be widely used within the CHOICE duration to facilitate the project engagement and “green marketing” campaigns across four continents, while consistently informing global IAMs. Later this day a workshop was conducted to provide partners with insights into these digital enablers’ design and purpose and participants had the opportunity to understand in depth their features and specific role in achieving CHOICE goals.

Following these presentations the discussion revolved around CHOICE’s impact assessment activities. Aline Mosnier from SDSN and Stefan Frank from IIASA explained the respective activities, emphasizing the connections between CHOICE climate pathways and biodiversity, water, health, and other Sustainable Development goals. 

The meeting also featured two workshops dedicated to the CHOICE IAM models. CHOICE experts in climate policy models, Stefan Frank (IASA), Sibel Eker (RU), Clara Douzal and Aline Mosnier (SDSN) went over the FeliX Integrated Assessment Model, the Global Biosphere Management Model (GLOBIOM) and the FABLE Calculator model clarifying their role in the climate science-policy interface and their contributions in the CHOICE project.

Next on the agenda was the CHOICE large-scale pilot activities. Nick Tantaroudas and Ilias Karachalios from ICCS thoroughly discussed the CHOICE pilots’ demonstration planning and activities that will be taking place in Spain, Greece, Austria, Colombia, and South Africa. Each site promotes the adaption of specific food-related choices inciting stakeholders towards a 1,5Cº-compatible consumption and production. 

The meeting concluded with presentations on CHOICE’s dissemination, communication, and exploitation activities. Under the motto:  “Our message matters, and so does how we share it!” Jovana Bondžić from InoSens, Orestis Speyer from the National Observatory of Athens, and Evi Brousta from LIBRA discussed the strategic plans and methods already developed to spread project messages and maximise impact. At the same time, all partners’ crucial roles have been highlighted in meeting the impact creation goals.

Overall, the physical kickoff meeting in Athens was a crucial milestone in CHOICE’s journey, fostering collaboration, exchanging knowledge, and drafting a roadmap for success.