The world was watching President Trump on September 19 as he gave his first speech before the United Nations General Assembly in New York, reaffirming an “America First” policy. The previous day, his chief economic advisor confirmed that the US wants to pull out of the Paris climate agreement –after calling a breakfast meeting many hoped meant otherwise.
But elsewhere, in venues and neighborhoods all over the city, thousands of leaders from all from all over the nation and the globe–state and local governments, corporations and small businesses, major nonprofits and groups of ordinary citizens—had been mobilizing, holding their own panel discussions, networking events, and creative collaborations.
Harnessing an “Unstoppable Force”
These and many other events were part of the ninth annual Climate Week NYC, which kicked off at the Morgan Library and Museum (below, right) September 18 in an effort to double down and speed up non-governmental efforts on behalf of a safe climate and a sustainable, clean-energy economy. Co-sponsored by 15 corporations including Bank of America, Mars, and Estee Lauder, Climate Week NYC also offers numerous “affiliate” events hosted by everyone from universities to filmmakers.
The convocation will run through September 24, but organizers hope it will reverberate far beyond. As Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group put it, “We are highlighting the unstoppable force of action from business and government in tackling climate change, and how this can drive innovation, jobs and prosperity for all …so that we can keep global warming well below 2°C.”
Why It Matters
Climate Week was established in 2009 by the nonprofit Climate Group, which focuses on collaborative programs that “deliver impact on a global scale.” The group focuses on making the economic case for climate action to motivate sectors with the power to make a difference. It intentionally coincides with the UN General Assembly and the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Climate Impact Summit, currently working to advance the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It is the first major confab of climate leaders since the United States announced it will pull out of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Meighen Speiser, ecoAmerica’s Chief Engagement Officer, believes this year’s Climate Week is an expression of the public support for climate action, no matter what. “It’s a signal that influential people are extending an olive branch to the US to help us lead with or without White House,” she said. “The people have spoken, and they are telling world leaders they need to focus on climate change.” ecoAmerica President Robert Perkowitz is currently attending Climate Week, and observed, “Americans across society are taking up the mantle of climate action, and it’s quite evident at Climate Week. This year there are many more events, and all have greater attendance than usual. And people are not just talking, they’re finding ways to act.”
An Event Sampler
Some of the highlights include high-level meetings, including the premier “C40 Talk” featuring California Governor Jerry Brown, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, and others. C40 is a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change.
However, hundreds of events/sessions are scheduled at venues all over the city. They cover themes including Climate Policy, Education and Engagement, Energy, Investment and Grants, Land Use, Oceans, Sustainable Development Goals, Technology and Innovation, The Climate Group, Transport, and Water.
Many Climate Week sessions have a business and management focus, such as Climate Neutrality at the Board Level: Why Now and How? (Sept 20; hosted by Climate Club). Some, like the Lower East Ride (Sept 20, hosted by GreenMap) mix fun with education. Common areas and a media hub have been set up for people to meet potential collaborators and create climate-related content.
The complete list is here.
Climate Week has already launched several major new initiatives, with more expected:
The EV100 Coalition. Ten major corporations including Ikea, California utility PG&E, and shipper DHL are sending a signal to the auto industry. They have pledged to transition away from using gasoline and diesel fuel in their business fleets. (Transportation is of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions). The companies will move to all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles and/or build EV charging infrastructure.
Climate Optimist. Sustainability campaign consultants Futerra and The Climate Group kicked off a public campaign to focus on society’s ability to address climate change. The partners also released a new survey of adults aged 16-64 in 26 countries, which found that “a majority of people globally are optimistic about our ability to address climate change, with 64% of global citizens believing we can address climate change if we take action now.”
How to Participate
Climate Week NYC will run through Sunday, September 24. If you are in the area it may be possible to attend events (you’ll need to request an invitation for some).
You can also follow along remotely on the web and social media. The best way to track Climate Week, UNGA, WEF and their outcomes is to follow their official Twitter accounts: @ClimateGroup; @ClimateWeekNYC; @UNDGACM_EN; and @wef. Or look for the hashtag #CWNYC for a participants’-eye view.
*Photos courtesy of The Climate Group. This blog was recently updated.
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