For the past 9 years in late September, while the UN General Assembly is in session, NYC Climate Week (organized by The Climate Group) has emerged as one of the key summits in the international climate series conferences. Climate Week has become one of the most crucial drivers of climate action with initiatives like RE100 and EV100, along with a host of other highly impactful programs designed to get more companies to take a stand in reducing their environmental impacts in a way that is in line with a 1.5-2.0 C future.
This year, Carbon Credit Capital was particularly active in attending Climate Week programming. The Management Team attended north of 10 events around the city. Here we throw some questions out regarding this year’s key takeaways.
1. How many events did you attend during the Climate Week NYC?
Olivia Fussell, Carbon Credit Capital’s President & Managing Director
2. What do you think of this year’s Climate Week NYC? Any highlights?
Most impressed with the quality and the sheer organization and logistics involved in gathering such a large number of important participants from environmental ministers, to US city mayors, to experts and companies.
There seems to be a mixed bag of very valuable information and, yet at the same time, a lot of events till haven’t cleared the hurdle of “how do we provide opportunities for all in attendance to enact these changes, or to proactively and practically use this knowledge?” Here’s a perfect example: at the International Conference on Sustainable Development (a very important topic – how do we ensure Least Developed Countries and Developing Countries don’t fall into the same industrial consumption and waste patterns the developed West has while still promising improvements to quality of life?) there were some great discussions about education, about women’s empowerment, about self empowerment in general. Very little in the programming about: how do you, the one person in the audience, contribute to what’s being said here? Sadly, ICSD featured those already in high places talking about the work they do. It’s inaccessible. It’s great that this work is happening, but I feel the event could have been more powerful if it was geared towards empowering those in the audience to follow suit. We need accessible information, that can be easily translated into action. With these lecture formats I worry that people might be left thinking, “I don’t need to do anything because IFC has a couple great initiatives.”
On the flip-side – the event on internal carbon pricing was highly informative, and immediately actionable. The content was built around how do you establish a scientific baseline and begin to put an economic incentive in place to reduce carbon emissions in your operations and supply chains – literally a rubric for how to make managerial economic decisions in business. Extremely practical There were, however, less than 20 people in that room. At ICSD there were probably close to 1,000. That seems backwards to me. There were probably 8-10 companies who walked away from that session with a great handbook to drive forward on carbon pricing – it should have been 80-100 – or 800 – 1,000, I’d like to see these types of events get more coverage, and be held in spaces that can accommodate a full audience in the future.
Other highlights, and things to which people should be paying attention are the Science Based Targets Initiative, and the NYC Alliance to get the City’s emissions down 80% by 2050 – a tall task, but something they are building coalitions locally and city-wide in order to make it a reality. There wasn’t much actionable takeaway from that event either, but at least they’re inviting the whole community (not just business and policy makers – citizens, the people who will be building this into their lives daily) and giving us a chance to contribute to the programming and the action.
I have an impression that this year’s Climate Week stressed on how to use financial mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions. Recent year’s increasing emphasis on this subject is highly relevant to the formation and development of the Paris Agreement. The Article 6’s market mechanism approach really opens more possibilities for utilizing the financial and market instruments to tackle carbon mitigation, which is a great trend for the private sector’s engagement.
3. What event impressed you the most during the Climate Week NYC? Why?
How Mayors and Businesses are working together, which included the participation of the mayors of Santa Fe, Salt Lake City and Des Moines. Daniel Zarrili, the Senior Director of Climate Policy and Programs represented NYC. It was exciting that so much concrete action is happening that include private public partnerships in transport, renewable energy and community planning to improve education and smart decisions for the cities involved.
The sheer number of people who are coming out for these events. This is truly the week to make connections and take action in the sustainability space. There are other great summits out there, but none as all encompassing as Climate Week; others will be on supply chain justice, or emissions, or material inputs, or efficiency, etc. Climate Week rolls it all into one (albeit, perhaps a little too jampacked) week long “conference.” The fact that you’re getting likely 10’s of thousands of people, students, professionals, regular residents of NYC, government officials, heads of State, business and thought leaders all in one place at one time for one purpose – that’s powerful. Now… if only we could make it a little more accessible so the wave created from this week every year is truly disruptive as opposed to simply hopeful and happily reflective.
All events I attended impressed me from different aspects. I would like to share some impressive take-aways here instead: firstly, I noticed more female attendees showed up than before. In one of the events I went to, roughly around 65% of audience are women. Relatively speaking, females generally show more concern for environmental issues, according to scientific surveys. Therefore, as a female professional in this field, I am glad that we turn this advantaged mindset into actual actions. Secondly, investors have generated more and more interest and requests on understanding a company’s environmental and social impact as well as risk, and carbon risk is one of the major indicators that investors are now looking for. Thirdly, pricing carbon emissions will be something that we can expect to happen within 3-4 years.
4. How CCC is relevant to the Climate Week NYC in your opinions?
As a company, we are out there working every day on innovative ways for companies, airports, cities and communities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. We are making good headway as more and more entities recognize that taking action is the smart way to go.
As relevant as any other company or topic can possibly be in my opinion. We had to check our egos a little bit with things like the fact that offsets cannot be considered in fulfilling SBTs (science based targets), but the fact remains: emissions have to be zero, or very close to it in less than 35 years – globally. Either way you cut this cake: offsets are going to be necessary. Gold Standard and CDP, as well as VCS (all players players who guide development in the offset space) are working hard to make offsets more tangible, more well rooted in physical value, and to realistically quantify financial, societal, and climate benefits through offset projects, with the goal of making them a more viable investment for business. The more we can help to drive this conversation, and show that offsets do in fact produce material financial benefits to companies, the more we will be especially relevant.
CCC’s services are highly relevant to climate change and carbon mitigation. This year’s events cover most of CCC’s business focuses and provide opportunities for us to network and interact with other professionals in this field.
5. Any topics that you would want to be added to the Climate Week next year?
It would be good to add a few sessions on the impact of flooding and extreme weather events, such as hurricanes as so many cities, communities and states are experiencing unprecedented negative impact affecting millions of people.
I am hoping we can come to an agreement with Climate Group to begin calculating and offsetting the 140+ official Affiliate events that go on throughout the city. Climate Group offsets their programming. Great start, but they only have 5-10 events. That’s only 3-7% of the total where emissions are being recorded and managed. For a week long conference focused on reliable bench-marking, carbon pricing, selecting low carbon options, and actually doing something about it – it would be nice to see offsetting permeate throughout all programming.
Additionally, I’d love to see a much more targeted focus on ensuring that the content in every single event is created to show how those in attendance can take note and replicate the results. We cannot depend on policy, governments and business to do it all, they don’t touch our daily lives in the way we do. That sounds almost too simple, but it’s true, those other entities may have impacts on us day to day in terms of what we buy, but it’s up to us to determine how we consume our purchases and resources. So many people want to have a better impact. We need to show them exactly how it can work. There are more options out there to make a difference than people know how to engage with. Give us a toolkit of interchangeable initiatives, actions and best practices. Give people a robust wardrobe of these things so they can mix and match and figure out which will be best for them and best for the planet. It’s not rocket science, it’s just better planning and more targeted deliveries. One big point I would like to suggest to the “leaders” in this space (and I know it may not be logistically feasible, but one can dream) – it’s nice that there have been good ideas that have produced successful results. Great, but please, share it in a way where we can replicate that success, don’t charge $1,400 a ticket to even get eyes on it. How can we expect these conferences to be transformative, when only a handful of people can get access to a solution that could be wildly impactful?
I would say that the Climate Week needs to have some events that truly engage with the small and medium-sized enterprises. Let them also make their voice and be part of the talk. Maybe CCC can hold an event dedicated for this group next year.