This year saw the biggest Climate Week event on Earth to date; Climate Week NYC, encompassing the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit and a significant upsurge of youth-led climate activism.
Crucially, the week provided a global stage that inspired participation and action from businesses, governments and civil society. All eyes were truly on New York City, with the hashtag #ClimateWeekNYC trending in the city and garnering more than 807,000,000 impressions on social media across the month of September.
Hosting presidents, policymakers, business leaders and campaigners, Climate Week NYC 2019 brought together all those fighting to tackle climate change with the most ambitious and comprehensive program to date. Over 350 events took place across the city – more than doubling last year’s record – including more than 20 events hosted by The Climate Group, as well as bilateral meetings, networking sessions and interviews.
The Opening Ceremony, which took place ahead of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, set the tone for the challenges and opportunities ahead. The morning boasted a stellar speaker line up of world leaders, U.S. governors and global business chiefs, including; Carlos Alvarado Quesada, the President of the Republic of Costa Rica; Pedro Sanchez, the President of the Government of Spain; Mette Frederiksen, the Prime Minister of Denmark; Governor Newsom of California; Governor Inslee of Washington State; Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the OECD; John Kerry, the former U.S. Secretary of State; Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever and Isabelle Kocher, CEO of ENGIE Group.
The Hub this year continued to establish itself as a central platform for businesses, governments and the wider climate community to tackle the most pressing issues in the fight against climate change. Over 1,000 delegate attended various sessions across the two days, inspiring discussions and providing solutions, as well as facilitating new partnerships to extend action beyond Climate Week NYC.
In addition, more than 20 new business commitments were made on cleaner, smarter energy as part of our corporate leadership initiatives, meaning that almost 300 multinationals across every major sector are now committed to climate action. Overall these members represent US$5.5 trillion in combined revenue, with operations in more than 140 markets and comprising more than 16 million employees – almost double the workforce of New York State.
A particularly noteworthy announcement at the opening ceremony came from RE100 member, Unilever, on its remarkable progress towards the goal of becoming a carbon neutral company before 2030. The business revealed that its operations across five continents – including factories, offices, R&D facilities, data centers, warehouses and distribution centers – are now powered by 100% renewable grid electricity. While this is a hugely impressive achievement, what’s equally significant was an honest discussion about the challenges of accessing renewables at some of Unilever’s global sites. This is yet another example of how multinational companies can send a strong demand signal directly to markets where renewables are harder to source, helping to accelerate the transition to clean energy.
Off the main stage, hundreds of side events kept the city engaged with the global climate agenda, from film screenings and panel discussions to nature walks and theatre shows. For the first time, Climate Week NYC also proudly partnered with Global Citizen to host a Youth and Activism program to highlight the global leadership of young people and their influence on climate action, as well as providing an opportunity for them to host, attend and support events and activities taking place during the week.
Reflecting on the discussions, debates, commitments and actions that have come out of this year’s Climate Week NYC, it’s clear there is a shared vision across our powerful network of governments and businesses to shape the world for the better.
Next year’s Climate Week NYC will take place between September 21 – 27 2020, alongside the United Nations General Assembly, just weeks ahead of a significant U.S. election and a critical COP26 in the United Kingdom. Our work is cut out for us, but we know what needs to be done: we must halve global emissions in the next 10 years. So, it’s time to buckle up – the Climate Decade is coming.
By Suzanne DiBianca, Chief Impact Officer and EVP of Corporate Relations, Salesforce
“This is not a climate negotiation summit. You don’t negotiate with nature. This is a climate action summit,” proclaimed the United Nations Secretary-General in his opening speech at the UN Climate Action Summit.
This sentiment deeply resonated throughout the week as world leaders, CEOs, government officials, business leaders, global investors, and young entrepreneurs gathered in NYC for the United Nations General Assembly and Climate Week NYC 2019 to declare commitments to sustainability and climate action and call for climate optimism. The kind of optimism that turns righteous anger and impatience into action.
If we’re going to beat the worst consequences of a changing climate, we need to move from words to action and take a multi-stakeholder approach— businesses alongside government and nonprofit agencies have to work together.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have created a nonpartisan, non-political blueprint that allows all sectors to collaborate with each other in a focused way. At Salesforce, our global strategy is guided in large part by the SDGs and will help us create a positive impact on our communities and the planet.
BUSINESS AS A PLATFORM FOR CHANGE
Now more than ever, it is of vital importance for businesses to become climate advocates. We’re facing down irreparable harm to our planet, so we need all businesses to use not only their influence but also their core competencies and rapid innovation to create solutions that will tackle climate change.
At Salesforce, the environment is a key stakeholder. We are focused on creating a sustainable, low-carbon future as we drive towards our Step Up Declaration commitments, deliver a carbon-neutral cloud for all customers and aim to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2022 through The Climate Group’s RE100 initiative.
Last month, we launched Salesforce Sustainability Cloud—a new carbon accounting product for businesses to drive climate action that will accelerate the world’s efforts towards carbon neutrality. Our goal is to bring the full power of the Salesforce platform to create technology that drives positive impact, and propels forward the SDGs.
And while the pressure builds on all businesses to become more sustainable -- to adapt their supply chains to address carbon emission goals, manufacture with sustainable products or meet fair labor practices, technology innovations like blockchain and artificial intelligence can help power this work further and faster. Blockchain is a game-changer for transparency and responsibility in the supply chain, and AI can help companies address environmental issues more intelligently and act more quickly.
These technologies, along with all of our involvement, are part of the solution we need.
DRIVING CHANGE TOGETHER
We saw some powerful new ideas come from young entrepreneurs at the first ever UN Youth Climate Summit. Young leaders from around the world stood on stage to deliver remarkable technology innovations, such as offering an alternative to data centers with a new type of organic cloud that emits oxygen rather than CO2, and an app for farmers to prevent crop failures and achieve 3x higher grain production annually. These young people are driving a movement and giving us climate optimism. They are inspiring business leaders around the world to not just speak up and make commitments but to take real action. Action the planet will actually notice.
Nearly 1,000 companies globally have joined We Mean Business, a global nonprofit coalition working with the world’s most influential businesses to take action on climate change, and over 670 companies are taking science-based climate action. Businesses are also acting through The Climate Group’s RE100, EV100 and EP100 initiatives, with members including multinationals across every major sector, representing a combined revenue of US$5.5 trillion.
During Climate Week NYC, 87 major companies aligned to commit to set climate targets across their operations and value chains aligned with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and reaching net-zero emissions by no later than 2050.
This is just the beginning - we all have more to give, more to do and more to contribute.
CLIMATE ACTION TODAY
When we look back on this year, I am optimistic that we’ll recognize 2019 as the year that public perception of the climate crisis changed. The year we no longer talked about it as an abstraction that would manifest itself in another lifetime. It’s here now.
We must include climate action in every conversation, every business relationship-- and yes even every contract.
We all have a role to play, based on our unique skills, resources and core competencies -- I challenge you; what can you do with what you have in your toolbox to deliver impact that planet Earth might actually notice?
Let’s use today and every day hereafter to push further, faster, together for climate optimism.
The time is now. Join us.
We are thrilled to be this year’s Headline Sponsor at Climate Week NYC. As a pinnacle year in climate activism, we look forward to the future in seeing more companies act and increase climate optimism for all.
The Exelon Foundation and Exelon Corp., the nation’s largest generator of carbon-free energy and the only Fortune 100 electric and gas utility, recently launched a $20 million Climate Change Investment Initiative (2c2i) to fund startups working on new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.
The initiative was formally announced at The Climate Group’s “Building Futures” Climate Week NYC 2019 forum last month -- where attendees explored how smart technologies can cut the carbon footprint of buildings.
“Buildings generate about 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, so even small improvements in the energy efficiency of residential and commercial structures can make a big difference,” said Val Jensen, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Policy of Exelon Utilities, who delivered the keynote address at the “Building Futures” forum.
“Our Pepco electric utility in Washington, D.C., for example, just rolled out Smart Home kits for customers to remotely control their highest energy-consuming appliances,” said Jensen. “Similarly, our new Energy Savings for Business initiative helps businesses ‘re-tune’ buildings to correct operational and structural issues that waste energy, such as installing so-called ‘smart’ thermostats that adjust temperatures automatically based on occupancy levels.”
The new Climate Change Investment Initiative is Exelon’s latest effort to spur the ongoing transition to a clean, next-generation energy grid, utilizing the concept of “philanthropic-impact investing” to generate financial return and cut carbon emissions to stem climate change.
The Exelon Foundation will contribute $10 million over the next decade to fund the initiative, which will focus on clean-energy and environmental technologies with potential for wide-scale commercialization. Exelon Corp. will match that grant with up to $10 million in pro-bono services, including mentoring entrepreneurs on ways to access capital, structure business plans, allocate financial resources and meet regulatory requirements. The selected grant recipients also will be able to tap the company’s innovation programs – Exelorate Growth, Constellation Technology Ventures and Partnership R&D – for counsel.
“Exelon stands with the vast majority of our customers who want cleaner air and affordable, reliable energy,” said Chris Crane, Exelon CEO. “With recent advances in technology, these objectives are no longer mutually exclusive. The Exelon Foundation Climate Change Investment Initiative will put us a step closer to a clean-energy future by helping entrepreneurs translate their ideas for reversing climate change into practical solutions.”
Exelon will give special consideration to minority- and women-owned businesses, though encourages all applicants that meet the following criteria to apply:
Their technologies potentially benefit at least one of Exelon’s urban markets: Atlantic City, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., or Wilmington, Delaware. Their innovations must either mitigate greenhouse gas emissions; boost urban infrastructure resiliency; or help cities, businesses and communities adapt to climate change and reach specific sustainability and climate goals.
The 2c2i launch coincided with Exelon’s first day of trading on the Nasdaq stock market, home to many of the world’s leading innovative companies. Just as Exelon is committed to eliminating carbon emissions from power generation, Nasdaq is optimizing its facilities footprint to cut energy use and preserve resources. Nasdaq’s MarketSite in Times Square, for example, became carbon neutral in 2018, offsetting the power it uses with wind power credits.
The new Climate Change Investment Initiative comes as hundreds of state, municipal and local entities are working to cut carbon emissions, boost infrastructure resiliency and better adapt to climate change by improving the energy efficiency of buildings, electrifying the transportation sector and expanding renewable energy penetration, among other actions.
Many markets in Exelon’s service territory are setting ambitious clean energy goals. Illinois, for example, wants 25 percent of its energy needs to come from renewable sources by 2025, while Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia are aiming for 100 percent renewable energy by 2032 and 2035, respectively. Reaching these goals will create more opportunities for entrepreneurs to bring new technologies to market.
Exelon serves the largest number of electricity and natural gas customers in the U.S, with 10 million customers in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
A Gold Sponsor for this year’s Climate Week NYC, we were pleased to have Exelon join us for the Building Futures event and to have their Senior Vice President, Strategy and Policy, Val Jensen as the Keynote Speaker, who highlighted the importance of innovation in the industry to catalyze action.
Exelon expects to announce its first funded class of entrepreneurs after the first of the year. For more information visit www.exelonfoundation.com.