Join us in celebrating 10 years of Climate Week NYC
Amy Davidsen, US Executive Director, The Climate Group, reflects on the past decade of Climate Week NYC events ahead of its 10th year Anniversary – and explains why 2018 is more important than ever for leaders to come together and accelerate climate action.
This September 24-30, 2018, will mark the 10th Anniversary of Climate Week NYC. Since its launch by The Climate Group in 2009, Climate Week NYC has kept the spotlight on climate action as world leaders gather for the UN General Assembly. Over the last decade, Climate Week NYC has become a crucial moment in the annual international climate calendar, growing significantly in profile and influence. Each year we gather a diverse community of business, government, finance, civil society and thought leaders from around the world to showcase real climate action and solutions – and to provide the political support for national governments to take more ambitious action.
Over the years, I have witnessed Climate Week NYC grow from a time when many businesses and state and local governments had not fully grasped the risks and opportunities of climate change. Today, with the steady rise in warming temperatures, extreme weather events, and solutions that are both affordable and accessible, world-leading companies are actively leading and finding ways to future proof their businesses, reduce their energy use and source cleaner solutions to power their operations – and states and cities are doing the same.
New innovators have also proliferated, disrupting the status quo and upending business as usual in ways we could not fully appreciate just a few years ago. Yet despite this progress, and even after the huge success of the Paris Agreement, politics threaten to knock us off course. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done to bend the emissions curve to well below 2 degree Celsius – and the 10th Anniversary of Climate Week NYC this year will provide another key moment to accelerate the pace toward an under 2°C world.
While we know we have more work to do, we also need to take the time to recognize some of the most impactful moments of this annual Summit. While there are too many Climate Week NYC highlights to capture all, here are just a few that come to mind now – and we hope you will share your favorite moments with us too (more on that below).
A few years after our inaugural event, we anchored Climate Week NYC 2012 around the theme ‘An American Clean Revolution’ which was launched with an accompanying report. Much of it still rings true today: that America should lead on the clean energy revolution for reasons of competitiveness, growth, security, and to future proof our infrastructure. At the Opening Ceremony in 2012, inspiring voices from a broad cross section of society including the military, agriculture, faith and innovators such as Evan Williams the co-founder of Twitter, all came together to make the positive economic case for climate action. Little did we know that just a few weeks later, we’d be harshly reminded of the cost of climate inaction with the devastation of the East Coast of the US by Hurricane Sandy. This catastrophic context was a clarion call for change-makers, especially state governors, to act with greater urgency than ever before.
Another memorable moment was the 5th anniversary of Climate Week NYC in 2013, which we kicked off with a closing bell ceremony at NASDAQ with our founding partner, Swiss RE and their US CEO, Eric Smith, as well as Brigadier General Stephen Cheney of the American Security Project. While it was of course exciting to see our logo in lights over Times Square, what felt even more energizing was a tangible feeling of possibility. Tesla had gone public just three years earlier, and the clean energy transition was truly underway, with a rush of new innovators looking to solve the world’s most urgent problem with business and technology solutions.
Momentum continued to build with Climate Week NYC 2014. It is hard to forget this amazing year when Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the UN Climate Summit and joined us on stage at the Opening Ceremony with John Kerry, US Secretary of State, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC and many other leaders. We also collaboratively launched We Mean Business, a coalition of NGOs working with thousands of leading companies and investors to amplify a unified business voice for climate action. As part of this, we launched the RE100 campaign, which raised the bar on corporate ambition, as joining companies commit to 100% renewable electricity across their global operations before 2050. Now with over 125 global companies having made the commitment, the campaign has vastly increased demand for renewable energy sources, propelling the renewable energy market further and faster.
That year, Climate Week NYC was also an official partner to the United Nations Climate Summit, with a record 150 affiliate events in support of the Summit. It was a momentous year with over 400,000 concerned citizens from all walks of life taking to the streets of Manhattan in the People’s Climate March. Together, the Climate Week NYC community propelled climate change back to the top of the global agenda, convincing world leaders to make bold commitments 12 months before the all-important climate talks in Paris.
This momentum continued to Climate Week NYC 2015, when businesses and sub-national governments made a last rallying cry before the COP 21 climate talks in Paris. Excitement was buoyed further by the Pope’s climate-focused encyclical, Laudato Si, and his visit to New York City during Climate Week NYC. While his visit made navigating the streets of NYC doubly challenging to get from one affiliate event to another – visitors and cynical New Yorkers alike joyously jammed onto the sidewalks of 5th Avenue just for a glimpse of this new climate hero.
A final reminiscence from me comes from Climate Week NYC 2016. The Paris Agreement had been secured and ratified, and at the time we could firmly move on to implementation! It really was a year of celebration. As well as hearing from influential governments from around the world including Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta, and Philippe Couillard, Premier of Québec, another highlight was partnering with National Geographic on the “”yellow carpet” premiere and reception of Season 2 of Years of Living Dangerously at the American Museum of Natural History. The Hollywood stars and film talent came out in force including Gisele Bündchen, America Ferrera, Cecily Strong, Ian Somerhalder, Nikki Reed, Aasif Mandvi, Joshua Jackson, and Bradley Whitford, who delivered eye-opening accounts of the impacts and solutions of climate change worldwide. Later they joined business leaders, government partners and NGOs under the iconic Blue Whale for the afterparty.
Also of note was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s on stage comments before the screening: “Let's communicate to people that we all have to work together -– Democrats, Republicans, Independents, “Decline to State” -– everybody should work together […] It's not conservative versus Democrat. There is no conservative air. There is no liberal air. We all breathe the same air." His words remind us that continued collaboration around the globe is our best chance for achieving the Paris goal.
Now that we are halfway between the historic Paris Agreement on climate being signed in 2015 and countries reviewing their targets under the commitment in 2020, Climate Week NYC 2018 comes once again at a critical point in the global response to climate change. Never has there been a more opportune time for businesses, governments and others around the world to step up, accelerate their commitments and demonstrate their scale and impact.
The Climate Group remains as committed as ever to creating a space to showcasing and accelerating positive climate action and solutions, while supporting our network of business and government leaders in continuing collective action. We’re not stopping now. Only with the type of leadership that we have seen over the last decade of Climate Week NYC events, can we secure the future we all want – a clean, safe, healthy, prosperous planet for everyone.
Whether you will be on stage or in the audience at one of the 150 events that take place across NYC each year, or indeed following live from around the world on social media, please join us at Climate Week NYC 2018 to celebrate the past 10 years –- and help drive the next decade of real climate action.
Climate Week NYC 2018 is set to be bigger than ever before. To sponsor, partner, host an event, or find out how you can get involved, please contact us.
We also want to hear from YOU! This year we are celebrating 10 years of Climate Week NYC and we want to hear your personal stories! For a chance to be profiled to the international community, send us YOUR favorite memories and photos, to help us celebrate this internationally renowned event.
We look forward to you joining us at Climate Week NYC 2018!