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Climate Week NYC

Climate Week NYC: relentless determination

26th September 2023 7 min read

That’s a wrap for this year’s Climate Week NYC, run by Climate Group in partnership with the UN General Assembly and the City of New York – and what a week it was. By far the biggest ever with almost 600 events across the week, and an atmosphere of relentless determination throughout the Opening Ceremony, The Hub Live and the events that were held across the five boroughs of New York.

Climate Week NYC took place against a backdrop of the increasing impacts of the climate crisis being felt around the world through extreme heat, wildfires and devastating flooding, and vested interests continuing to slow down climate progress. While we have seen a significant leap forward in the past year, we know that the speed and scale of change needed isn’t happening. Just the week after Climate Week NYC happened, the International Energy Agency (IEA) came out with an update on its Net Zero Roadmap: we need to triple our renewables and double our energy efficiency to reduce fossil fuel use by two thirds for 2035. 

So no, we’re not there yet. Despite all this, the sense of optimism and relentless determination in the face of this challenge was encapsulated by this year’s theme We Can. We Will. We came away with new ideas, connections and energized to keep pushing for climate action. So, let’s quickly run through some of the highlights, major announcements, and impressive speaker moments. 

Helen Clarkson CWNYC 2023
Helen Clarkson, CEO at Climate Group, in the Opening Ceremony for Climate Week NYC 2023

Major announcements 

From announcements by leading politicians to new research reports, this year’s Climate Week NYC boasted numerous examples of companies, governments and non-profit organizations committing to drive climate action.

  • Governor Gavin Newsom used his platform at the Opening Ceremony to announce that California is suing major fossil fuel companies in a landmark lawsuit ‘Hold Big Oil Accountable’. He also announced he’ll sign a bill that will compel major companies to disclose their emissions. 
  • Over 250 major companies and non-profit organizations, including Climate Group, urged world leaders to commit to tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030 ahead of COP28 in Dubai. 
  • The State of Maryland became the latest member of the Under2 Coalition of subnational governments committed to accelerating climate action. 
  • Scotland First Minister Humza Yousaf announced new funding for countries worst impacted by the climate crisis. 
  • On the eve of Climate Week NYC, L’Oreal Groupe announced an endowment fund of €15 million to support communities faced with greatest disaster risk. 
  • COP28 President-Designate Sultan Al Jaber and UN Special Envoy Michael Bloomberg used the focus on climate action during Climate Week NYC to announce the first COP-hosted ‘Local Climate Action Summit’
  • The We Mean Business Coalition launched a new campaign to urge businesses to lead action on fossil fuel phase-out.
  • A new report by Climate Action Against Disinformation Coalition accused ‘big tech’ of dragging its feet on tackling climate misinformation.
  • Volvo pledged to end all diesel production by early 2024, as it set out plans to become an all-electric automaker.   
  • A new initiative by global health group Americares, supported by Climate Week NYC sponsor Johnson & Johnson, was launched to help boost climate resilience of health clinics to protect the most vulnerable patients.
  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ’s weakening of net zero policy during Climate Week NYC was slammed by Climate Group CEO Helen Clarkson and Chris Skidmore MP.
  • US offshore wind goals are still achievable despite challenges, emphasized the CEO of Orsted at Climate Week NYC.
  • Climate Group and Oliver Wyman launched a new report Climate Action at Scale looking at how companies can move from just reducing emissions, to building a business to thrive in a decarbonizing world.

For more about our announcements, visit our media portal.

Wes Moore Governor of Maryland
Wes Moore, Governor of Maryland, speech during Climate Week NYC

Opening Ceremony

For this year’s Opening Ceremony on Sunday September 17, we welcomed high profile climate leaders from government, business, and civil society. 

  • “The responsibility rests squarely with all of us – there's safety and power in numbers. It’s no longer a few visionaries – it's all of us, and We Can. We Will.” – Helen Clarkson, Climate Group CEO, said at the Opening Ceremony. She set the scene for this year’s Climate Week NYC with an inspiring and optimistic speech on the theme We Can. We Will. She argued that despite some big wins of the past 12 months, we’re still not reducing emissions fast enough. Read the full speech here
  • “This climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis”. Governor of California, Gavin Newsom spoke about why California is committed to showing climate leadership and suing oil and gas companies for deceiving the public ‘for decades’ about the consequences of burning fossil fuels.  
  • “Biodiversity loss and climate change are not two sides of the same coin - they are the same coin”Razan Al Mubarak, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, spoke about why it’s so important that we integrate the two agendas of nature, and climate and embrace nature solutions to address the climate crisis.  
  • Speaking about how collaboration between businesses and organizations can drive positive, effective climate policy, Bob Moritz, Global Chair of PwC, told the Opening Ceremony audience: “It includes not only what the company can do, but what the company will do with its ecosystem…that’s where the power and the scalability really starts to come to life”. 
  • “Avoiding climate catastrophe is the work of our lifetimes”, Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, co-founder of the Urban Ocean Lab, told our Opening Ceremony audience about the importance of thinking about the big picture.  
  • It’s a simple message, it’s about action, it’s about doing. We know what needs to be done.” - Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC spoke at the Opening Ceremony about why it’s time for businesses and governments to turn words into action.

Watch the Opening Ceremony

Climate Week NYC
Panel 'If we delay we all lose' In Conversation with Nancy Mahon, Katharine Hayhoe, and H.E. Razan Al Mubarak, Moderator: Carl Nasman

The Hub Live

The Opening Ceremony was followed with two days of The Hub Live (September 18-19), with roundtables, panel discussions and networking opportunities, bringing together key leaders from politics, business, and civil society. The four themes of The Hub Live were:

  • The New Industrial Revolution 
    The revolutionary changes underway to deliver net zero industry and construction.
  • The Energy and Transport Transition 
    Accelerating zero-emission, smarter energy, and transport systems, removing the roadblocks.
  • Nature, Food Systems and Health 
    Achieving a just transition in agriculture and nature, engaging food supply chains, and enhancing environmental health.
  • Financing the Green Economy 
    Driving growth in investment that’s equitable and fair.

We heard from a wide variety of inspirational speakers and participants including:

  • Simon Glynn, Partner and Co-Leader, Climate and Sustainability, Oliver Wyman
  • Mathias Lelièvre, CEO, Engie Impact
  • Rukka Sombolinggi, Secretary General, Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN)
  • Juan Manuel Santos, Former President of Colombia, and Member of the Elders
  • Jim Andrew, Chief Sustainability Officer, PepsiCo
  • Rt. Hon. Humza Yousaf, First Minister of Scotland
  • Jane Fonda, Author and Climate Activist
  • Kate Brandt, Chief Sustainability Officer, Google
  • Professor Emily Shuckburgh OBE - Academic Director of the Institute of Computing for Climate Science and Director of Cambridge Zero

Catch up on sessions from The Hub Live

In Conversation with Jane Fonda and Jerome Foster II, Moderator: Sophia Kianni
In Conversation with Jane Fonda and Jerome Foster II, Moderator: Sophia Kianni

Climate Week NYC events program 

More and more, Climate Week NYC has also become about engaging the wider climate community throughout the week, with almost 600 events taking place across all five boroughs of New York City. Here are some of the highlights from the week:

  • We kicked off Climate Week NYC with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy, Installations, and Environment), Meredith Berger and local Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) cadets at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. They discussed climate response, innovations, and STEM/sustainability career opportunities in the Navy. The event was covered exclusively by The Weather Channel, which you can watch.
  • We worked with One Minute Briefs, giving designers the opportunity to create posters encouraging businesses and governments to drive climate action.
  • Our long-time partner Junk Kouture hosted an event at Parsons School of Design, featuring an exhibition of recycled couture designs, models, opening words from Climate Group, and a discussion on sustainable fashion. Junk Kouture also featured in our outdoor advertising campaign across New York City.
  • As part of our ongoing work to highlight local action, we were proud to be supported by JCDecaux and NYC Tourism + Conventions to create a major outdoor advertising campaign featuring climate leaders from around New York City. 
Climate Week NYC
Junk Kouture event at Parsons School of Design, opening discussion on sustainable fashion featuring an exhibition of recycled couture designs.

Catch up on the week with these media highlights

  • Discover all Canary Media’s analysis and coverage of the action from this year’s Climate Week NYC.
  • Climate Week NYC was described by The New York Times as “burning man for climate geeks” and “a showcase of human innovation, the countless ways people in many industries are working to slow and potentially reverse the enormous harms humans have done to the planet”.
  • Our CEO Helen Clarkson did multiple interviews with the media during Climate Week NYC, including speaking to Reuters about why this year’s theme is We Can. We Will.
  • Climate Week NYC “keeps growing every year”, Ginger Zee, ABC News Chief Meteorologist spoke live about all the exciting activities taking place across New York City.

Thank you for joining us for Climate Week NYC. Remember that together, We Can. We Will.  

And last but not least, we’d also like to thank all our sponsors. Without them, Climate Week NYC would simply not be possible:

Saint-Gobain, Headline Partner; McKinsey Sustainability, Opening Ceremony Partner; AB InBev, The Hub Live Partner; PwC, Executive Series Partner; Oliver Wyman, Research Partner; Salesforce, Climate Leaders’ Reception Partner; L'Oréal Groupe, Platinum Partner; The Estée Lauder Companies, Platinum Partner; Transform to Net Zero, Masterclass Series Partner; UNICEF, Stream Partner; AstraZeneca, Stream Partner; Johnson & Johnson, Stream Partner; BCG, Stream Partner; Nexans, Gold Partner; PepsiCo, Gold Partner; ENGIE Impact, Gold Partner; National Grid, Gold Partner; Impax Asset Management, Gold Partner; Siemens, Gold Partner; Capgemini Invent North America, RE100 Leadership Awards Partner. See all Sponsors & Partners of Climate Week NYC 2023 here.