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Bill Gates and Helen Clarkson during Climate Week NYC

Starting the countdown to Climate Week NYC

22nd April 2022 Adam Lake, Head of Climate Week NYC 4 min read

There’s a limit to what raising awareness can do.

COP26 set the level of ambition needed to half emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050, but the recent IPCC report – the final chapter in a series of stark reports – made it very clear that we are not cutting it. This isn’t because of a lack of awareness. Frankly, it’s because of a lack of action.

On Earth Day, we officially started the countdown to Climate Week NYC. Registration is now open for hosts and organizers as part of the official events program. Each year, over 500 events take place, both in person and online, in New York and around the world. Spread across ten program themes that showcase everything from policy debates to workshops, concerts to grass-roots activism; it is the largest annual assembly of climate events to take place in the world.

But size is not the end-goal. While celebrating success is something that can inspire others to take action, the lack of progress being made is sobering. We need reflection too. Even more so, we need to be better at translating this reflection into action.

As we invite groups both large and small to think about how they want to take part in Climate Week NYC, it is important to question why we are doing all of this. The only tool we need to win this fight is people - every panel, every audience member and every activist involved in hosting or attending an event at Climate Week NYC is a person who can make a difference. So how can we make sure that the week is meaningful? How can we make sure we live up to our motto of ‘Getting It Done’?

To quote a line from Hamilton the musical, “Winning was easy…governing’s harder.” This is something we are starting to realize in the fight against climate change. Progress is being made. Major infrastructure projects that will make a huge difference in the amount of carbon released into the air are being confirmed and commenced. This is good news, and hopefully Climate Week NYC 2022 will yet again provide a platform to announce more to come. That being said, we have to look at our solutions and successes from all angles. Not every project is perfect and not every action is without consequence. As important as it is to reach that end result of reducing emissions, if it is not done in a way that takes into account the concerns, perspectives, and well-being of communities most impacted by climate change, then we cannot truthfully say that the transition is just. There is no climate justice without environmental justice. An unjust transition does not solve the problem, it only serves to move the problem into someone else’s backyard.

Climate Week NYC isn’t just about elevating the conversations that will allow all of this to happen. It’s about creating a platform for those voices needed to ensure it is done correctly -especially those who don’t traditionally have a seat at the table. It’s a chance to connect those frontline groups fighting for their communities with those who do not yet know they exist. It’s about recognizing that every action has an impact and ensuring those impacts, both positive and negative, are seriously considered. 

Our themes this year are the same as 2021; Built Environment, Energy, Environmental Justice, Transport, Finance, Sustainable Living, Nature, Policy, Industry and Food. That being said, we’ve made some changes. While we feel it is important for environmental justice to have its own specific category, we’ve also worked to ensure it is incorporated as a core issue across the remaining nine programs as well as the main program of events hosted by the Climate Group. Our Climate Action is Our Business campaign, highlighting businesses in and around NYC who are putting climate action at center stage, will continue to grow, allowing even more people to engage with the local community Climate Week NYC is trying to build and support.

This is the year where we will define Getting It Done. We will continue to fight for the week to act as a rallying point for all of the voices that must be part of the solution. We hope that, whether as a host or as an attendee, you will join us in ensuring that these conversations are not just talk but tools to make a green, healthy, and just future a reality.  As we move from raising awareness and ambition to accelerating real-world action, we look forward to having you on that journey with us.

Awareness has been raised. Now it’s time to do something with our success thus far. The stakes have never been higher.