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Opinion: Virtual summits create real change. But we are just getting started

22 April 2021, 5:17 EDT 3 min read

By Adam Lake Lake, Head of Climate Week, Climate Group

Today, we launched Climate Week NYC 2021 and announced our plans for the year.­ Our new website will allow visitors to search and access events more easily and provide resources for across sectors and industries.

2021 is about getting it done. After the first year of the Climate Decade and as the world recovers from a global pandemic, we must prioritize climate action and equitably address the climate crisis. It is a week for businesses, government leaders, civil society, communities and individuals to showcase how we are collaborating and doing more.

Similar to last year, the majority of Climate Week NYC 2021 events will be digital and open to a global audience. With COVID-19 restrictions still in place in many parts of the world, it’s difficult to plan for September. However, as we’ve learned from 2020, when we hosted the largest climate summit of the year, going digital should no longer be seen as the back-up plan. It is an opportunity for engaging even more people in making change happen.

Last March, as we were well underway in planning for Climate Week NYC 2020, we realized we needed to adjust our plans if we were to host the week whilst not leaving our homes – even if that meant doing something we’d never done before. We opened up our events program to event organizers around the world, we brought in a diverse range of climate voices, and we livestreamed our headline events to the public. Going digital allowed us to decrease our carbon footprint, yet, make an impact in over 30 countries and offer 500 events to the global community. It was a challenge, but it allowed our team to be innovative and creative in how we could engage in our audiences.

Climate Week NYC audience member watches stage on ipad
"Going digital should no longer be seen as the back-up plan. It is an opportunity for engaging even more people in making change happen"

Events from 2020 have made us all realize the intersections of climate and justice: we all need clean air, healthy and safe living spaces, and jobs in green industries. And we must see bold action to take us there. We will devote a whole theme to Environmental Justice and part the Climate Week NYC event program, but that doesn't mean it should not sit across every part of what we do. 

We’re less than halfway into 2021 and we’re already seeing momentum. From President Biden’s ambitious climate proposals to implementing the first White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, this week’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate to finally setting a target for US’s own emissions reduction, we are seeing signs of the urgency and ambition promised by governments and businesses. Climate Week NYC 2021 will play a significant role in shaping the direction and speed with which governments and businesses will rise to action. It will provide the time and place to hold government and businesses accountable to their commitments and push to increase ambition and fulfillment.

Building on the successes of last year’s Climate Week NYC, we hope our ability to convene virtually will allow us to reach an even broader audience and inspire bolder pledges.

This is the year for getting it done. We hope that wherever you are in your journey you take the opportunity to get involved in the week.