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Climate Week NYC: A heady mix of protests, nature and climate change diplomacy

new york
By Andrew Adie
14 September 2023
Green & Good (ESG and Impact)
new york

After a summer of record-breaking temperatures, Climate Week NYC has kicked off with a huge task and high expectations ahead of it. Its mission statement: We can. We will. leaving little space for timidity.

Taking place in the same week as the UN General Assembly, and with the UN’s Climate Ambition Summit also happening during the same period in New York, the city has managed to coral global diplomats, climate activists, scientists and business leaders with the aim of driving greater ambition on emissions reductions, decarbonisation and nature protection.

With COP28 in the UAE only around 10 weeks away, the hope has been that Climate Week NYC could see diplomatic pressure and agreement on more ambitious emissions reductions commitments from countries to set a foundation for momentum and progress at COP.

That sense of urgency was reflected in the opening weekend of Climate Week when New York saw around 75,000 activists taking to the streets for the ‘March to End Fossil Fuels’. 

Our team on the ground in New York, led by SEC Newgate Director, Naomi Kerbel, reports that the City has been relatively low on fanfare around Climate Week, so the scale of the protests were notable, particularly considering that the message of the protest groups runs completely counter to the ‘woke capitalism’ debate being stoked by some Republican politicians in the USA.

After a very subdued activist attendance at COP27, where the Egyptian authorities took a zero-tolerance line on protests, many in the crowds would no doubt have seen the March as a key moment to get back out and remind politicians and business that their actions are being scrutinised by the public who expect to see material progress on addressing climate change. That message has been reinforced by follow-up actions, including groups of protestors blockading the Federal Reserve building. And it's only Tuesday.

In the meetings, the talk has focused heavily on the need to move faster if we are to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C. There has also been a big focus on nature-based solutions with the launch of the final recommendations by the TNFD (Taskforce for Nature Related Financial Disclosure) which sets a foundation for corporates to measure and report the impact of nature depletion and biodiversity on their business and its financial risk profile. Given that more than half of global GDP is calculated to be reliant on nature, the framework for a global approach to measuring corporate impact is much needed.

Set up to mirror the TCFD (Taskforce for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures) the hope is that TNFD will become a dafacto standard within corporate compliance and risk reporting.

Our team on the ground reports that there has been much focus and optimism around nature-based solutions on the back of the TNFD launch (and the fact that nature and natural carbon-sinks are also a big focus at COP 28). There’s also been much debate about offsetting and biodiversity credits, including a panel debate on biodiversity credits with UK nature innovators and leaders from Environment Bank, Pollination, National Grid and the Environmental Policy Innovation Centre. 

HRH Prince William is also in New York to unveil the winners of the Earthshot Prize, and will hold talks with UN Secretary General António Guterres on climate change and solutions to it. There’s also a range of UK political leaders (from deputy PM Oliver Dowden, to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and London Mayor Sadiq Khan who is expected to discuss ULEZ and its impact – and will likely be hoping for a more appreciative reception to it than has been the case in some quarters of the UK. 

These delegates join a huge gathering of political leaders, including President Zelensky, and some celebrities (Matt Damon is in town) aiming to reignite the debate around climate change mitigation in a year when many governments have seemingly been focused on domestic woes and global economic and geopolitical challenges.

How New York progresses and the tone it sets for COP28 will be closely watched and we will report back through the week on key moments, through this newsletter and our LinkedIn and social channels.