What Happened at Climate Week NYC?!


“If you don’t work with indigenous people, it doesn’t matter how much profit you make. You will lose the war [on the earth]” – Rukka Sombolinggi, Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archepelago

Indigenous knowledge was highlighted in a kickoff panel from Climate Group, the organization that anchors Climate Week NYC in conjunction with the UN General Assembly, and which has spawned hundreds of satellite events organized and marketed in a decentralized way. Ultimately, Sombolinggi was calling for cooperation and the need to bring together corporations, new technologies, and ways of living to address the climate crisis. Cooperation is the theme that binds together a great deal of what happens at Climate Week.

Many speakers at Climate Group events stressed that we are not acting quickly enough, at a large enough scale and are talking more than acting, with the irony that we were gathered to hear these speakers talk. The difference of course is that “others” should be acting more, when there isn’t reference to their specific context, and when it comes to “us”, we find financial, physical, spatial and timing challenges that block us from action.

Another theme is working at even small scale. As Christopher Guérin, CEO of Nexant put it, “each snowflake in an avalanche is not good.” Guérin also took issue with ESG as practiced: “We won’t save the world with indicators … ESG has many metrics, but never has exactly the right one for a given application (which presumably references the extent to which the metric helps guide better decision-making). He suggested companies ask the question “how much carbon do they need to serve customers?” and that if it’s too much, a company should get rid of them. Whether most corporations actually would jettison a profitable customer on this front is questionable, but having a CEO seriously calling the question is welcome.

MSCI’s Wednesday morning event, “The Climate Transition: Embracing Opportunity & Accelerating Change” set out to provide insights to transition climate risks into opportunities and demonstrate the need to include nature in any climate-aligned strategy. “Decarbonize investment portfolios” was a key phrase. The investor community is talking a good game on the imperative to decarbonize! The test will continue to be whether they continue to invest in relatively dirty companies because they’re profitable. If they strategically use that investment to get the company on a credible cleaner path, that’s a justification for financing in our view, but credible and cleaner are critical.

One of our most anticipated events was from Carbon Call, later that same day. Carbon Call is a consortium of organizations determined to get better data quality for scope 3 (supply chain) emissions. They’ve created a framework on how to think about categorizing metadata (several lenses/categories) related to GHG emissions, with digital specifications on how to disclose data to allow exchange between different groups (so suppliers using this approach would be doing so in a format that’s others can assimilate). You could have activity records that include source of data, emission factor (EF) used and granularity (is this one purchase/shipment/event or aggregated records?). The key question around guidance is uptake. The framework will be as good as the number of suppliers using it. The Carbon Call effort is pushing on worthy fronts and we’ll look forward to seeing their progress.

Meetings wind down by late Thursday, though events like NEST Summit are still going at that time. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) had multiple sessions colocated with NEST late in the day, to highlight both how companies advance resilience in operations as well as decarbonize food supply chains (offering insights on land use within life cycle assessment (LCA), the leather supply chain and other fronts).

Other event organizers throughout the week included Green Project, WBCSD, GHG Protocol, B Local NYC, and so many more.

We’ll certainly be pushing for more action and less talk in our work in the upcoming year. Climate Week continues to provide an injection of excitement and commitment to the path of action ahead.