Midweek check-in on Climate Week NYC 2019

News to know in our special edition bi-weekly digest

Buildings light up green for Climate Week NYC. Courtesy of The Climate Group
26 September 2019
Ming Chun Tang

Welcome to a special Climate Week edition of the Landscape News bi-weekly digest. From the Global Climate Strike to the U.N. Climate Action Summit, here’s the latest from New York City.

Climate strike, New York City
The 20 September climate strike in New York City. Justin K. Davey

LANDSCAPE NEWS

With demonstrations in around 185 countries, the climate strikes on 20 September were the biggest in history – and in New York City alone, some 315,000 people took to the streets. Here’s a photo essay of what that looked like.

All eyes remain glued to the Big Apple for Climate Week NYC 2019, led by The Climate Group. We spoke to North American executive director Amy Davidsen as the week kicked off.

Capping off the week will be the Global Landscapes Forum New York. Here are six climate warriors we’re looking forward to hearing speak at the event.

ACTIVISM

The 20 September climate strikes spanned the world, from Kampala to Melbourne and from Cape Town to La Paz.

After sailing across the Atlantic Ocean from her home in Sweden, 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg assailed world leaders in her address at the U.N. summit on Monday for failing her generation.

That same morning, she and 15 peers filed a legal complaint with the U.N. against five major countries for violating the rights of children in their failure to address the climate crisis. Donald Trump, in a tweet, said she seemed like “a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.” The young activist took his praise to heart.

Hundreds of other young activists also shined at the U.N. Youth Climate Summit, representing countries as far and wide as Ecuador, Nigeria and the Marshall Islands.

Michael Bloomberg speaks at Climate Week NYC
Businessman and politician Michael Bloomberg speaks at the U.N. Climate Action Summit. Michael Bloomberg, Flickr

POLICY

U.N. secretary general António Guterres was hopeful going into the summit, calling the last six months a “turning point” in global climate action.

However, he remained diplomatic about the lack of radical change from major coal producers including India, Indonesia and China, which were all given podium time at the U.N. summit: “We don’t make judgments about countries,” Guterres said.

The protesters and world leaders, though, seemed to be “living in separate worlds,” said the New York Times. It showed as neither the U.S. nor China made any new commitments – while most other major economies made only minor promises.

All in all, 77 countries committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Russia announced that it would ratify the Paris Agreement, while India pledged to produce more renewable energy.

Germany will invest EUR 54 billion in reducing carbon emissions by 2030 – though that plan was met with skepticism at home.

AT&T chief sustainability officer Charlene Lake (middle) and OECD secretary general Angel Gurría (right) speak on a business panel at the Climate Week opening ceremony.

BUSINESS

Sustainable investing is heating up as quickly as the planet. An alliance of the world’s largest pension funds and insurers, together responsible for some USD 2.4 trillion in investment, put their money where their mouths are by committing to making their portfolios carbon-neutral by 2050.

Likewise, about 130 international banks are planning to start using their money in more socially and environmentally responsible ways – which means reducing their support for the fossil fuel industry. These banks hold USD 47 trillion in assets and comprise one-third of global banking. However, only three of the world’s 10 biggest banks are part of this effort.

Investors and banks aren’t the only corporate entities trying to go green. Eighty-seven multinational companies kicked off Climate Week by setting emissions reduction targets to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This included Salesforce, a head partner of the week, which also launched a “Sustainability Cloud,” in which companies can use cloud technology to track, analyze and report their environmental impact.

Impossible Foods burger
A meatless burger by U.S. producer Impossible Foods. Gabrielle Lipton

GRAB-BAG

Terms to know: the 2020s are being repeatedly deemed “the decade” to counter climate change, beginning with “climate optimism.” Former U.S. state secretary John Kerry is calling the fight against climate change “World War Zero,” announcing a new initiative of the same name to come. Stay tuned, climate fighters.

The week’s central series of educational talks were themed around nature-based solutions to climate change, such as helping forests regenerate or restoring the carbon sinks of peatlands. These solutions were also packaged into new initiatives to conserve 30 percent of the world’s land and oceans by 2030, boost political support for the sustainable use of oceans, and protect Central Africa’s forests. Greta should be proud.

After seeing sales increase five-fold since the beginning of 2019, the trendiest meat-free meat producer Impossible Foods launched the sale of its products in grocery stores along the U.S.’s East Coast.

The shipping industry, which accounts for more than 2 percent of all carbon-dioxide emissions, said it will have zero-emission vessels on waters by 2030 and cut all emissions in half by 2050.

European governments, along with the Gates Foundation and the World Bank, are pooling USD 790 million to support 300 million small-scale farmers.


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