Climate Week NYC 2019: From “Climate Change” to “Climate Crisis”

By Stephanie Bramwell

Droughts, floods, and a scarcity of resources are a few consequences of global warming. To limit the rise in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels, thereby avoiding the worst of these consequences, greenhouse gas emissions must be halved by 2030, according to the IPCC. This is a critical moment in the history of humanity. Climate Week NYC 2019, a series of events hosted by The Climate Group from September 23 to September 29, was an opportunity for political, corporate, and community representatives to discuss the current state of this crisis.

We at Carbon Credit Capital (“CCC”) participated in this annual convergence of environmental actors to discuss and assess the role carbon offsets play in global climate change mitigation efforts. At this defining moment in history, we were inspired by the dedication to environmental sustainability expressed by individuals and corporations alike. Through this blog we want to share with you some of the inspiration we gained at Climate Week NYC 2019, and reflect on the action that must be taken by governments, businesses, and individuals before next Climate Week.

Government: Giving a Push

The role of governments in climate change mitigation efforts is undeniable. Policies from the international to local level can either curb greenhouse gas emissions or cause them to swell. In particular, cities are now on the front line of tackling climate change. That’s because big cities are a huge source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to climate change, and increasingly house the majority of the world’s population. This year, Climate Week was abuzz with discussions about the City of New York’s Carbon Mobilization Act and Local Law 97.

Passed by the city of New York in May 2019, Local Law 97 caps the amount of carbon dioxide emissions a building can emit per year, based on the usage and size of the building. At Climate Week, companies and policy makers discussed the opportunities available to businesses to reduce their emissions. One method is to purchase carbon offsets. From the various events CCC attended it became clear that, under Local Law 97, 10% of a building’s reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can be met through carbon offset purchases.

Participating in these discussions allowed CCC to educate future clients on the benefits of carbon offsets and to prepare ourselves to best meet the needs of New York City real estate asset owners; managers; and service providers, including architects and engineers.

Local Law 97 is one example of local governments working to limit global warming, but what else can be done? To halve global emissions by 50% in the next ten years will require coordination on a scale that requires government support. CCC would like to see more states follow New York’s example by setting carbon emissions reduction goals and developing plans to achieve 100% clean electricity. Internationally, both developing and developed nations are transitioning their energy consumption to renewable sources. Grenada and the UK acknowledged at an event held by Climate Analytics that a wholesale decommissioning of all coal plants in the world would likely be necessary by the early 2030’s. These may sound like ambitious targets, but those sitting in positions of power globally—the ones with the authority to see them through—are the ones driving the conversation, which is reassuring.

Businesses: Stepping Up

A clear shift has occurred in corporations unassociated with environmental advocacy. While environmental sustainability has typically been considered a task for lower-level representatives, this year CEOs and executive managers were the primary representatives of businesses at Climate Week. Whether spurred by policies such as Local Law 97 or the growing evidence that most businesses will struggle to thrive in a changing climate, it appears climate change mitigation is now a top priority for many companies in all sectors.

The breadth of industries that are pursuing environmental sustainability was evident at the Sustainability Connector event hosted by Be Social Change, a client of CCC. This event brought together individuals who are active across environmental industries and those who are seeking to penetrate those sectors. CCC Analyst, Shannon Mora, attended this event and found, “It was inspiring to see proof of interest and passion for sustainable innovation across industry sectors!”

Pursuing environmental sustainability is no small feat. Corporations of all sizes must analyze their systems and implement changes throughout their organization to become sustainable. Fortunately, no business operates in a bubble. Even the Business Roundtable of CEOs in early September came out with a statement heard around the world that the purpose of a corporation (long thought to exclusively be the maximization of shareholder profits) should be in service to all stakeholders. Climate Week served as an educational campaign to spread the message of eco-consumerism. We hope that Climate Week can contribute to the formation of a healthy and sustainable relationship between the business sector and consumers. Change is possible and the major actors seem primed to make it happen, but the rapid change necessary to limit global warming requires unwavering support from consumers.

Individuals: A Driving Force

Businesses and governments are not the only actors that can tip the balance of the climate crisis. At the Youth Climate March on Friday, September 20, just prior to Climate Week, protesters followed environmental advocate Greta Thunberg’s example and urged governments and corporations to work to create a sustainable planet. The global response to Thunberg’s weekly protests and her speech at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit testifies to the importance of individual actions to climate change mitigation efforts.

The official closing event of Climate Week, was the Marketplace of the Future, a one-day expo of fifty businesses whose commitment to environmental sustainability and social responsibility are ingrained in their business models. Consumers were able to learn how to live more sustainably, while connecting with and supporting businesses committed to the same goal.

We worked with the Marketplace of the Future to build the cost to offset each attendee’s emissions for the event into the price of the ticket, making the event carbon neutral before it even started. At the venue, we engaged attendees in a live data capture for carbon emissions produced by their travel to and from the event. As a result, CCC was able to get exact emissions data to calculate the event’s carbon footprint. The organizer of the event will mitigate its carbon impact by purchasing carbon credits equal to the event’s carbon footprint from a project selected through the votes of event attendees.

Other than pressuring governments and companies to make changes, individuals should not neglect their collective power to scale the impact. Nature is changing, and our behaviors should adapt accordingly.

Moving Forward

It was clear at Climate Week NYC 2019 that the global conversation has shifted from “what is climate change?” to “what can I do?”. While this is a promising change, it is the actions taken between Climate Weeks that will determine humanity’s fate in the next twenty, fifty, and one hundred years. Not long after Climate Week, the Guardian updated their style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crisis facing the world. The first update was to replace “climate change” with “climate emergency” or “climate crisis”.

While passion for climate change mitigation was high among both individuals and corporations during Climate Week, as our Director of Business Development, Reed Shapiro noted,“[climate change mitigation] is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Governments are pushing and businesses are stepping up, but opportunities remain for individuals to dedicate themselves to sustainable living. Ultimately, corporations and governments are made up of individuals. What change is possible if each of us strives to live a sustainable life? What change is possible if, as a society, we dedicate ourselves to sustainable living? These are the questions we were inspired to ask at Climate Week NYC 2019 and that we hope to answer as we work daily to support individuals and businesses in their journey to become carbon neutral.