NYC 2021 Climate Week Shows a More Hopeful Future

by Ashley Stagnari


What You Can Do

  1. Explore the facts: understand the causes and effects of anthropogenic climate change using data from sources like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  2. Participate in your local government initiatives: join local chapters of groups like Climate Reality and petition for climate action.  Make your voice heard.
  3. Advocate for Cornell to adhere to the goals outlined in their Sustainability Report, furthering accountability measures.  

At the center of international politics exists the crisis of climate change. With the rising threat of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and its adverse effect on climate dynamics, nations around the world are embarking on a global initiative to curb atmospheric warming.  

This past September, New York City hosted its annual Climate Week where dignitaries, NGOs, businesses, and environmental stewards participated in a collaborative, solution-seeking dialogue. Among the themes of Climate Week, one that holds promise for our future is the fostering of an interconnection between economic and environmental agendas [1]. Climate Week NYC has promoted commitment towards the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its publishings on avoiding 1.5 °C warming [3]. In this way, implementing climate change mitigation plans requires cross-participation among a vast array of stakeholders.  

Considering the publishings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is critical.  Post-industrial emission rates have a considerable effect on the acceleration of warming; the prolonged lifespan of high radiative forcing gases including carbon dioxide and methane align with the current trends of increased atmospheric and oceanic temperatures [3]. Stepping back, radiative forcing is the level of energy equilibrium within Earth’s atmosphere as it relates to natural and anthropogenic factors, which have the potential to alter the energy flux and elicit warming [2]. The major contributors to these trends include energy production, agriculture, and urbanization [3]. For these reasons, climate change mitigation becomes an initiative focusing on reducing environmental inefficiency in our economies and livelihoods.  

The conversations held this past month focused on the intersections between national and international climate standards. So far, companies like Amazon and L’Oréal USA are aiming towards carbon neutrality in an effort to coincide with the IPCC’s climate concerns and prescriptions, and progress is already underway [4].  Additionally, promoting the innovation of low-carbon vehicles, energy-efficient buildings, and sustainable credit systems are global corporations like Mercedez-Bendz and Mastercard [5]. By way of creating targets with businesses held accountable both to the market and consumer loyalty, these economic changes are positive initiatives that help solidify stakeholder engagement and expectations.

Climate Week NYC also supported the growing dialogue between grassroots organizations and national legislation.  Both of these stakeholders bring attention to a crucial aspect of climate change mitigation: global sustainability. Climate change’s international presence constitutes the need for sustainable development in nearly every realm of society. Thus, the aforementioned efforts are hopeful as they demonstrate how corporations and activist groups are collectively designing standards for greenhouse gas emissions reduction; transportation within cities and supply chain production are avenues currently being explored [4].  

While the cross-actor dialogue made progress in sparking debate and prescribing solutions to confront climate change, commitment on the part of industries was lacking. Declaring one will strive for carbon neutrality is just the start of solidifying the long-term obligations required of industry leaders. In order to preserve the planet for future generations, sustainable development and environmental advocacy must remain at the forefront of legislative action and economic regulation.  

Companies like the Colt Group, a networking corporation, have asserted their determination to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030 [5].  Exploring their climate action plan, it is noticeable that the Colt Group aligns with greenhouse gas standardization instituted by the Science Based Target Initiatives (SBTi). These initiatives pool recommendations from the IPCC and help businesses achieve their emission reduction goals [6]. In the case of their carbon footprint, the Colt Group plans to invest in and implement renewable energy sources [7]. Although replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy is a proactive decision, the Colt Group does not elaborate on goals surrounding labor transition to new energy systems or social implications. Adapting our society for a future under climate stressors must consider the stages of transition necessary to make climate change mitigation possible. Statistics on energy conversions and carbon reductions easily cloud over the corresponding mechanisms that inevitably impact social wellbeing. In this way, the Colt Group, like many other large-scale corporations, can improve on accountability and transparency; elaborating on how they will track emission reduction and how their workers will adapt to new forms of transportation and operations will further strengthen their goals.  

In all, Climate Week NYC 2021 marked a new phase in environment-economic relations.  Progress in the emission reduction realm of climate change mitigation is gaining attraction from corporations and advocacy groups.  While improvements are needed in transparency and developing holistic carbon neutrality plans, the global target to avoid 1.5 °C warming is becoming more of a reality.