Last week, government and corporate leaders, investors, NGOs, and activists gathered in New York for the first in-person Climate Week and UN General Assembly meetings since 2019. Three years ago, global climate politics looked quite different, companies were just beginning to announce major net zero commitments, and many of the climate technologies we hear so much about today were still nascent.
In 2022, the climate community is still grappling with the biggest challenges in climate action–how to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and scale up clean energy infrastructure, prepare industries and communities for the impacts of climate change, and ensure that efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change are undertaken equitably. These challenges are further exacerbated in 2022 by changing geopolitics, rising energy prices, and slowing global economic growth.
This year, though, the business community and climate technologists showed up to Climate Week with a more holistic understanding of the causes of climate change, a new emphasis on protecting biodiversity, and a well-founded optimism in advancing climate technologies. Significant policy developments, including the 2022 passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S and the 2021 EU Climate Law, brought new tailwinds to Climate Week discussions.
Setting the state for COP27, here’s our take on the themes that emerged during this year’s New York Climate Week.
The government agenda: the grim geopolitics of global climate action
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterrez opened the UNGA meetings with a bold proclamation to government leaders:
“The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time and it must be the first priority of every government and multilateral organization."
The UN Secretary General has been a champion for bold climate action throughout his tenure, but his advocacy has had a limited effect. Last year, emissions rebounded to record levels after small reductions during the pandemic lockdowns, new coal plants are under development, and protections for forests and oceans are vastly insufficient.
This year, the consequences of inaction were felt by governments around the world–from the devastating floods in Pakistan, to wildfires in the U.S. West, heat waves in Europe, and water stress and droughts in Africa. Insured losses from natural disasters hit a 10-year high of USD42 billion in the first half of 2021. These disasters have prompted renewed calls for funding from industrialized economies for adaptation as well as “loss and damage” for the countries most impacted by climate change. Calls for more funding are set to be featured prominently at this year’s COP.
At Cervest, our mission is to help everyone adapt with climate change, so the elevation of climate adaptation, resilience, and loss and damage on government agendas was encouraging to see.
Private sector leadership: climate accountability and a climate tech boom
Climate accountability taking companies from commitments to action
Before the pandemic, corporate announcements of net zero commitments were already proliferating across sectors. Today, activists, investors, and policymakers want details on how companies plan to achieve these targets.
Climate Week attendees welcomed new rules and proposals in several countries to improve corporate disclosures of their environmental, social, and governance risks and plans. The U.S. SEC rules, the EU taxonomy, and the global disclosure framework under discussion at the International Sustainability Standards Board are all aimed toward greater standardization, harmonization, and comparability of corporate and financial climate commitments. Earlier this year, Cervest participated in consultations for key climate-related risk disclosure frameworks, including for the SEC rule and the ISSB framework, that are forthcoming.
Climate Week also showcased the growing awareness of the impacts of biodiversity loss and momentum for more action from companies to reduce harm and protect nature to support mitigation and adaptation goals. A World Biodiversity Summit sought to advance cross-sector collaboration on biodiversity protection on the way to the UN Biodiversity Conference scheduled in Montreal this December.
Prominent throughout Climate Week and its many side events were discussions about climate technologies that are changing the calculus. In the U.S., many of these technologies were just given a boost with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S., which expands tax credits beyond wind and solar to include batteries, hydrogen, nuclear, and carbon capture.
Carbon removal–both engineered and nature-based solutions–also earned its place in the Climate Week agenda. Drax and Respira announced the biggest carbon removal deal to date, which aims to secure 2 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide removals using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. These technologies have a long way to go, but they offer promising solutions so long as they are developed responsibly. They are especially beneficial for hard-to-abate industrial sectors, and, ultimately, will be a necessary component in the overall strategy to limit global warming.
The Road to COP27
New York Climate Week revealed again the complicated context of global efforts to respond to the challenges of climate change. Governments face a myriad of threats to global cooperation and prosperity that stymie coordinated action to address climate change. However, in the wake of the global pandemic, significant national policies and regulations are emerging to advance efforts across sectors. Many business leaders are also rising to the occasion and climate technologies, such as Cervest’s climate intelligence (CI) product EarthScan™, are revealing new pathways to progress.
With the impacts of climate change set to intensify in the years to come, coordinated action on climate mitigation and adaptation across sectors has never been more urgent. On-demand climate intelligence represents a step change in organizations’ ability to analyze, understand and act on their climate-related risks. Uniquely dynamic, asset-centric and easily shareable, EarthScan creates CI at a decision-useful scale: across individual built assets, and entire portfolios of assets, an organization owns, manages or relies upon. It empowers organizations to take informed, and targeted interventions to reduce climate-related financial risk.
The attention given to climate adaptation, resilience, and loss and damage during Climate Week is welcome and overdue. At Cervest, we see promise in the advent of climate intelligence and the ways that it can support more coordinated and transparent action to address climate risks. We look forward to contributing to the innovation and creativity animating climate communities in the run-up to COP27 and beyond.
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