NewsSeptember 4, 2014

New York to Become a Hub of Climate Hubbub

John Upton

By John Upton

Follow @johnupton

The climate buzz in the Big Apple later this month will have more effervescence than a bottle of hard cider. You may have heard of Climate Week NYC, the U.N. Climate Summit, and the People's Climate March. They're all scheduled at around the same time, but they're all different things. Here's the skinny on all of them.

Does “Climate Week NYC” mean the Big Apple’s climate is weakening?

No, and you’ve apparently found an audible version of this article. Climate change is strengthening some natural phenomena, such as flooding, and weakening others, such as the jet streams that can lock frigid Arctic weather in place. Humanity’s role in changing the climate like this will be the focus of meetings and rallies in New York from Sept. 21 to Sept. 28.

Ah, so it’s a proper noun. Then what’s it all about?

A number of climate-related events are planned in New York during the last week of this month. Climate Week NYC and the U.N. Climate Summit are among them.

New York. Where the action to spur climate action will be at.
Credit: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE/flickr


Climate Week NYC is an annual event organized by The Climate Group, a nonprofit whose “goal is a prosperous, low carbon future.” It’s like a festival for low-carbon wonks. More than 80 events are planned this year, including film screenings, debates, art installations, and concerts. Smoke some wind and sample some solar, dude.

The U.N. Climate Summit, scheduled for Sept. 23, is the bureaucratic bijou in the eight-day shebang. It’s not, however, formally linked to Climate Week NYC. Nor is it a part of the formal U.N. climate treaty negotiations. Rather, it’s intended as a high-level get-together at the U.N. headquarters, during which leaders have been invited to announce “significant and substantial initiatives to help move the world toward a path that will limit global warming.” If they don’t have anything to announce, delegates can just listen to what other governments have to offer.

People’s Climate March — if you like walking and dislike changes in the weather, then this call-to-climate-action event might be for you. The rally will leave Columbus Circle at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21, march east alongside Central Park, then veer south. It’s being billed as the largest climate march in history. Nearly 1,000 organizations have stated their support, and groups across the country are arranging buses and ride-shares to ferry members and supporters to it. It’s impossible to predict how many people will march, but that hasn’t stopped environmentalists from predicting that “thousands,” “tens of thousands,” or “hundreds of thousands” of people will be there.RELATEDThe Most Important Climate Pacts You’ve Never Heard Of
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U.N. Global Compact Private Sector Forum. You know you’ve made it big if you’ve scored an invitation to this banquet. A few hundred executives, heads of state, U.N. agency chiefs, and other leaders will chew the carbon-pricing fat in the U.N.’s dining room during a break in the U.N. Climate Summit. The U.N. Global Compact is a partnership between big business and global governance. The compact’s annual private sector forum is designed to “bring the voice of the private sector to inter-governmental negotiations on key topics” — not just those that relate to climate change. This year’s theme, however, is carbon pricing.

Whose idea was this?

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Credit: World Economic Forum/flickr


U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wants to slow climate change. He invited world leaders to come to the city where the U.N. is headquartered to “galvanize and catalyze climate action.” That doesn’t mean pouring zinc over weather activity to accelerate a chemical reaction. But it’s something like it. With the first truly global post-Kyoto Protocol climate treaty scheduled to be finalized during U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meetings in Paris late next year, Ki-moon wants to excite leaders into working harder together to slow the pace of global warming.

The climate summit is being held as part of the 69th Session of the U.N. General Assembly, and Climate Week NYC is organized annually to coincide with these sessions. The march was planned after details for the summit were announced.

Is the climate summit a big deal?

That depends on who you ask. There’s a lot of buzz about it in the climate and clean energy community. “I think what it will be is a momentum builder for climate action,” said David Waskow, the director of the World Resource Institute’s international climate initiative. “It’s not meant to be an end point; it’s really meant to be a launch point.” And President Obama, whose country pumps more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year than any other save for one, plans to attend.

But, in a blow to organizers, the president of the biggest greenhouse gas polluter, China, which fouls the atmosphere so much in part because it serves as the world's workshop, has reportedly reconsidered his plans to attend. Narendra Modi, the new prime minister of India, a developing country where per-capita emissions are low but rising quickly — home to more than a billion people, its overall emissions are lower only than China’s and America’s — doesn’t plan to attend, either. That’s despite Modi planning to be in New York for meetings just three days after the summit. We’re guessing he booked one of those darned non-changeable flights.

What agreements will be made during the U.N. Climate Summit?

None. “Hey, we’re not negotiating here,” the U.N. might bellow, if a global intergovernmental organization could possess a larynx. “We’re just talking.”

Could I spend nearly 12 hours on a Tuesday watching the summit?

Yes, pop the popcorn and tune in to UN WEB TV. The opening ceremony begins at 8 a.m. ET on Sept. 23 and the closing plenary ends at 7:30 p.m. Inbetween, you can watch “multilateral and multi-stakeholder action announcements” and similarly alluringly titled sessions. Here’s the full schedule.

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