From green jobs for youth to just transition funding: The 11 biggest announcements from Climate Week NYC and the UNGA
As protestors against fossil fuels marched through New York, world leaders and business decision-makers convened in the big apple for both Climate Week NYC and the UN General Assembly. Here, we summarise some of the biggest announcements.
This week has marked some of the last major chances for leaders to meet and discuss climate action ahead of the next UN Climate COP in Dubai this winter.
The Climate Group once again hosted its Climate Week event in NYC, convening thousands of business leaders, academics and green policy experts between 17 and 24 September. The event, run in partnership with the UN and the City of New York, included some 400 events and activities across the city.
As always, it was timed to coincide with the annual UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. This opened on 5 September and the high-level week, convening world leaders and other policymakers, ran from 18 to 22 September.
The key focus point was the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), after a recent official stocktake confirmed that progress is only on track for 15% of related targets and indicators. The SDGs are a wide-ranging global agenda and it was clear that one Goal in particular had the undivided focus on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – Goal 13, Climate Action.
Guterres hosted the UN’s first Climate Ambition Summit during the UNGA. It was intended to prompt more nations to come forward with “new, credible” plans for delivering their fair share of the Paris Agreement. Guterres expressed dismay at nations “greenwashing, backsliding and repackaging existing commitments”, barring major emitters including the US and China.
The UK had already ruled itself out. It later emerged that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was always planning to go against the grain by staying in Britain to announce green policy rollbacks.
A huge amount of discussions have taken place in recent days, but fewer concrete announcements and agreements have been forged.
Here, we recap 11 of the key commitments made and initiatives launched.
Colombia and Panama join Powering Past Coal Alliance
The Powering Past Coal Alliance now has the support of 99 national and sub-national governments, after Panama and Colombia signed up this week. Alliance members commit to halting the development of new, unabated coal power plants and developing plans to phase out existing facilities in line with a 1.5C pathway.
As it is the world’s sixth-largest coal exporter, Colombia’s decision is a milestone for the Alliance. Panama, meanwhile, is already carbon-negative. Through its Alliance membership, it will advocate for no new coal plants across the G20.
Similarly, the Republic of the Marshall Islands joined the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance. In doing so, it will set out plans to end oil and gas licencing and leasing rounds and set an end date for all existing oil and gas production.
US launches ‘American Climate Corps’
Wednesday saw the White House announcing a new drive to get 20,000 young people into employment in nature conservation and renewable energy installation. Through the Government-funded ‘American Climate Corps’, they will receive paid training and employment in fields such as tree planting, solar panel installation and national park maintenance.
The plan is modelled after the Civilian Conservation Corps, created as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s. The idea is to prepare young workers for well-paid jobs in the industries that will need to expand if the US is to deliver its fair share of the Paris Agreement.
It has been reported that around $10bn will be spent on the initiative.
Methane Pledge launched for states, regions, cities
The last two UN climate COPs have seen an increased focus from national governments on reducing methane emissions, in recognition of how potent this greenhouse gas is.
More than 150 nations are signatories to a Global Methane Pledge headlined by a 30% reduction in emissions between 2020 and 2030.
This week, the State of California spearheaded efforts to launch a new, equivalent pledge for sub-national governments. Seven jurisdictions signed up immediately with regions in Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, India and Nigeria represented.
The Climate Group and the UC Berkeley Centre for Law, Energy and Environment will work with signatories of the new pledge to enable peer-to-peer learning, best-practice sharing and progress tracking.
California files lawsuit against oil industry over climate deception
Another story from California – the state this week filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and BP in the hopes of getting then to pay up for damages caused by climate-related storms and wildfires. Legal documents also name the trade group the American Petroleum Institute.
The lawsuit is a civil case, filed in the Superior Court in San Francisco. In addition to seeking damages, the State hopes to get the companies to admit that they have been running disinformation campaigns about the impact of fossil fuels on the global climate.
Dozens of nations sign High Seas Treaty
A new UN treaty created in the hopes of improving global ocean protections was signed by 67 nations on Wednesday, but still needs to be ratified by each of these countries before it comes into effect.
The High Seas Treaty is intended to support the delivery of a commitment made by more than 190 nations last year, to set aside 30% of land and sea in conservation by the end of the decade.
The signing has been described as a “powerful” “symbolic” moment. You can read the UN’s full news announcement here.
Brazil restores territory to Indigenous group
Isabela Xokleng, anciã do povo Xokleng, comemora decisão da maioria dos ministros do STF pic.twitter.com/Jxfswqk1Uf
— SUMAÚMA (@sumaumajornal) September 21, 2023
While they represent just 5% of the world’s population, Indigenous peoples are the custodians of almost 20% of land globally. This land is estimated to contain up to 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity.
Nature advocates were, therefore, elated as Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that territory taken from the Xokleng people when the region moved to create a new reserve. This community has been seeking this ruling for a decade.
The ruling made on Thursday (21 September) sets a precedent for hundreds of land claims in the Amazon rainforest.
GSK among first corporate adopters of new TNFD framework
One of the first big corporate sustainability announcements at Climate Week NYC was from theT askforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), which published its finalised set of recommendations.
This framework is intended to harmonise and mainstream corporate disclosures on nature-related risks and impacts across their value chains. You can read edie’s full story on what’s included and why the framework is so important here.
At the TNFD launch, GSK stated its intention to produce its first TNFD-aligned report in 2026, using 2025 data. Several other businesses then followed suit. Another influx of these pledges is expected at COP28 and then again at the next World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in early 2024.
HSBC pledges $1bn boost for climate tech startups
HSBC this week announced a $1bn investment aimed at fostering climate technological innovation through support for early-stage businesses and project financing worldwide.
The banking giant, rapped in the past for its support of the fossil fuel industry, is aiming to achieve net-zero financed emissions by 2050. Under the new funding commitment, HSBC will support emerging companies developing solutions including electric vehicle (EV) charging, battery storage, sustainable food and agriculture and carbon removal technologies. Click here for edie’s full story.
Amazon’s Climate Pledge spearheads new electric HGV campaign
The Climate Pledge, co-founded by Amazon and Global Optimism, has partnered with C40 Cities to launch a new $10m initiative to decarbonise road freight in developing and emerging markets.
With initial projects in Mumbai, India, and Curitiba, Brazil, the ‘Laneshift’ initiative is intended to join up and accelerate work to deploy electric trucks and related infrastructure in cities, with an initial focus on India and Latin America.
Iberdrola submits climate transition plan to Guterres
While an ever-growing number of businesses are setting climate targets, only a minority have produced detailed plans for how decarbonisation will impact their investment plans and workforces.
Energy major Iberdrola this week joined that cohort of businesses, submitting a climate transition plan to Guterres at the Climate Ambition Summit. The plan pairs a new biodiversity strategy, including a net-positive nature target for 2030, with Iberdrola’s existing decarbonisation commitments.
It also includes details of €47bn of planned investment through to 2025. €27 bn will go to network and infrastructure improvements and €17bn to renewable energy capacity additions.
“Setting out a clear roadmap, which businesses can be checked against, is vital to corporate emissions reduction efforts,” said Iberdrola’s executive chair Ignacio Galan (pictured above).
Ikea Foundation pledges $20m for just transition plans
Another announcement on transition plans came from the IKEA Foundation which confirmed $20m in seed funding to assist the development of Just Transition Plans for the energy sector in Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam.
The funding will be used to support the hosting of events and consultations designed to collect community input for the development of “clear and comprehensive” plans to reskill those currently working in high-carbon sectors – and to ensure that new, green jobs improve their livelihoods.
Governments have already launched Just Energy Transition Programmes for the three nations involved, pledging additional funding from public coffers and also from industry. The new funding is intended to amplify the voices of workers and communities in the delivery of these Programmes.
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