Climate Week 2023: practical insights for business 

Laura Adams

Laura Adams

What is Climate Week? 

New York City hosts the largest global Climate Week every year, to coincide with the high-level meetings of the United Nations General Assembly at their NYC headquarters. This year marked the 15th such event, with the organisers (The Climate Group in conjunction with the UN and the City of New York) arranging over 400 sessions between 17th and 24th September. These get-togethers were attended by leading international voices from business, government, and civil society, all seeking to discuss and advance positive action on the climate and nature.

Why is the timing significant? 

2023 is the mid-point to the 2030 deadline to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched in 2015. It’s likely that this influenced the chosen Climate Week theme of ‘We can, we will’, encouraging focus, determination, and collaboration from participants at this halfway stage. 

The recent Global Stocktake assessed how the almost 200 countries that signed up to the Paris Agreement in 2015 have progressed in practice against the SDGs to date, and makes for sobering reading.  

Progress is off track, with only 15% of indicators where there should be at this mid-way point. With a palpable sense of time running out, the 2 day Climate Action Summit — described as the centrepiece of the General Assembly’s high-level week — sought to revive a sense of international optimism and energy behind the SDGs, at a time when world leaders are grappling with multiple global crises. 

September is also one of the last chances for serious debate before COP28 starts in Dubai on 30th November. Climate Week discussions tend to influence the tone and agenda of the following COP. 

What can Climate Week 2023 teach businesses?  

The high level of positive activity, collaboration, and momentum evident among the city, regional and civil society leaders during Climate Week reminds us that often change is driven in practice by those in the real economy.

Many positive announcements were made over Climate Week about enabling policies and investment in green energy. Three themes are particularly relevant to the business community. 

  1. The focus on climate action has now shifted from intent to implementation. In other words, businesses will now need to work through and disclose the levels of investment and resource needed to achieve their carbon reduction plans to evidence they are achievable in practice. 
  1. The Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) details have been released, with first-mover businesses such as GSK committing to fully integrating it into their reporting by 2026. We expect more businesses to commit to TNFD disclosure and to increasingly combine their targets for climate and nature, taking a more integrated and holistic approach to their sustainability ambitions. 
  1. People are increasingly frustrated by and likely to actively protest against what they consider unsustainable behaviour. In response to continuing subsidies for fossil fuels for example, the State of California is taking unprecedented action by filing a lawsuit against various large oil companies, seeking damages caused by climate-related storms and wildfires. Businesses operating in all sectors need to evidence their sustainability impact and demonstrate transparency if they want to be trusted. 

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