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The Big News From Climate Week (So Far)

As Climate Week enters its third day, the headlines are coming in quickly. Don't have time to keep up? We've got you covered. Read on for the biggest news that crossed our desks this week. 
By Mary Mazzoni
Climate Week Climate Action

As Climate Week enters its third day, the headlines are coming in quickly. Don't have time to keep up? We've got you covered. Read on for the biggest news that crossed our desks this week. 

Climate Week kicks off with urgency and optimism

Climate Week kicked off on Monday with calls for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "This week is about getting it done," Helen Clarkson, CEO of the Climate Group, said during her opening remarks at Climate Week. 

Last month's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as another released last week, paint a grim picture of climate impacts accelerating at a far faster rate than previously estimated. It's a hard pill to swallow, but IPCC scientists are quick to note we still have time to avert the worst impacts of climate change, if we act quickly.

Climate Week organizers leaned in to that positive sentiment as they looked to stir the heads of state, business leaders and NGO representatives in attendance into action. "This is your problem, not your successor’s," Clarkson told leaders plainly. "And as exhausting as all of this sounds, I still think we can be optimistic about our ability to get it done."

Under pressure to act faster, governments make new commitments

Alongside Climate Week, world leaders will meet in New York for the U.N. General Assembly under intense pressure to ramp up the ambition of their climate policies ahead of the COP26 talks in Glasgow. If the early part of the week is any indication, many are ready to answer the call.

Among the news this week, a group of Mediterranean countries pledged to work together to tackle the challenges posed by extreme weather, following a summer of unprecedented wildfires. Costa Rica and Denmark are leading efforts to build the world’s first diplomatic alliance to manage the decline of the fossil fuel industry. With their "Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance,” the leaders aim to set a deadline for the end of oil and gas production and set off a push to keep fossil fuel reserves in the ground

Meanwhile President Joe Biden pledged to double the United States' climate finance commitments to developing nations to $11.4 billion per year by 2024. 

CFOs pledge $500 billion to advance the SDGs

A group of chief financial officers from 60 leading companies pledged to invest more than $500 billion over the next five years to support the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The CFOs, whose companies represent a combined $1.7 trillion in market capitalization, also committed to link nearly half of all corporate financing to sustainability performance, with plans to issue hundreds of billions in new sustainable finance instruments, including green and sustainable bonds

All of the CFOs are members of the U.N. Global Compact CFO Taskforce, which says corporate financial commitments in support of the SDGs "are likely to increase further" as the group recruits more members.  

Campaign calls on businesses and their customers to lobby for climate action in the U.S.

As the U.S. Congress considers major climate legislation, a coalition of more than 160 businesses pledged to lobby their representatives and help their customers do the same. In September and October, participating companies will encourage their customers to join them by calling their lawmakers and voicing support for an ambitious policy.

Companies including Clif Bar, Aveda, Burt’s Bees, Legacy Vacation Resorts, Sierra Nevada and Numi Tea have signed on to the #Call4ClimateNOW campaign, organized by the Climate Collaborative. 

“Until now, only a handful of businesses have had a dialogue with their millions of consumers about climate change or mobilized them as partners in climate advocacy,” Kim Coupounas, head of impact for B Lab, the nonprofit that certifies B Corporations, said of the campaign. “If there is ever a time for all of us to speak up, it is now. We no longer have the luxury of just worrying about climate — or paying it lip service in our marketing materials. We must act.”

U.N. Global Compact announces new Africa Strategy 

With 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of $3.5 trillion, Africa is the world’s biggest growth market, and a U.N.-backed business coalition is betting on the role of African businesses in a sustainable future.

Over the next two years, the U.N. Global Compact (UNGC) will meet with business leaders across the continent with the aim of promoting its Ten Principles, which outline fundamental business responsibilities in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. 

By 2023, the UNGC aims to have reached a third of African businesses with more than $25 million in turnover and increased its small to medium-sized business membership by 50 percent. The move comes ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP27) in Africa in 2022.

L'Oréal, Salesforce mark net-zero milestones

Salesforce's annual customer conference, Dreamforce, coincides with Climate Week this year, and the company marked the occasion by announcing it has reached net-zero emissions across its entire value chain (Scopes 1, 2 and 3). The company says it now sources 100 percent renewable energy for its operations and compensated for emissions it couldn't eliminate by purchasing credible renewable energy and carbon credits.

"This is not in 2030, not in 2040, not in some other future moment," Suzanne DiBianca, the company's chief impact officer and EVP for corporate relations, said at Dreamforce. "We know we have to accelerate, and we have gotten to net zero today." The company also released a Climate Action Plan to offer a blueprint for other businesses to reach net zero, as well as updates to the Sustainability Cloud, a product it sells to help other organizations manage their climate initiatives. 

Meanwhile L'Oréal, a lead sponsor of Climate Week, celebrated reaching net-zero operational emissions at all of its U.S. sites through the use of 100 percent renewable energy. L'Oréal has pledged to reach carbon neutrality at all of its operated sites worldwide by 2025. 

What's next at Climate Week?

Looking ahead to the rest of Climate Week: The Sustainable Investment Forum North America continues on Thursday, with debates and panel discussions about the role of financial markets in driving climate action forward. The all-virtual SDG Action Zone kicks off today and runs through Friday, with topics of discussion including vaccine equity, systemic racism, climate action and the circular economy. 

The United Nations will host its first Food Systems Summit on Thursday, where leaders will gather to discuss how to feed more people with fewer resources, and environmental groups including Ceres and Earthjustice also have side events planned this week. 

Youth activists around the world are holding a climate strike on Friday, including in New York City where leaders are gathering for Climate Week. Ahead of the demonstration, prominent youth activist Greta Thunberg said organizers plan to hold those leaders to account. “Time and time again, the leaders today show that they do not care about the future — at least it doesn’t seem like it,” Thunberg said in a video conference call from her home in Stockholm. “They say that they listen to us young people, but they are obviously not. They have proven that now again. And that’s why we will be back on the streets.”

Image credits: Markus Spiske and Mika Baumeister via Unsplash 

Mary Mazzoni headshot

Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as executive editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of organizations on sustainability storytelling, and VP of content for TriplePundit's parent company 3BL. 

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni