This week, "the world's largest gathering ever on climate change” united politicians, activists, investors, business executives and nonprofit leaders in a rally to address our warming planet. The original goal of the U.N. Climate Summit was to create momentum leading up to the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris. What transpired was a week-long climate rally, going far beyond most expectations. Many organizations took this moment in time as an opportunity to make major, game-changing commitments:
- The City of New York, host to this week's events, kicked things off with a commitment to reduce the city's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80 percent by 2050 from 2005 levels. Mayor Bill de Blasio stated the city had "a moral imperative to act." The plan largely focuses on updating buildings – the city's biggest source of emissions.
- For the first time, world leaders endorse a global timeline to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020, and strive to end deforestation by 2030. The "New York Declaration on Forests” is endorsed by dozens of governments, influential civil society groups and some of the world's largest companies. The plan to drastically diminish deforestation would reduce between 4.5 billion and 8.8 billion tons of GHG emissions annually – "equivalent to removing every car in the world from the road.”
- Total divested funds from the fossil fuel industry reached $50 billion this week, with major announcements from leading organizations like The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, founded using profits from Standard Oil Company. The fund's president, Stephen Heintz, says the move is a symbolic gesture, "to send financial signals and bring visibility to the issue.”
- We Mean Business, a coalition of industry organizations and businesses such as BSR, Ceres, CDP, Nike, UPS and Sprint*, launched its first report. "The Climate Has Changed” report shows how low-carbon projects can yield strong business returns.
These commitments and urgent calls for action were delivered by some of the most influential individuals in society, with President Obama, U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim presenting a united front. Their presence was coupled with the 300,000 people who took to the streets on Sunday as part of the People's Climate March and the unique collection of business, governments and NGOs around a shared purpose to change. The result of this week's events was significant as new players became vocal advocates and bold goals were announced, perhaps signaling a turning point in progress. Even Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage at Climate Week, taking a stronger stance than ever before on climate action, stating, "From our point of view, the time for inaction has passed.”