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Climate Week NYC 2023 Recap: Growth of partnerships, investments, equitable solutions, tax incentives & more

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This year’s Climate Week NYC marked the fourteenth annual gathering of activists, experts, and global leaders alongside the UN General Assembly, where world leaders assembled to engage around the theme, “Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its SDG towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all.” 

There were more than 500 events held across New York City and, while the Chomp team could not attend them all, we participated in numerous events and conversations on regenerative agriculture, food systems, climate financing, and more. Being surrounded by a diverse mix of people, organizations, and businesses all working to make our planet a better place left us feeling energized, optimistic and ready to get to work. Here, we share the key insights we took away from this action-packed week.

Actionable takeaways

Climate solutions need more collaboration and partnerships

The importance of collaboration and partnerships to drive change came up in many different events, including the panel discussion on Enabling Decarbonization and Social Impact through Strategic Partnerships. During this event McDonald's Director of Global Sustainability, Simone Gourguechon, discussed how strategic partnerships have allowed the company to scale sustainable initiatives such as the Blue Jay solar project. As part of this project, McDonald's Corp., along with all five members of the restaurant chain's North American Logistics Council, aggregated their purchasing power and signed agreements with Enel North America for the purchase of renewable energy and associated renewable energy certificates toward becoming 100% supported by renewable energy across their supply chain.

As we face complex and intertwined challenges to mitigate climate change, and increasing pressure and urgency toward hitting our goals,  it is critical to build partnerships and to divide labor and responsibilities to efficiently roll out new programs.

Some actionable ways to put successful partnerships into practice include:

  • Look for partners whose strengths can be leveraged to move faster towards decarbonization.
  • Join climate communities; actively sharing your expertise and supporting others.
  • Co-create content or run events or webinars with other leaders in your sector to share knowledge and new ideas while growing your audience.

We need to scale investment in and implementation of climate solutions

One key message heard repeatedly in events such as the Innov-Eat Expedition at Columbia University was the need to not only continue to invent new climate solutions but the increasing urgency to invest in implementation. As stated by Tania Strauss, the Head of Food and Water at the World Economic Forum, “we have the solutions but we aren’t investing enough in them”. A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underscores that our ability to address climate change is not hindered by technology but rather by our political system and deeply rooted fossil fuel interests. As neatly summarized by Brian Kahn, Senior Climate editor at Protocol, "we have the technology we need to create a habitable future available to us right now. It’s largely money and politics standing in the way of getting to that better place." 

Some actionable ways you can support scaling investment and implementation in climate solutions include: 

  1. Transition your investments to impact investing funds using tools such as Carbon Collective, which allows individuals and employers to invest in funds working to address climate change. 
  2. Make the switch to environmentally friendly banking options
  3. Grow the climate workforce! There are a plethora of resources to help find talent or to transition into a climate career, including:
  • Work on Climate: Community to find a climate job, hire, or start a climate company.
  • Clean Creatives: A community of professional communicators in PR and advertising who have pledged not to work with fossil fuel industry clients.
  • Climatebase: A platform for climate action, education, and impact with robust career, organizations and events listings.
  • Green Jobs Board: Connecting employers and green economy job seekers with education, community, and empowerment.

Incentives and regulations are needed to decarbonize the economy 

A panel discussion on Nutrition, Traceability, and the Future of Food explored the topic of regulation versus incentives. Jeanette Coombs-Lanot, Danone’s Global Sustainability Director, discussed how the US market generally leans on incentives while the European market relies on regulations to enforce sustainable business practices but that the mix of these two together are critical to speed up decarbonization. There was also mention of the EU Deforestation Regulation, which will require any operator or trade to prove that their products being sold do not originate from recently deforested land and have not contributed to forest degradation. This regulation will set the stage for more policies that will force companies to implement sustainable and transparent business practices.

The topic of Inflation Reduction Act tax incentives for clean energy initiatives was discussed in many investor events. Given available incentives, it is “economically irresponsible not to go down the clean energy path”, noted Nathalie Kiersznowski, Senior Associate at Black Bear Energy, a Legence company working on renewable energy projects in the built environment.

Some actionable ways you can put this into practice include: 

  1. Explore tax incentives for clean energy solutions that your organization might be eligible for, including these incentives for anaerobic digesters. 
  2. Vote for representatives that will implement top down climate policies including organic waste bans and tax incentives for climate initiatives.
  3. Harness your purchasing power to motivate and inspire companies to make ethical choices. By selecting vendors and brands that are taking measurable steps towards climate action we can vote with our dollars. Some tools to help you do this include:
  • Cluey Consumer: Platform that empowers conscious consumers with reputable data and information to make a greater impact through everyday purchases.
  • Good on You: Platform providing sustainability brand ratings for consumers and businesses.
  • Teorra: B2B platform to source sustainable products for climate-conscious brands. 

Climate solutions must be equitable and accessible 

During the Innov-Eat panel discussion a woman representing over 70K farmers in Malawi stood up and asked how broad policy discussions and decisions at the UN and international commission level can be more effectively communicated to and put into practical action by farmers on the ground. The panel members (from the World Economic Forum, USDA and DSM-Firmenich) agreed that all stakeholders must be part of the solution process from research to implementation to ensure successful adoption and that we can do better here. We were heartened to see many events focused on equity and ground-up solutions, including Social Justice Investing, Engendering Climate Equity and Justice, Women Leaders in the Era of Climate Change and more. 

Some actionable ways you can put this into practice include: 

  • Involve your stakeholders early on in the solution development process.
  • Use clear language, accessible communication and brand education that all audiences can understand.
  • Maintain frequent and consistent communication with your stakeholders to understand their challenges to discover the most effective way to roll out and scale programs. 

Phrases we heard often

  • We still have a long way to go: Used mainly in the context of large organizations when explaining the commitments and progress they have made while acknowledging the reality of growing emissions. Though over a third (34%) of the world's largest companies have pledged to achieve Net Zero emissions, nearly all of them (93%) will fall short of their 2030 targets unless they double their current emission reduction efforts according to an Accenture report.
  • We need more investment: Used in many different panel discussions across the spaces of clean energy, clean buildings, sustainable food systems and more. Good ideas are out there but significant catalytic capital is needed to bring them to market.
  • We need to move faster: In most events there was a sense of urgency and frustration with the lack of speed in both the private and public sectors.

What are we excited for? 

Food systems are finally “at the adult table” at the climate conversation

Jaime Adams, Senior Advisor & US AIM for Climate Lead, noted that for the first time “food systems have a place at the adult table” at the upcoming COP28. There is growing recognition of the need for transformation across the food system, from soil management and agricultural practices to the management of food waste given that food systems contribute one-third of greenhouse gas emissions.

Tania Strauss, Head of Food and Water, World Economic Forum, agreed that it was high time for a focus on food systems: “we have invested so much into clean energy since the 80’s, where is the investment for food?” With food systems becoming a focal point in climate discussions we look forward to growth in investment to decarbonize and build resilient global food systems, better soil and crop management practices and food waste reduction pathways and technologies.

The correlation between sustainability and nutrition

Many events, including The Future of Food, focused on the link between sustainability and nutrition, critical to meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 2: “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.” As stated by Alexander Gillet, the CEO of HowGood, “we must use a holistic approach to planetary health to avoid solving one problem but creating another”. HowGood is being used by clients such as Danone to measure the complicated, intertwined environmental, social and nutritional impacts of consumer products. 

The untapped potential of addressing food waste is gaining attention

During a panel discussion on reducing food waste we heard from Stefani Grant, the Senior Manager of External Affairs and Sustainability at Unilever, Caroline Vance, the Director of Capital, Innovation and Engagement at ReFED, and Harry Tannenbaum, the Founder and President of Mill. Half of US household food waste ends up in landfills and solutions to reduce waste, such as Mill's food recycling bin and Unilever’s fridge temperature monitoring jar to prolong the lifespan of food in the fridge, were showcased. When it comes to addressing food waste, Harry Tannenbaum stated, “we don’t need to invent nuclear fusion, we just need to stop throwing trash in the trash can.” 

Take a look at Chomp’s sustainable food waste management comparison fact sheet to learn how you can turn your company’s food waste into valuable resources.

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