5 key takeaways from Climate Week NYC

Great to be in New York City for Climate Week NYC last week, representing Forum for the Future. Below are my 5 key takeaways.

💡Systems thinking is urgently required to address the polycrisis: Climate change is part of a planetary polycrisis that also includes accelerating biodiversity loss, worsening pollution and rising injustice. Addressing this web of complex interdependencies requires a systems lens – from harnessing the power of integrated energy systems and electrifying transport in the Global South to reframing the food system narrative around regenerative production and unlocking visionary corporate leadership in the market system.

💡Tech optimism is prevalent: Forum for the Future’s “The Future of Sustainability” highlighted four potential pathways for addressing the polycrisis. Tech optimism is one of them, and it turned up strongly throughout Climate Week. For example, a panel discussion on “Climate Tech and Nature-Based Sustainability Solutions” highlighted the power of remote sensing for soil profiles through satellite data, growing meat through live cells, and the potential of a digital twin of coral reef ecosystems to identify where ocean energy solutions could be placed. However, despite the great promise of these innovations, we need to remain laser-focused on the courage to transform (the future-fit pathway in “The Future of Sustainability”), and how tech optimism can help us with this transition as a means to an end rather than an end in itself.

💡People-centric, co-designed solutions are more likely to lead to a just and regenerative future: The climate conversation can easily get stuck between the above-mentioned search for technological fixes on the one hand and the need for more ambitious policy and corporate action on the other. The people dimension is often neglected. It was good to see that people-centric approaches did emerge at Climate Week NYC, but not sufficiently to really build a just and regenerative future. People-centric solutions were highlighted at The Hub Live, exemplified by the co-designed, people-centric carbon tax in Mexico City. During the concluding panels of The Hub Live on Day 1 Samuel Egendorf of EDP, one of the world’s largest renewable energy operators, said “we are not interested in extracting value, we want to build value in the communities we engage with”, e.g. community solar. This is the kind of mindset shift that is required. On food systems there was also an increasing recognition that solutions need to centre on communities and farmers. 

💡The health dimension of climate change is rising up the agenda: Health is a tangible way of engaging people and communities on climate change. It was great to see representatives from government, academia, philanthropy and the private sector exploring how we can come together around a preventative agenda to reimagine the impacts of a changing climate on the health of populations. Forum for the Future was part of several climate and health discussions during the week. Our Climate and Health Coalition brings companies together to take coordinated action in response to the climate crisis, which is also a crisis of human health. We aim to unlock the power of the private sector to take action to drive co-benefits for climate and health. 

💡Unusual collaborations are required to accelerate climate action: It is no surprise that major global gatherings such as Climate Week would frequently mention collaboration as a key ingredient of building a more sustainable future. However, it is where communities come together that should work together but haven’t done so in the past where the magic happens, including for example the climate and health communities; urban planners and healthcare companies; conservationists and digital twin innovators; competitors in the FMCG sector; and investors and farmers teaming up to accelerate regenerative agriculture.

Learn more about how Forum for the Future’s unique approach to change-making (including systems change tools and applied futures) can help your organisation shift from commitment to transformation.

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