For the second year in a row, The New York Academy of Sciences is a Climate Week NYC 2011 partner organization. On September 19, the Academy hosted this year's Opening Ceremony, which also launched the Climate Group's three-year Clean Revolution campaign.
Political leaders such as Mayor Bloomberg; Former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair; and Jean Charest, the Premier of Quebec; and non-governmental development practitioners, including Achim Steiner of UNEP and Andrew Steer of the World Bank, were on hand to lend their support and to reiterate the need for urgent action on Climate Change. According to Mark Kenber, CEO of the Climate Group, the Clean Revolution campaign seeks to inspire and enable the world's most influential business, government, and thought-leaders to take action on climate change, and create a tipping point for the low carbon economy.
In his welcome address, Ellis Rubinstein, President and CEO of the Academy, spoke to the Academy's historic roles in bringing together extraordinary people working at the frontiers of discovery and promoting vital links between science and society. In the past, the Academy's membership has included scientists such as Darwin, Edison, and Einstein; and political leaders such as U.S. Presidents Jefferson and Monroe. Today, the Academy's network includes leading climate scientists such as Dr. Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC, who sits on the Academy's President's Council. The Academy has also participated in efforts to understand and address increasingly complex scientific issues surrounding climate change and has played a critical role in policy arenas such as PlaNYC 2030, the State's climate action plan, and the State's energy plan. Supporting Climate Week NYC and the Clean Revolution is part of the Academy's goal to connect science to societal change, and vice versa.
Mayor Bloomberg and Premier Jean Charest both noted that lackluster commitment at the national and global policy levels has meant that regional and municipal governments have taken the lead in actions to mitigate and prepare for the impacts of Climate Change. Mayor Bloomberg stated that even in an atmosphere of climate change skepticism, it was better to be seen as overly cautious than risk waiting for the policy environment to catch up to the scientific consensus, saying "even on just a precautionary basis, it is sensible to act." As such, the government of the City of New York has proceeded with its plan to reduce its carbon emissions by 30% by 2017, as articulated in PlaNYC.
Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UNEP, noted that this was one of the few times in history that scientific findings had been the impetus for a societal and economic response. Mr. Steiner was quick to dispel the sentiment that UN efforts to create a consensus around climate change had failed; he reported that post-Copenhagen there in fact had been an "acceleration of action". He also pointed out that the UN's creation of the IPCC had "protected science from national interests," thus, providing a rational, objective, and science-based framework for society to base its decisions.
Andrew Steer, Special Envoy for Climate Change, echoed the importance of the role of science and innovation, stating that "the challenge is to take inspiration from innovation and then scale it up" for use, particularly in developing countries who are the Bank's largest client base and for whom the effects of Climate Change will be most marked. Mr. Steer noted that the dichotomy between 'going green' and economic growth had changed. The two were no longer viewed as mutually exclusive or opposing, in fact, 90% of the Bank's clients have insisted upon a climate change focus in future projects.
The notion that environmental protection and economic growth were no longer opposing forces was echoed in the Business Leader's panel discussion that took place after the Clean Revolution announcement. Business leaders such as Michel Lies, Chairman of Global Partnerships at Swiss Re; Mark Vachon, Vice President of GE Ecomagination; Mike Ward, President of IKEA; and Wang Shi, Chairman of China Vanke Corporation, indicated that making a business case for sustainability had become easier over time. They did however, decry the lack of a coherent policy strategy that could guide their business strategies and reduce uncertainty when making investment decisions. In the words of Mark Vachon, "the strategy is that there will be no clear national government strategy".
As the science suggests, and was commented upon at the launch, the global community may have missed the opportunity to 'solve' climate change, nevertheless, efforts to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change should occur in tandem and will require business leaders, policy makers, and scientists to work in concert to drive the Clean Revolution.
About The Clean Revolution
A Clean Revolution is a massive upscale of smart technologies, design and new business practices. It is the only viable way to tackle climate change and ensure that the nine billion people that will be on the planet by 2050, will not only subsist—but thrive. The Climate Group's Clean Revolution 3-year campaign aims to inspire, catalyze and enable a group of the world's most influential business, government and thought-leaders to take transformational action on climate change, creating a tipping point for the low carbon economy. For more information on the Clean Revolution, please visit www.thecleanrevolution.org.
About Climate Week NYC
Climate Week NYC is an annual global forum which aims to mobilize an international public-private response to climate change. Now in its third year, it has become a key milestone on the global climate change calendar and a focal meeting point for government, business and thought-leaders. Climate Week NYC represents a unique partnership between The Climate Group (Secretariat), UNEP, the UN Global Compact, the UN Foundation, the City of New York, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Carbon Disclosure Project, the TckTckTck campaign and the China Center. Swiss Re is the Founding Sponsor; the Global CCS Institute is the Supporting Sponsor. The Financial Times is the media partner for Climate Week NYC 2011. For more information and a full list of the events taking place throughout New York City during September 19–26 please visit www.climateweeknyc.org.
About The Climate Group
The Climate Group is an independent, not-for-profit organization working internationally with government and business leaders to advance The Clean Revolution: a massive upscale of smart technologies currently available, design and new business practices that is the only viable way to avert catastrophic change and to ensure that nine billion people on the planet by 2050 will not only subsist—but thrive. Founded in 2004, The Climate Group has operations in Australia, China (Beijing and Hong Kong), Europe, India and North America; and this unique global network ensures that its messages are being heard by leaders who can effect change. The Climate Group's global coalition of companies, states, regions and cities around the world recognize the economic and environmental imperatives of taking transformational action on climate change and the low carbon economy now. For more information about The Climate Group visit www.theclimategroup.org.
About the New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide since 1817. With 25,000 members in 140 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at www.nyas.org.