Cramped inside a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in Midtown Manhattan, about half a dozen people are toiling to, well, save the world.
Their short-term goal may be more modest, but is no less important: “Our goal is to keep the spotlight on climate change … to make sure that there is broad-based support for climate action,” said Amy Davidsen, executive director, North America, for The Climate Group.
Each September since 2009, Climate Group members – who include about 60 staff around the world – have organized a slew of events tied together as Climate Week NYC.
But this year’s agenda – from September 22-28 — is different, in that it coincides with the United Nations Climate Change Summit, to be held on the 23rd.
“This year, the summit changed things — it created more excitement, a greater focus,” she said. It also created more work, “but all in a positive way.”
The heightened interest can be seen in a doubling of affiliate events, from about 60 last year to 120 this year.
Next Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim will open Climate Week NYC, with presentations at the Morgan Library and Museum featuring more than 30 leaders from business, politics and civil society, including Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The day’s topics will include Leaders’ Vision for a Low-Carbon Economy and subnational leadership and innovation.
The rest of the week’s topics are also varied – from the People”s Climate March, to be held on 21 September, to a conference on climate change and health, to a three-day conference on rising seas.
“Our role is to coordinate, curate, the events,” said Davidsen, who moved to the second bedroom – away from the hubbub of phone conversations carried on by her coworkers – to speak to an observer during a short break from her duties.
Under its collaboration with the United Nations, the group serves as the umbrella organization for all events that are related to climate change but are not part of the official Summit, which is an invitation-only affair.
The group”s leaders have established partnerships with big business, including BMW, Swiss Re, Lockheed Martin and HP and are hoping to persuade other companies to follow suit.
“We need to demonstrate that people care about this issue there are solutions at hand and we’re moving ahead, whether they are or not,” Davidsen said. “If you’re a corporation, you need to see that people want you to act.”
There is a strong economic case for businesses to take strides now to stem climate change, said Davidsen, who joined the Climate Group in 2009 after establishing and running the Office of Environmental Affairs for J.P. Morgan.
The momentum in the climate debate shifted dramatically in October 2012, when Superstorm Sandy swept through New York City, resulting in a state-wide state of emergency during which subways and tunnels were flooded, widespread power outages occurred, and thousands of people were forced out of their homes.
But it can still be a tough sell to CEOs who may feel compelled to focus on short-term profits. “It’s one of the big challenges: short-termism versus long-termism.” It was an even harder sell a few years ago, when the economy tanked.
Davidsen said she was hopeful that the world body will continue to look at climate change as a core issue. “It should not be siloed,” she said, noting that the meeting planned for world leaders to hammer out an agreement on climate change in Paris in December 2015 represents a tremendous opportunity.
But if that opportunity is not seized, that does not mean she will give up. “We are going to keep fighting – because we have to,” she said, then rejoined her coworkers.