Climate Week NYC 2021

By Catriona Flesher


Climate Week New York City (NYC) describes itself as a ‘global opportunity’ for collaboration on climate action, and a moment for negotiation ahead of COP26: this year it ran from 20th-26th September [1]. This year the event was organized by the international non-profit, The Climate Group, in conjunction with the United Nations, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of Parties (COP), and the City of New York. The event was organized to be an international forum for the meeting of senior stakeholders from across businesses, governments, and the public. It was intentionally timed to overlap with the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly and aimed to spotlight climate change in global politics.

At its inception in 2009, Climate Week NYC was envisioned as an opportunity to involve the private sector in climate negotiations prior to COP. In the years since, it has grown into a public-facing, policy-focused convention encompassing more than 500 events [2]. The public-facing aspects of Climate Week NYC have especially grown since 2017, when ‘The Hub Live’ was introduced – an interactive series of workshops and discussions, held both virtually and in-person in 2021 [1].

Climate Week 2021

This year’s Climate Week NYC began with a meeting of business and government stakeholders to assess the steps needed to halve global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030. The attendees of the opening day varied from the CEO of L’Oréal to the Director-General of the East African Development Bank [3]. The first day of Climate Week NYC also featured high-profile announcements, such as former Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos’ statement that $1 billion of his $10 billion ‘Earth Fund’ will be dedicated to conservation efforts [4].

Given its central focus on public-private collaboration, it is perhaps unsurprising that most of Climate Week NYC’s successes involved business commitments to climate action. Many of these commitments were relatively narrow, such as the pledge by UK supermarket Morrison’s to remove plastic packaging from bananas [5]. Nonetheless, some broader commitments to positive climate policy were yielded from negotiations at Climate Week NYC. Eighty-six firms agreed to the Climate Pledge, orchestrated by Amazon and Global Optimism, to reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2040 at the latest, with signatories including Procter & Gamble and Asos [5].

Indeed, Climate Week NYC also yielded governmental announcements on climate policy. Wales and the UK Department for Education confirmed that work is beginning on the nation’s first net-zero new-build schools; UK Export Finance also committed to aligning its financing with net-zero by 2050 [6].

Criticisms of the Climate Week

Yet Climate Week NYC 2021 was not without its controversies. On 22nd September, climate activists from groups such as Frack Outta Brooklyn marched into the National Grid headquarters in New York, protesting Climate Week NYC’s ‘headline partnership’ with the gas and electricity company. One protest organizer described the partnership as ‘disturbing’, given the National Grid is currently ‘build[ing] a new fracked gas pipeline through poor, working-class, B.I.P.O.C. (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) communities in North Brooklyn’: a policy which Frack Outta Brooklyn described as ‘environmentally racist’ [7]. In response to the protests, a representative from the Climate Group told Brooklyn Paper that Climate Week NYC ‘works with organisations that are making meaningful commitments to tackling climate emissions’, but that no company – National Grid included – is ‘currently doing enough’ [7].

Climate Week NYC similarly received criticism in 2020 for its exclusivity, and failure to include B.I.P.O.C. activists [8]. In 2021, however, the Climate Group asked The Solutions Project – an organisation representing the climate leadership of women and people of colour – to partner with Climate Week NYC in order to ensure that ‘equity considerations are woven throughout the entire programme’ [9]. Indeed, the partnership with The Solutions Project led to the inclusion of ‘environmental justice’ as a topic for discussion at Climate Week NYC [9].

As it has been since 2009, Climate Week NYC remained a highly publicised opportunity for spotlighting climate change and facilitating private-public collaboration in 2021. Despite the strides in the inclusivity of Climate Week NYC, facilitated in part by the involvement of The Solutions Project, the protests by Frack Outta Brooklyn indicate that the debates over the intersectionality of this landmark annual event in climate policy are yet to be fully resolved. 

Looking to COP26

COP26 representatives also attended Climate Week to promote awareness and the urgency of climate action. Several COP-associated events took place during the week and included the Alok Sharma Capstone interview, a session on how to travel sustainably on your next trip to the UK, and a session that focused on bold infrastructure investment to meet the climate challenge [1]. ClimaTalk will be following COP26 in November 2021 – keep up to date with the progress during the conference by following ClimaTalk on social media!


[1] About Us. Climate Week NYC. URL: [Accessed 26 September 2021]
[2] Megan Darby and Zak Derler, How Climate Week NYC became a fixture on the political calendar. Climate Home News. URL: [Accessed 26 September 2021]
[3] Opening Day Agenda. Climate Week NYC. URL: [Accessed 26 September 2021]
[4] Sophie Alexander, Jeff Bezos Lays Out Next Steps for His $10 Billion Earth Pledge. Bloomberg News. URL: [Accessed 26 September 2021]
[5] Sarah George, Everything you may have missed: The sustainability success stories of Climate Week NYC 2021. edie. URL:–The-sustainability-success-stories-of-Climate-Week-NYC-2021/ [Accessed 26 September 2021]
[6] ibid.
[7] Activists protest National Grid’s sponsorship of Climate Week NYC. amNY News. URL: [Accessed 26 September 2021]
[8] Bee Hui Yeh, Dear Climate Week: We Can Do Better. GreenBiz. [Accessed 26 September 2021]
[9] Megan Darby and Zak Derler, How Climate Week NYC became a fixture on the political calendar. Climate Home News. URL: [Accessed 26 September 2021]
[10] Climate Group, 2021, COP26 will collaborate with Climate Week NYC, URL: [Accessed 27 September 2021]

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