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Takeaways from Climate Week NYC 2021

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Takeaways from Climate Week NYC 2021

A review of just some of the information and resources gained from Climate Week in New York City (September 20-26, 2021).

Last week, we attended (virtually) Climate Week NYC.  What is Climate Week?  It is an annual event that took place September 20-26, 2021, with a focus on fulfilling and increasing commitments made by businesses, governments, and organizations to address climate change. It is the time where the world gathers to showcase leading climate action and discuss how to do more and to do it at a pace that can meet the immediate environmental challenges. 

Climate Week NYC is hosted each year by international non-profit the Climate Group in conjunction with the United Nations, and in partnership with the COP26 and the City of New York; it is a global opportunity to come together to accelerate climate action and assess progress ahead of COP26. 

A multitude of resources were provided during the event, many of which would be of interest to AquaGrove growers, educators, and really anyone looking to decrease their carbon footprint; resources are easily accessible from the Climate Week NYC website and include:

Beginner's Guide to Zero Waste - Zero waste aims to redesign our "take, make, and waste" culture and system of producing and consuming and instead opt for a more circular system where we use less and reuse more.

What is Composting? - This resource provides an understanding of the process of composting, and why and how it benefits the environment. Composting food scraps and yard waste prevents these materials from reaching landfills where they decompose and release methane.

How to Upcycle - Upcycling, or creative reuse, is the process of transforming something that otherwise would have been tossed, recycled, or forgotten into a product that is often more beautiful or functional.

National Farmers Market Directory - Eating locally not only cuts down on the time and energy it takes your food to arrive at your plate, but it is also a great way to invest in your community. This tool is useful for AquaGrove growers to locate their own local farmers’ markets where they can share or sell their fresh organic greens within their communities.

In addition to the resources that are publicly available from Climate Week, Columbia University’s Climate School and the Earth Institute were simultaneously running programs aligned with the event.  One of the discussions we attended was “Growing Equitable Food Systems for a Changing Climate” (September 22, 2021).  In the program, conversations took place regarding transforming food systems to be more equitable and sustainable. You can view the full program here.

Additionally, we attended “ClimateShot - The agricultural innovations race to save our planet - How to connect research and innovation with global partnership that transform food systems for a climate-smart future”  This was a UN Food Systems Summit side-event at Climate Week NYC which was led by Alex Halliday, Founding Dean of Columbia Climate School and Director of Earth Institute at Columbia University.

In the discussion, it was noted that according to a report (2015) from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations about 1/3 of the world’s soil is moderately to highly degraded, and the conditions causing the degradation are getting worse.  Given these changes, farmers are encountering difficulty in growing enough food to meet the rising demand. The uncertain impacts of climate change further impact agricultural production.

Agriculture also contributes to a significant share of greenhouse gas - 17 percent directly through agricultural activities and an additional 7 to 14 percent due to changes in land use. With agriculture being such a large part of the climate change problem, it is also a large part of the solution.

Alex Halliday stated: “The agricultural sector is not on track to support the achievement of the 2-degree Celsius goal of the Paris Climate Agreement. It is estimated that current agricultural technologies and practices can only deliver 21 to 40 percent of the emissions reductions required from that sector.”

Sean de Cleene, Head of Food Systems Initiative, World Economic Forum and Chair of the Innovation Lever, UN Food Systems Summit participated in the discussion and added: “This year will be pivotal in many ways because the world has to get back on track in a way that its safer, more sustainable and inclusive for all… Food is a critical enabler within the whole agenda across all SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) … We have just nine years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, in agricultural terms that would be nine harvests if you take some crops, so that is not a long time at all.”

In the discussion, Sean identified food and land use challenges which include but are not limited to:

- Over 690 million people in the world are undernourished.

- 3 billion people can’t afford a healthy diet.

- Current agricultural practices contribute to 20-30 percent of greenhouse gases.

The Summit was designed to give rise to five ongoing action areas where the UN will have a particular focus on local and global needs to maximize impact on the 2030 agenda; the five areas are:

  1. To nourish all people
  2. To boost nature positive solutions
  3. To advance equitable livelihoods, decent work, empower communities
  4. To build resistance to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses
  5. To look at how we support this through means of implementation (finance, innovation, technology, data, governance, capacity, human rights)

Other programs and videos from Columbia University’s Earth Institute from Climate Week NYC that would be of interest to those studying or working within the agricultural sector include:


From the resources and lessons gained through Climate Week NYC and the UN Food Systems Summit, we look forward to the next steps of action as they provide opportunity for the agricultural sector to build a future where our food systems protect and restore our planet.