National Forest Week + Climate Week NYC – The Future of Forests

Aug 2, 2023 |

While we mark the end of National Forest Week in Canada, we also acknowledge that #ClimateWeekNYC has made the news for a number of good reasons this week. Since its inception in 2009, Climate Week NYC has grown from a shoestring series of small panel discussions to a weeklong “can’t miss” event. One of this year’s participants described it as “…like Burning Man for the climate geeks”. Beyond the hype, what are the takeaways, and what do they mean for the Future of Forests?

Here are five reasons why we end off this eventful week with optimism.

1.     Who is “in the tent”?

Climate Week NYC is one of the most significant annual climate events focused on the issue of global warming, drawing together leaders from government, business, academia and the non-profit sector. It strategically coincides with the U.N. General Assembly, where thousands of diplomats and heads of state set the stage for COP28 UAE later this fall in Dubai. National National Audubon Society ciety CEO Dr. Elizabeth Gray, Ph.D. is quoted as saying: “…climate change is an ‘everyone, everywhere’ crisis”. As the climate action tent grows, climate activists and environmental stewards are no longer lone voices in the wilderness. This is key to securing a livable future in every place on earth.

2.     Acknowledgement that nature and climate action have no borders.

COP28 President-designate Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber and U.N. Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions Mike Bloomberg announced a new initiative coming to COP28: the Local Climate Action Summit. This represents the first time subnational leaders, meaning Premiers and Mayors in Canada’s case, have a formal place in the COP program and process. As Andrew Freedman, Senior Climate Reporter for Axios, writes: “Actions at the local level constitute the climate policies that many people see in their everyday lives….” “Alignment between nations is difficult enough, but local and regional governments’ climate plans amount to a patchwork quilt of emissions pledges and plans, many of them designed with different targets in mind.” The formal inclusion of subnational leadership within the COP is a long-overdue acknowledgement that international and national efforts require alignment at every level to be successful.

3.     Nature-based accounting through TNFD takes a big step forward. 

The highlight of Climate Week NYC was the launch of the much-anticipated Taskforce for Nature-related Finance Disclosures’ final recommendations for nature-related risk management and disclosure. As Canada’s Forest Trust Corporation’s Science, Innovation and Policy Board member Joanna Eyquem, noted in December of 2022, “Finance, business and governments showed up at COP15 hungry for natural capital accounting data and tools to better integrate into their planning and decision-making and monitor delivery.” The Taskforce’s recommendations provide a globally consistent approach to climate-related financial reporting. They are also aligned with the requirement of Target 15 of the Global Biodiversity Framework for corporate reporting, which calls for assessment and disclosure of nature-related risks, impacts, and dependencies, enabling companies to now align their corporate reporting with global policy goals as they are currently doing on climate-related issues. Globally, national or regional consultation groups have been key in educating and mobilizing market participation, including The Institute for Sustainable Finance ISF) and CPA Canadaco-convenors in Canada for the TNFD. Their roles include capacity building, supporting market adoption of TNFD’s final recommendations and coordinating the Canadian consultation group.

4.     Optimism. 

It’s been a tough year. As we touched upon earlier this week, Canada has been devasted by forest fires, and the looming threat of climate change has never felt more real to many Canadians. The world’s limited collective progress toward the U.N.’s 17 Sustainability goals “…is indicative of surprise calamities like the pandemic, inflation, and war in Ukraine that have become bigger priorities for U.N. members. It also represents deteriorating cooperation between nations to work together on big problems.”

“Gloom is a very inspiring motivator in the short term,” said one Climate Week participant. “It’s not an inspiring motivator in the longer term.” Indeed, by one count done by The Wall Street Journal, the word “solution” appears in this year’s Climate Week NYC agenda some 40 times more often than the world “problem.” According to Harvard University, this orientation toward optimism is critical for problem-solving. “Climate optimism isn’t about denying what we can see with our own eyes or ignoring our grief for what we’ve lost. It’s understanding that we know how to prevent things from getting worse and that we’re making progress.”

5.     Lead up to COP 28, Nov 30, 2023 – Tue, Dec 12, 2023.

 The international policy institute Chatham House says COP28 comes “at a decisive moment for international climate action,” as the tangible impact of climate change is making itself felt, and the U.N.’s global stocktake synthesis report shows much more has to be done to meet the goals of the landmark Paris Agreement. A lot of ink has been spilled over the suitability of such an important conference being hosted within a country that is among the world’s ten largest oil producers while being overseen by Sultan al-Jaber, who continues to straddle the line between fossil fuel and renewable energy. But returning to the complimentary concepts of “expanding the tent” and clear-eyed “optimism,” there are few more uniquely placed to end our dependency on fossil fuels while ramping up the new era of renewables.

So what does all this mean for the Future of Forests? 

Globally, deforestation and forest degradation continue. We need more sustainable land-use agreements, new mechanisms to incentivize forest conservation, and ways to widen support for initiatives such as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) in developing countries. But we now also have several key building blocks in place that were not present before, including more robust climate finance mechanisms, technological innovation and knowledge-sharing capacity, and we have achieved greater integration of climate action into broader policy frameworks, including health, agriculture, transportation, and urban planning.

We know how to do this. Now it’s time to act.