New York is buzzing with excitement (and traffic jams) this week as hundreds of leaders — business, government, NGOs and others — descend on the city for the opening of the UN General Assembly and the Summit on the Millennium Development Goals. Also slated for the week are a high-level UNGA meeting on Biodiversity, a gathering of Pacific Small Island Development States and the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. A red thread that runs through all of these events is, of course, climate change — the mess we’re in, and how we can start (indeed have already started) digging our way out of it. This ‘digging our way out of it’ bit is the special focus of Climate Week NYC, with a line-up of events organized by the Climate Group with the aim of helping kickstart a cleaner greener future. I was invited to represent the tcktcktck campaign at the opening ceremony.
I arrived a couple of days early, to attend the inaugural event of the new Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice. Mary assembled a group of around 30 women — all climate leaders in one way or another — to discuss women’s leadership on climate justice and how to support positive outcomes at the next climate conference in Cancun in December. I was asked to do a presentation on climate finance – an overview of issues, fora and strategic opportunities, in no more than five minutes. I somehow managed to touch on the UNFCCC, The UN High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Financing, the G20 and the World Bank, as well as issues such as: public vs private finance; prioritizing between funding for prevention and adaptation; the need for new and additional funding as opposed to the recycling of existing aid; and innovative solutions such as the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, a financial transaction tax, and taxes on aviation and shipping fuels. I couldn’t help but think of Father Guido Sarducci’s Five Minute University — a comedy sketch in which an entire university education is reduced to the five minutes of material the average university student will remember five years after graduating.
During the closing session on opportunities to make a difference in the run-up to Cancun, I made a strong plea for everyone there to get behind the 10/10/10 global work party, and most importantly to communicate its significance as a sign that the global climate movement is thriving.
The event was co-hosted by an organization dedicated to ethical globalization that Mary founded in 2002. Realizing Rights will be closing down at the end of the year (it was never meant to be a permanent organization) and managing director Heather Grady will be taking up a post as Vice President for Foundation Initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York.
The best part of the day for me was being introduced to a number of inspiring women and some very cool initiatives: Tracy Mann who runs Climate Wise Women which gives a voice to women leaders in regions affected by climate change. 1 Million Women which describes itself as “a campaign of daughters, mothers, sisters and grandmothers – committed to protecting our climate, our communities and our future, leading change for the better.” And Kristine Pearson, CEO of Lifeline Energy whose mission is to improve the quality of the lives of vulnerable populations through dependable and environmentally friendly technologies and providing renewable energy alternatives to those most in need. And of course Mary Robinson herself, who is an inspiration to all of us.