Net Zero Insider: On The Ground At Climate Week NYC

In September, Climate Risk Principal Analyst Katelyn Johnson attended Climate Week NYC. We spoke to her about her experience on the ground and found out what organizations and individuals alike should take from the event:

What’s it like being on the ground at New York climate week?
Inspiring and overwhelming – in a good way. There are nearly 600 events this week and it’s difficult to choose which ones to go to. Many of the people I talked to were double- and triple-booked – a far cry from the inaugural event in 2009. It’s encouraging to see so many people across industries in the private and public sector focused on tackling humanity’s biggest threat.

The theme for this year’s event is “We Can. We Will”. What does that mean to you – and how do you think corporate organizations can apply it to their climate-focused strategies? 
In my past life as a climate scientist, I often travelled to places with glaciers and ice sheets to conduct research. Seeing ice disappear before your eyes due to rising global temperatures, while very little action is taken to mitigate these changes can make it challenging to remain positive. Yet, when you see the number of people working together, sharing ideas, and coming up with new solutions, it gives you hope.

This year’s theme has an uplifting message. Despite the mountainous task in front of us, we can solve the climate crisis – and we will.

Organizations can utilize this message of determination to change their perspective on the challenges we face now and into the future. Climate change requires a fundamental shift in the way we do things – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is a huge opportunity for firms to be innovative in their climate strategies: this entire event proves it.

Have you heard or seen anything that’s sparked ideas for new research?
It never ceases to amaze me how different and complex climate risks and opportunities are across industries. This isn’t new information, by any means, but it was profoundly evident when listening to any number of panels at the event this past week. Many organizations’ risk management processes are not prepared to incorporate climate-related risks. An area of research for us to focus on is how the role of the Chief Risk Officer – and overall risk management processes – will need to adapt to deal with these new and emerging risks, particularly for industries that need to fundamentally change due to the climate crisis.

Can you share one thing that organizations should take away from this event?
The size of this event, and the wide range of industries participating, should indicate to organizations that not acting on climate is no longer an option – regardless of if climate action is mandated or not. Those who are taking action are in good company. Those who are not will get left behind, and unnecessarily expose themselves to a wide range of risks.

Has Climate Week NYC highlighted any key trends that climate leaders should be prepared for?
Not necessarily a trend, but given the number of discussions around data, tech and frameworks, climate leaders should prepare for an iterative process when it comes to their climate strategy. The tech, data and regulations are all evolving – and strategies should evolve to reflect these changes. While this dynamic field is doubtlessly a challenge, there is substantial research that can help climate leaders navigate the road ahead.

Katelyn Johnson

Katelyn is a Principal Analyst in the Net Zero & Climate Risk practice. Prior to joining Verdantix, Katelyn was a climate scientist at GNS Science in New Zealand. Katelyn has previously held roles in the energy industry, where she helped projects manage risk due to weather and ocean phenomena. Katelyn holds a PhD in Geology from Victoria University of Wellington and an MS in Earth Sciences from Ohio State University, both focusing on climate science, as well as a BS in Meteorology from Texas A&M University.