New York climate week: what happens and why it's important

New York Climate Week 2020

This Monday morning starts a rich fortnight of events in New York with the 75th anniversary of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Climate week and its multiple gatherings, and finally the Biodiversity summit on 30 September (see agenda below). But the main political announcement expected is a Pledge on Nature to be disclosed on 28 September by a number of Heads of State from Costa Rica, the European Union and the United Kingdom, in an effort to reset multilateralism on the right course of action to tackle the ecological crisis and its human impacts.

Why it really matters. Two critically important international conferences, the COP 26 on climate in Glasgow and the COP 15 on biodiversity in Kunming, China, initially planned for 2020, have been pushed back to 2021 because of Covid-19. With the pandemic, the gigantic fires linked on the West Coast in the United States and the observed collapse of biodiversity, the world is now facing a series of immediate threats that are advanced signs of worse to come. A strong political signal is needed from the highest levels of political leadership to confirm the implementation track of the Paris climate agreement and to fulfil the ambition of a new framework on the protection of biodiversity - missing until today. These September meetings are an important milestone on the road to turn these international conferences into success next year. The political Pledge in sight is a first high-level attempt to layout a truly converging international policy agenda on the “triple crisis” affecting people, climate, and nature.

Great expectations, against all odds. Under pressure from citizens, civil society and private sector companies, intense diplomatic negotiations are taking place despite the constraints of holding mainly virtual meetings. While Europe is likely to announce an increased commitment to the reduction of carbon emissions, many eyes will be on China, both on climate and biodiversity. The future of multilateral approaches to these global challenges lies very much in how far Europe, China and other countries can form a meaningful consensus, followed by action, whatever the US election results will be in a few weeks from now. Warnings from scientists are clear: to avoid irreversible damage on humankind, it is now a matter of urgency to reverse the trajectory and rebalance our relationship to nature.

What to read as background information. To get the facts right and envision what must be done to build a better future, you should take a look at the following 3 documents. The essentials are all included, with concise summaries at hand.

  • The “United in Science” report is a multi-organization compilation of the latest climate science information, published by the World Meteorological Organization in September 2020. It provides an excellent summary of the state of affairs on climate and what you need to know.

  • The Global Biodiversity Outlook, published last week by the United Nations, offers an '“authoritative overview of the state of nature” and what progress has been made on a number of indicators. Sadly, none of the 20 initial targets for 2020 has been fulfilled.

  • The Planetary Emergency Plan launched in September 2019 by the Club of Rome and updated in August 2020. Drafted in partnership with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the Plan provides a set of key policy levers addressing the interconnected challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and human health and well-being. A must-read.

A film to view on 21 September.ImagineFor1Minute”, prepared by Nature 4 Climate and Planetary Emergency Partners for the day of the UNGA 75th Anniversary. You can view it here.

Key events to watch live on your agenda:

  • 21 September – The 75th UN General Assembly virtual 'high level' event opens with a session on 'The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism'.

  • 21 September – Launch of the New York Climate Week with its 350 events.

  • 24 September – Opening of the Nature 4 Life Hub hosted by UNDP with session 1.1 ‘Nature for Climate In Action’. Watch it live here.

  • 28 September – Raising the ambition to respond to the Planetary Emergency is a high-level event that will feature Heads of State and Government supporting the Leaders Pledge for Nature and People which will be announced on the day. Available live from 9:00 to 10:30 am EST.

  • 28 September – Green Recovery and Green New Deals. The session chaired by the Club of Rome. You can watch it live here.

  • 30 September – The UN Biodiversity Summit is a critical step towards an international agreement in 2021 on the protection of nature. Watch it live here.

This agenda was put together with the support of the Planetary Emergency Partnership and the facilitation of Elise Buckle. For more information or to join the partnership, you may write to Christine Southam at