Climate Finance | September 14, 2023

Protesters and private investors to pressure global leaders at Climate Week NYC

Amy Cortese
ImpactAlpha Editor

Amy Cortese

ImpactAlpha, Sept. 14 – When world leaders jet into New York for the annual UN General Assembly this weekend, it will be hard to miss the thousands of protestors expected to take to the streets for the “March to End Fossil Fuels.” 

After the hottest summer on record, and amid another massive flood in a vulnerable region, the message is clear: climate action cannot wait. 

“It doesn’t feel like an incremental moment,” says Rachel Kyte of The Fletcher School at Tufts University. “It feels like we’re pushing up against tipping points.” 

Whether the UNGA, as the UN meetings are called, meets the moment remains to be seen. But the week’s real climate action will take place not at the UN on Manhattan’s East River, but all over the rest of New York at the sprawling, messy, meetup of entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and activists known as Climate Week NYC, organized by the nonprofit Climate Group.

Both on and off of the main program startups will demo their climate solutions, investors will cut deals and happy hours will beckon after long days spent dashing around Manhattan. Our friends at Climate Tech VC have put together a handy list of Climate Week events.

This year, VCs are crossing over to work with infrastructure, debt, catalytic, and government investors to steer startups to commercialization journeys, said Planeteer Capital’s Sophie Purdom, also a co-founder of Climate Tech VC. 

Climate Week NYC has become its own “epicenter for an ecosystem of private-sector innovators, funders, and policymakers convening across party lines,” Purdom told ImpactAlpha. What she’s keying in on: “The sophistication and deepening of the climate capital stack.” 

Beyond pledges 

This week’s discussion in the UN and at Climate Week NYC events across Manhattan will set the tone for the more consequential COP, or “conference of parties,” climate summit that begins at the end of November in Dubai. 

The question, says Kyte, is “Can you, from the streets and from the business community and from the finance community, put enough clear pressure on political leaders to act now?”

Some of the issues on the UN agenda sound depressingly familiar (are we still talking about the unmet $100 billion in climate pledges?). But there have been breakthroughs since last year’s UNGA meetings.

The industrial policy launched by a trio of US laws is already spurring domestic supply for technology and products that will power the energy transition, from EVs and batteries to carbon capture and fusion. Other countries are scrambling to follow suit. 

G7 and G20 leaders as well as COP28 organizers are aligning on a goal of tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030. And there is something like universal consensus that development finance needs to be “bigger, better and more effective,” as Kyte puts it, to address cascading climate and debt issues in low- and middle-income countries. 

Blended finance

Then there is the march of technology and declining cost curves. If they follow established S-curves of consumer adoption, electric vehicles will make up two-thirds of new car sales by 2030, one-third more than consensus estimates, RMI’s Kingsmill Bond declares in his latest analysis, The end of the ICE age

Reality, he notes, has been outpacing conventional projections. It’s “‘S-curves as usual’ instead of business as usual,” says Bond. 

In a July report, Bond predicted solar and wind power capacity will grow by three to four times by 2030, while costs of solar – already the lowest cost source of energy – will fall by another 50% by the end of the decade.

Trillions of dollars are needed to reduce emissions and help communities adapt to the here and now effects of climate change, especially in vulnerable countries, even as donor nations grapple with inflationary pressures, a war in Ukraine and political backlash at home. 

That’s leading to a search for new models and blended finance vehicles to free up and mobilize funds. At the inaugural African Climate Week this month, global taxes on carbon, business-class air travel and financial transactions were floated as ways to finance the more than $250 billion in climate funding needed annually by the continent. 

Blended finance, including guarantees, insurance facilities and concessional capital to draw in private investors, is the new coin of the realm. 

Says Kyte: “I get the feeling that everything is on the table.”