Climate Week 2023 Recap

October 09, 2023

Leading voices in academia, policy, activism and industry gathered on campus in September for Climate Week 2023. Several themes and big ideas stood out, which we recap below. 

What stood out for you? Share your thoughts with us.

Reimagining climate solutions through the lens of justice, equity and collective responsibility

At the Brazil Climate Summit, the central narrative was not just about Brazil's shift to net-zero emissions, but how this can be achieved equitably and sustainably. The vision? Harnessing the green economy’s opportunities, all while sheltering its most vulnerable communities. On this front, the Columbia Global Center | Rio plans to build partnerships with both government and private sector entities present at the summit to better understand Brazil's role in preventing global warming. Stay tuned for events, workshops and short courses on the topic in 2023-2024.

Also discussed was the need for enhanced local governance to support frontline communities. Examples of what is possible (although these were not specifically mentioned) can be found in Sao Paulo where low-income households are given solar panels, or the state of Para which offers technical assistance to indigenous communities to help them plan how to adapt to climate change.

Revitalizing America’s aging water infrastructure

At the Rethinking Water conference, Columbia Professor Upmanu Lall led discussions on the urgent need to fix America’s aging water infrastructure, linking it to climate resilience. But what’s our role in this? Columbia World Projects is on the frontlines through its pioneering Transforming Wastewater Infrastructure in the U.S. project. By leveraging data, we're crafting tools that help governments allocate their resources more efficiently. At its heart, the project champions symbiotic partnerships across sectors, catalyzing groundbreaking solutions for climate and water infrastructures.

Advancing a collective, sustainable path to climate justice 

The Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Climate Justice Dialogue III examined national efforts like the Justice40 Initiative, the Inflation Reduction Act, and strategies for redressing historical disinvestment and pollution in overburdened communities of color. Participants agreed that multi-sector partnerships are key for implementation. Those in attendance pledged to continue building networks to advance these objectives.

The Carbon Markets, Nature, Rights, and Climate Justice event focused on the unregulated growth of carbon and biodiversity credit markets, highlighting the need for equitable opportunities for frontline communities. Without appropriate regulation, companies can purchase credits to offset their company’s emissions or environmental impacts without actually reducing them. The result? A false sense of progress on climate change, biodiversity loss, continuing displacement, damage to ecosystems and loss of livelihood. 

In the context of ongoing global and national policy negotiations, including those set to take place at COP28, the roundtable explored the use of Free Prior Informed Consent tools and Community Benefit Agreements. The tools uphold the rights of indigenous groups and local communities to accept or reject decisions impacting their lands and resources. The agreements legally compel developers to provide social and environmental gains for communities affected by their projects.

Finally, scholars, artists and activists came together at the Reimagining Climate Action across the Caribbean and Diaspora event. The goal was to reflect on resilience, justice, and the historical legacies of colonialism, as well as to envision a collective, sustainable path toward climate justice for these communities. After the discussion, they pledged to work collaboratively in education, research and community outreach.

Coming Soon!

We are excited to share the work we’ve done for climate resilience in vulnerable communities in the Dominican Republic. In the coming days, Columbia World Projects will unveil an innovative blueprint for a community resilience center that can provide critical services when disasters strike

Be sure to check our website in the coming days for the full announcement.