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Climate Week NYC: news and protests surrounding the UN Climate Ambition Summit

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It’s pay-to-play at the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit taking place on Wednesday, September 20th. UN Secretary-General António Guterres invited world leaders to attend, but only if they come to the table with more ambitious plans to tackle climate change.

Thousands of activists hitting the streets this week have their own ask: for the US, the world’s biggest oil and gas producer, to phase out fossil fuel development. They came from out of state and other countries to march through Manhattan on Sunday and have risked arrest at protests across the city.

Hundreds more events are planned throughout NYC’s Climate Week, which has attracted all kinds of brands — from Big Tech to startups trying to develop new-fangled ways to erase greenhouse gas emissions.

The Verge is on the ground at the summit and this week’s biggest protests and events.

  • How to assess ‘sustainable’ products and your own impact as a consumer

    A side view of two smart watches, one on top of the other
    Some of Apple’s new watches will be carbon neutral, the company announced this month.
    Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

    These days, brands are all about selling you something more sustainable. In just the past week, we’ve seen Apple launch its first carbon-neutral products and Amazon start to share pollution reports for individual devices. 

    GM sponsored a major hub for events during New York City’s Climate Week, coinciding with a United Nations climate summit. I walked past its electric vehicles displayed in a conference hall outside a panel about living in a changing climate.

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  • Joe Biden and Brazil’s President Lula launched a partnership for workers’ rights.

    They’ve agreed on five goals for both countries, including mitigating the impact of clean energy and digital economic transitions on workers and harnessing new technologies, like artificial intelligence, to benefit those workers.

    There are still no specifics on how they will develop this partnership and reach those goals, but they want to take the initiative to other international forums and allow other nations and organizations to join.

  • The world’s biggest polluters didn’t show up.

    Joe Biden and heads of state for many of the top polluting countries — China, India, and Russia, and the UK — were missing at the UN Climate Ambition Summit, where the ticket to participate was a more ambition climate plan. “The rich countries that have historically driven the climate crisis and are continuing to expand fossil fuels were given an opportunity ... to demonstrate their commitment to the 1.5°C global warming limit. Instead, we saw cowardice and a staggering failure of climate leadership,” Romain Ioualalen of Oil Change International said in a statement.

  • Brazil steps up its climate commitments after they were gutted by Jair Bolsonaro.

    During the UN climate summit today, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced that Brazil will recommit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 48 percent by 2025. The country initially pledged to do that under the Paris agreement, but former president Jair Bolsonaro reversed course.

    Deforestation in Brazil has also dropped by 48 percent this year, Lula said. Under Bolsonaro, deforestation created 122 percent more carbon dioxide emissions in two years than the average recorded between 2010 and 2018.

  • Can a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty fill in gaps in the Paris climate accord?

    The Paris agreement, while committing countries to limit global warming, doesn’t actually use the term “fossil fuel.” The world needs a treaty on the non-proliferation of fossil fuels, Lidy Nacpil of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development said during the opening plenary of the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit taking place today. The non-proliferation treaty’s supporters based it on the same principles as the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

  • Joe Biden launches climate and jobs programs — but no new pollution-cutting goals

    Joe Biden speaks at a podium with one hand raised
    US President Joe Biden addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 19th, 2023.
    Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP via Getty Images

    The Biden administration launched new climate funding and jobs programs today as world leaders — minus Joe Biden — gather for the Climate Ambition Summit in New York. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $4.6 billion in new funding for state, local, and tribal clean energy programs. Plus, details have finally emerged for a long-awaited American Climate Corps.

    But Biden is expected to skip the United Nations climate summit today, a conspicuous absence since UN Secretary-General António Guterres stipulated that leaders present “credible, serious and new climate action” in order to participate. Biden, who came to New York this week for the UN General Assembly, is reportedly sending climate envoy John Kerry to attend the summit in his place.

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  • Joe Biden’s ‘American Climate Corps’ is finally here — sort of.

    A civilian climate corps was a key ask youth climate activists had of Biden while he was still on the campaign trail in 2020. Today, during NYC’s Climate Week, the Biden administration announced that it’s launching a new American Climate Corps, a job training program for careers in clean energy and conservation.

    We’re still waiting for more details on how the program will work and where the funds will come from. But starting today, people can sign up to “learn more” about the Corps, according to White House officials.

  • Protesters take over NYC streets to tell Joe Biden to ‘end fossil fuels’

    Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

    Princess Daazhraii Johnson, a member of the Neets’aii Gwich’in, hasn’t been able to fish at her family’s traditional camp on the Yukon River in Alaska for years. Salmon have dwindled with rising temperatures, a consequence of burning fossil fuels. That’s one reason why Johnson was one of thousands of people who took to the streets in New York over the past 24 hours to demand an end to oil, coal, and gas.

    The aim is to put pressure on President Joe Biden and other world leaders gathering in the city this week for the United Nations General Assembly. Notably, Biden isn’t expected to attend the UN Climate Ambition Summit on Wednesday. To participate, governments need to come with “credible, serious and new climate action,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said.

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  • Climate protesters arrested outside the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

    The Verge saw NYPD fill at least three police vans with protesters who marched through NYC’s financial district to end fossil fuels. Demonstrators are still blocking entrances to the bank, and there are more arrests going down.

  • Thousands of people flocked to New York City for the ‘March to End Fossil Fuels’ today.

    “It’s not just a country issue. It’s a whole world issue,” says Diana Sanchez, a coordinator with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, who joined the march. “You have hurricanes, you have natural disasters, and it causes people to migrate over. And then they come to this country in search of work, and then they overheat while they’re working ... So it was very important for us to be here representing all the voices that are not being heard.”

    A person wearing glasses raises a fist.


    Diana Sanchez, a coordinator with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, at the March to End Fossil Fuels in New York, NY on Sep. 17th, 2023.
    Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
  • Actors add their support to end fossil fuels.

    Edward Norton, Jane Fonda, Mark Ruffalo, Rosario Dawson, Alyssa Milano, Marisa Tomei, and Alicia Silverstone are among the actors who joined some 700 activists and organizations that signed a letter urging President Joe Biden to phase out fossil fuels. The letter comes ahead of a ‘March to End Fossil Fuels’ and a United Nations Climate Ambition Summit in New York City next week. “You have the executive authority to stop approving fossil fuel projects, phase out fossil fuel production on federal lands, and halt oil and gas exports,” the letter says.

  • ‘Bodies on the line’: why climate protesters risked arrest to block BlackRock

    An officer binds a protester’s hands behind their back.
    NYPD officers arrested protesters who gathered outside BlackRock headquarters in Manhattan on September 13th, 2023.

    Alfredo Angulo is the last person standing in the middle of the street, defying police to block the entrance to BlackRock headquarters in New York City yesterday. Emblazoned in red on their green T-shirt: a family standing between homes and an industrial building billowing smoke. It’s a scene Angulo’s all too familiar with, having grown up in the refinery town of Richmond, California.

    “I could see the refinery from my kitchen window, see the smokestacks,” Angulo, who’s in New York City for events surrounding United Nations conferences this month, tells The Verge. “I’m here as a frontline community member to say that we will not be a sacrifice for the benefit of the rich.”

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  • The world’s first climate change report card is in

    Art depicting a red thermometer above flames
    Image: Hugo Herrera / The Verge

    The nations of the world have to seriously ramp up their clean energy ambitions because time is running out to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, a sweeping new United Nations report card says.

    It’s the first “Global Stocktake” of the progress nearly 200 countries have made since they adopted the Paris agreement in 2015. By pushing nations to slash their greenhouse gas emissions, the global accord strives to avoid climate change so extreme that life on Earth would struggle to adapt.

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