Iron & Earth visits the biggest climate action event of the year
Every year in mid-September, Climate Week NYC brings together tens of thousands of who take in more than 400 events and activities across the City of New York. Ranging from emerging climate tech companies, policy makers, investors, entrepreneurs, and non-profit community organizations, the voices are diverse in background but unified in their desire to mitigate climate change and protect our planet. This year, Iron & Earth's Climate Career Portal team lead Jodie Hon was there to lend our voice to the mix. Here are the lessons learned and perspectives from Jodie's week in the Big Apple.
Event: “Advancing Indigenous People Led Solutions for a Just Transition”
At this event hosted by Right Energy Partnership, we heard from UN Sustainability Director Riad Maddeb that Indigenous People make up 5% of our global population, but are the guardians and protectors of 80% of our plants and animals. He shared his commitment to support a national legal framework and financing to empower Indigenous communities. Dr. Graeme Reed from the Assembly of First Nations in Canada described the need to transition away from diesel within remote Indigenous communities, the importance of energy sovereignty, and the need for a consent based framework for project planning rather than consultation based. He spoke of some inspiring projects such as the Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (KZA) community, also known as Gull Bay First Nation, who built a first of its kind fully integrated solar and storage micro grid. Also recognized was the Oneida Storage Project, a 250 MW energy storage facility in Ontario, and the Old Crow Solar Project built by the Gwich’in community in the Yukon.
Other representatives from the Dominican Republic, New Zealand, and Malaysia shared stories of micro-hydro projects, the need to focus on conservation over development, the importance of language revival and storytelling, and how Indigenous values disagree with carbon markets because they believe nobody can “own” or “sell” carbon, and how this is a further extension of colonialism and capitalism.
Event: “Women Ending the Era of Fossil Fuels and Leading a Just Transition”
This event was run by the Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network International (WECAN) and showcased female leaders and activists who are guiding the way to a net-zero future. From Farhana Yamin, we learned that approximately 95% of global philanthropy in climate goes to male-run organizations. Only 2% of that funding goes to the Global South and only 0.76% goes to Youth. Eriel Tchekwie Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, didn’t hide her frustration that as an Indigenous person fighting against climate change “we rely on the good faith of the people that colonized us to uplift our voices”, and offered the stern warning that the climate crisis is not for economic opportunities. She also spoke of how the Alberta oil and gas work camps led to an increase in missing and murdered Indigenous women in those areas, and how this summer the Peace Delta Area was on fire despite being a UNESCO wetland. Throughout the speakers and two panels, we heard stories from all over the world of community led projects. Women who stopped the development of petrochemical factories in their neighborhood in the USA, women who gathered youth to petition against drilling in a national park in Ecuador, and women who started Latino community based organizations that install small scale solar projects. Across the board there was the repeated message that climate justice is a human rights movement.
Event: “Making it Real: Successfully Implementing New York’s Climate Act Through Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development”
First we heard from Khaleel Anderson from the New York State Assembly, asking local citizens to cast their vote for the New York Heat Act which will protect utility rates, align regulations with climate justice and emission reduction targets , and allow utility profits to be reinvested into the community rather than pocketed by business owners. Next, climate tech start ups made presentations about their emerging technologies such as hydronic shells that retrofit buildings from the outside, and an AI platform that reduces emissions in the wastewater treatment sector.
Then we began talking about workforce development. Similar to Iron & Earth’s mission in Canada, NYSERDA runs a Clean Energy Careers program that aims to support career transitions into the renewable energy sector for people in New York. A panel filled with union representatives, policy makers, community organization directors, and educators shared their perspectives on workforce development in renewable energy. They spoke of the need for unionization for solar workers, and said that unions need to do a better job across the board of accepting and scheduling BIPOC workers. Green City Force talked about the need to educate youth on how climate change is affecting them directly, and educate them on the opportunities available within net-zero. WE ACT shared their Worker Training and Job Readiness program which has trained over 800 local residents, LiUNA talked about the need for paid training programs with wraparound supports, in order to make these careers accessible to disadvantaged workers. This is the concept behind Iron & Earth’s Net Zero Pathways program. Other important concepts discussed were the need to train more people in building retrofits, increasing transportation to worksites from urban centers to increase accessibility, the transferable skills between oil & gas and geothermal projects, the need to improved working conditions in the skilled trades industry for women, and organizations that train and support women in these areas.
Event: Queering Climate
Queering Climate is a new community and collaborative studio connecting, supporting and celebrating queerness in climate spaces and beyond that launched at New York Climate Week. The event mostly focused on networking for those advancing work at the intersection of 2SLGBTQ+ rights and climate action, and showcased a few speakers that shared their personal stories existing at the heart of this crossroads.
Overall, the unifying message between these four events is that the climate movement is for everyone. That it is going to take the empowerment of every last one of us to protect our planet, which means increasing the support and rights of Indigenous Peoples, Women, BIPOC workers, low-income communities, LGBTQIA2S+ people, and all other equity deserving communities. This is done by representation, wrap-around supports, strong DEI workplace policies, public policy focused on protection, mentorship, advocacy, education, and storytelling. The climate movement is a human rights movement, and it needs everyone to join.
post by Jodie Hon who leads the Climate Career Portal team for Iron & Earth.
Iron & Earth’s training programs are funded in part by the Government of Canada's Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.