It was Thursday night, and I was getting ready to attend one of the most important events of the year as one of four Rainforest Partnership representatives: CEO Niyanta Spelman, Operations and Program Associate Luther vom Eigen, and Board Member Lucia Gallardo recently attended this year’s Climate Week NYC.
The event brought together the most influential leaders in climate action in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly and the City of New York. Our team participated in critical and thought-provoking conversations that can lead the way to a thriving and balanced planet.
I was going to New York Climate Week 2022. It was a dream come true. And you know what? It definitely did not disappoint.
The days before New York Climate Week 2022 had been a race for the RP team. We had to find events, register, and work out a cohesive plan within a busy schedule to tackle every day strategically and purposefully. All this to get RP on the map and to meet amazing people doing great work driving climate action. After five exciting days of running around New York and meeting incredible people, I can confidently say that all this work paid off.
The Climate Week Begins
On Monday morning, the first day of Climate Week, I headed to the Ford Foundation Center in Midtown to attend an event centered around forests. The event started off with a brief yet powerful presentation about the Forest Declaration Assessment. Last year during COP26 in Glasgow, leaders from all over the world signed a declaration to protect forests and stop deforestation by 2030, and in 2014 a similar declaration was signed in New York City. So this assessment evaluated how well we’re doing collectively to reach the goals outlined in these declarations.
Global Trends in Deforestation
The Forest Declaration Assessment presentation shared both good news and bad news. The good news is that the general trends we’d seen in previous years are changing, although not as fast as they should. But some regions like Southeast Asia are reversing the tide, halting forest loss, and even showing forest regeneration. The bad news is that some areas aren’t doing well, with increasing deforestation and forest degradation. Some of these areas are concentrated along the Amazon River basin in countries like Brazil and Colombia.
The panel that accompanied the rest of this session, a wonderful and inspiring group of indigenous leaders and representatives of key organizations and stakeholders, highlighted the importance of working together, of including local and indigenous communities and giving them a seat at the table, and of channeling funds so that they reach those who can make the most of them: local and indigenous communities. These are the communities that work on the ground. The communities have been the protectors and stewards of forests for thousands of years and know how to preserve our most vital ecosystems.
As a member of the Rainforest Partnership team, these remarks made me hopeful since our mission and vision are in direct alignment with the present needs of our planet’s forests and communities. The work we are doing is based on the premise of collaboration, partnership, and community. The programs we are developing seek to facilitate the movement of funds to reach projects on the ground and indigenous and local communities.
Climate Week Conversations and Connections
The following days of Climate Week were just as exciting as the first. We listened to panels spanning topics as diverse as blockchain, finance, entertainment, ecosystem regeneration, built environment, and reforestation, among many others, and we met with a vast array of people who are doing everything from creating alliances to collect seeds and create seed banks to calculating the cooling potential of the Amazon rainforest, to managing investment funds to support organizations actively addressing climate change.
Our CEO Niyanta Spelman spoke at the GBBC event, where she powerfully asked the attendees, members of important financial institutions, tech companies, and blockchain endeavors, how we could all come up with appropriate incentives “that make sense, that don’t mess things up” so that companies can “take out deforestation from their supply chains”. She went on to explain how Gen Z is the generation that will have consumer power, drive market decisions, and necessarily demand these incentives to remove deforestation from commodities like cacao and coffee.
These remarks and conversation with her fellow panelists led to meaningful discussions after the event. We made connections and received a lot of positive feedback from the audience. When rainforests make their way into blockchain events, we know we’re on the right path to inclusivity, to connection, and to the urgent collaborations that are needed to tackle the complexities of climate change and biodiversity loss.
Collective Work Ahead
Rainforest Partnership’s presence in New York Climate week was felt, and we were left with a great sense of urgency, as is usual in these events, but also with a sense of hope. This Climate Week was different from other similar events that I’ve been to in the past because it showcased a growing proportion of individuals, companies, and organizations assembling and partnering to tackle our two existential crises: climate change and biodiversity loss. Through our work and our continued partnerships, we build hope, and through events like these, we corroborate that our approach and work are the way to go forward.
Thank you to everyone who kindly lent us their knowledge and their time, who shared their ideas and passions with us, and who agreed to become a part of the growing community that is supporting our planet and its rainforests. We hope you'll join us as we work toward our goal of zero deforestation by 2030.