Climate Week NYC kicked off on Monday, marking its 14th year as the world's largest global climate gathering. Organizers anticipate more than 100,000 people will attend more than 500 talks, panels, and networking events across New York City — all with the goal of spurring action to tackle climate change on a global scale.
"I've heard the word challenge a lot in relation to climate change. Sea level rise is a challenge, extreme weather is a challenge, the loss of lives and livelihoods is a challenge. With all due respect, these aren't challenges. They're life-threatening emergencies," said Simon Stiell of Grenada, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, during an address on the conference's first day. 
"Let me be clear: we are in an emergency. And the enormous bedrock of science that this process is built upon clearly shows that we are a species in trouble," he added.
NYC Climate Week coincides with the United Nations General Assembly and attracts some of the biggest names in climate policy and corporate activism. Standout speakers in the 2022 lineup include Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ph.D., director of the World Trade Organization; Kristalina Georgieva, Ph.D., managing director of the International Monetary Fund; and Andrew Steer, Ph.D.,  president and CEO of Bezos Earth Fund.
The theme of NYC Climate Week in 2022 is "Getting It Done," a repeat of last year's theme. In 2021, there was a lot of optimism leading up to the United Nations' climate summit that falls a couple of months after Climate Week, but they "didn't get it done last year," Adam Lake, head of Climate Week NYC, told Cheddar News.
"There was some success at [COP26], but nowhere near what we needed," Lake said. "So, it's the same thing. It's getting it done this year, but it's framed in a completely different way. It's more of a challenge as opposed to an opportunity."
Organizers and attendees hope that challenge leads to progress when COP27 rolls around in November. Lake said the goal is for countries to set more ambitious targets for cutting down greenhouse gas emissions. For those that already set  those goals, organizers and attendees aim to hold these countries accountable for demonstrating proof of progress.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and Stiell emphasized that point during separate talks on the first day of the conference. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala urged listeners to reject multilateralism in favor of "global solidarity" while Stiell pushed countries to prioritize climate change mitigation.
"Paris, Glasgow, and a host of other conflict conferences prove that climate change has slowly moved to the center of the international agenda," said Stiell. "Now, it is essential to put it at the center of each national agenda because the only way to succeed globally is for all countries to play the role." 
That's not to say there hasn't been progress. In the 14 years since Climate Week NYC kicked off, calls to combat climate change have grown more urgent and the issue has climbed in global prominence.
"Talking about climate change is cool now," Lake said. "Customers want to hear what [businesses are] doing on climate. And voters, increasingly, want to know what their politicians are going to do on climate. So that's a really good thing. The problem is if it becomes too cool, it becomes a brand, and it doesn't become actual change."
Lake credits younger generations and the internet for getting the message out there. Plus, as extreme weather becomes more common, it's getting harder for people to ignore the evidence of climate change. Just in the days leading up to the conference, a typhoon hit Alaska, another slammed Japan, and Hurricane Fiona battered a vulnerable Puerto Rico. Colette Pichon Battle, lawyer and co-executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, sent "peace" to the people of Pakistan, who are still dealing with the aftermath of flooding that killed 1,500 and faces the threat of more rain.
Pichon Battle, who spoke during a panel on equity and climate change, urged leaders and organizers to awaken people to seize their own power and make change. She also raised tough questions about the imbalance of privilege in capitalist societies. 
"The truth is most of us in this audience are very comfortable. The system is not broken, it's working just as it was intended to work. It's leaving out just who it intended to leave out," she said. "We have to ask ourselves … Are we ready to shift to make those changes that would allow more humans to have a better life, or to keep a very few of us in a very comfortable place? This is not just the transition of an economy, this is a transition of a way of thinking."
Environmental Justice is just one of several categories of events during NYC Climate Week. Others include built environment, energy, transport, finance, sustainable living, nature, policy, industry, and food taking place across the city through Sept. 25.