John Podesta and senior climate leaders push for progress at the US Climate Action Summit

The Climate Group

On April 22, we hosted the fourth annual US Climate Action Summit in Washington, DC. Our theme for this year’s Summit was “Making it Real,” but it wasn’t just a theme, it was a challenge. We called upon the leaders at the forefront of climate action to join forces, engage in tough conversations, and commit to tangible progress amid a time of unprecedented US climate investment. We brought together more than 260 of the most influential people in climate from business, government, and the nonprofit sector who committed their time and challenged themselves to engage with the most pressing climate issues facing the US today in sectors including food, industry, and transportation. Across all these conversations, we focused on how to unlock access to funding, create jobs, and innovate from historic climate legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

The keynote event of the week, The Leaders’ Forum, featured morning and afternoon Spotlight Sessions with interviews, conversations and panels discussing the overarching themes of ‘Public and Private Synergy’ and ‘Think Globally, Act Locally.’ We kicked off the day with a conversation between Carol Browner, Senior Of Counsel, Covington, and Special Climate Envoy John Podesta.

“Deploy. Deploy. Deploy. We need to go fast. This is going to not only power the US Economy and lead to strong growth but it’s going to power the global economy going forward. If you are an innovator, innovate. If you are a developer, deploy.”

John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for International Climate Policy

Carol and John discussed the unprecedented amount of funding and tax credits now available, the roll out of the IRA, Solar for All, the American Climate Corps, decarbonizing heavy duty trucking and what’s left to do as we transition to green energy. Nearly a million families in communities that have experienced the brunt of industrial pollution will experience cleaner air, additional job opportunities, and lower electrical costs. All leading to a just and equitable transition. Podesta stressed the importance of the transition of the entire global economy and the concerns and opportunities for the international arena to ensure that everyone is on track and aligned to transition the economy to net zero within 30 years – especially the high-emitting economies.

John Podesta speaking to Carol Browner at the US Climate Action Summit

“We have all the technologies to get us where we want to get to but all of us have to believe and invest our personal efforts and time into making all of us successful. We all must work together to make that happen.”

Jigar Shah, Director of the Loan Programs Office at the U.S. Department of Energy

I had the opportunity to sit down with Jigar Shah, Director of the Loan Program for the Department of Energy. His office helps businesses, local governments and utilities get access to funds for new projects. But he also stressed that people need to finish what they started and complete the commitments they’ve already made to deploy electric vehicles and solar panels.

Jigar Shah and Angela Barranco at US Climate Action Summit 2024

Jigar Shah and Angela Barranco at the US Climate Action Summit.

“Regardless of your background, you can tap into this opportunity. The deployment improves jobs, savings, and quality of life. A lot of people will be able to breathe easier because we are deploying solutions… If we’re going to be successful in the climate crisis, we’ve got to make sure that everyone can see their way to a career in this space. Our partnerships with Unions are essential. This isn’t just our chance to make it on climate change, it’s our chance to reinvigorate the middle class.”

Ali Zaidi, Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor

Later in the day, National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi spoke with journalist Benjamin Zamora about the opportunities provided by the deployment of infrastructure and renewable energy. He explained how green jobs are blue collar jobs first and foremost, and how new programs like the American Climate Corps will train people for careers that can sustain a family. He also highlighted examples of the green transition in action – how in Arizona they’ve already deployed charging stations, not only EVs but also for micro-transit and electric rail to provide transportation for those who don’t have cars.

Ali Zaidi and Benjamin Zamora at the US Climate Action Summit 2024

Ali Zaidi and Benjamin Zamora at the US Climate Action Summit

Implementation Agenda

In addition to the Spotlight Sessions on the mainstage, the Leader’s Forum also featured our Implementation Agenda, a full day of 13 in-person roundtables, panels, and workshops, creating a space for knowledge-led collaboration. These sessions exclusively focused on implementing historic climate action through partnerships and tangible solutions across state, federal, business and community leadership. Participants discussed the real-world impacts of large climate infrastructure and clean energy projects, innovation of industrial decarbonization, interregional food security, the implications of new regulations on electric vehicles, engagement with Latino communities, and effective climate communication.

For example, at the roundtable ‘Unlocking Bilateral Transmission in the Northeast,’ state energy regulators, federal government experts, companies, and academia from across the region, including Quebec, convened to create a tangible action plan addressing barriers to clean energy deployment and transmission like coordinated long-term planning and procurements, accelerated permitting reform and financing more opportunities for green workforce development. Outcomes discussed at this roundtable put us on path forward to a stronger, more sustainable grid and act as a model for IRA implementation in the clean energy sector.

We challenged ourselves to grow this year. The 2024 US Climate Action Summit featured the first ever Spanish language roundtable with Latino leaders and Spanish language media. We expanded the Summit to include events outside of the Leader’s Forum, collaborating with the US Naval Research Laboratory, The White House, the Smithsonian, the National Academy of Medicine, and Kaiser Permanente on events that showcased innovation, the importance of communication and of climate and health.

This is only the beginning. The IRA provides historic levels of opportunity, and it’s crucial that we continue to work together and innovate.

As we reflect on this impactful event, and look ahead to Climate Week NYC, as well as COP, I challenge you all to carry this progress forward and make your fight against climate change real.

For more insights, impacts, and analysis, read the US Climate Action Summit 2024 Report.

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