SF Climate Week: Bigger, Better, (Not Yet) Bolder

SF Climate Week: Bigger, Better, (Not Yet) Bolder - Carbon Herald
Photo by Shen Pan on Unsplash

By Ann Leslie Davis

San Francisco’s second annual Climate Week ended last Saturday, capping a seven-day extravaganza of more than 300 events across the city. Over 20,000 people – including corporate and government officials, investors, innovators, academia, and simply the curious – hiked, biked, ferried, bussed, and hopped the trolley to learn, share, be inspired, make deals, and continue working for a habitable planet. SF Climate Week kicked off with an opening ceremony by Mayor London Breed in the freshly minted 9Zero, a co-working space and climate hub located in the city’s financial district. A week later, when participants were posting about climate fatigue, SFCW concluded with ping-pong games, climate karaoke, and Burning Man-style light shows across the Bay in Oakland.

This year’s SFCW was a significant leap from the previous year, with three times as many events and over twice as many participants. The event, which was previously run on a zero budget, attracted corporate sponsorships in 2024, reflecting the increasing recognition and support for climate action.

“I’m really quite blown away by the outpouring of enthusiasm and participation,” said Evan Hynes, founder of SFCW. “San Francisco Climate Week is a lightning rod that’s attracting a lot of attention.”

Excitement ran high, with participants eagerly exchanging LinkedIn QR codes before rushing off to the next session. Semhal Gebrekirstos, a 28-year-old ESG program manager at DLA Piper, said she felt buoyed by the spirit of hope and collaboration at SFCW.

“Talking with friends, I hear a lot of pessimism around climate change,” Gebrekirstos said. “People think if we divest from fossil fuels, there’s going to be big job losses. But here you see all the other jobs that can be created.”

Events themselves ran the gamut of climate concern. Panels on climate investment in plush suites with sweeping views of the Bay alternated with subterranean gatherings of innovators in grittier sections of the city. Highly technical talks on MRV contrasted with family-friendly nature walks, beach cleanups, music, and meditation.

But behind the sunny optimism of presenters were gloomier concerns about funding bottlenecks, regulatory inaction, and risk-averse investors. U.S. President Joe Biden’s IRA bill is now law, pouring billions into the green economy, and venture capital investment is rebounding from its sharp drop in 2022-23. Yet global climate investment lags dangerously behind what’s needed by 2030 — $900 billion a year instead of $5 trillion. At SFCW, the gap was large between the number of cash-hungry startups and the number of buyers looking to invest.

In an afternoon gathering, Breene Murphy of Carbon Collective Investment argued that closing the climate investing gap and getting to $5 trillion requires creative thinking.

“These trillions [are] waiting on the sidelines, but not deployed properly,” Murphy said. “That’s the moment we’re in.”

What’s holding back greater climate investment, and how can investments be reoriented to move climate action forward? Who will step in to ferry startups over the “valley of death,” the gap in funding between lab and launch? More on these topics from SF Climate Week tomorrow.

Read more: Inaugural Carbon Unbound Europe Summit Brings CO2 Removal Industry Together

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