My Wish List for Climate Week NYC 2014

by Phil LaRocco, Co-founder of Embark Energy

Climate Week NYC 2014 has kicked off with great fanfare in the Big Apple. As a sustainable energy and development practitioner, here is my wish list for the week.

WISH #1 : Accountability

That the world stop talking about clean energy, climate change, poverty and energy access and start examining every initiative, project, program, commitment, enterprise and activity through a lens that actually counts what has been directly accomplished rather than hiding behind warm, fuzzy and self-congratulatory metrics such as “thought leadership”, “raising awareness”, “goals established”, “alliances”, and “year / decade of (fill in the blank) announced”.

This wish means adding up the actual fossil fuel replaced by clean energy; the greenhouse gases reduced by climate change projects; poverty reductions realized by number of households actually exiting poverty as a consequence of a specific activity; and new, modern energy connections supplied through energy access projects. It means taking the resulting data and using it to determine the real unit cost / accomplishment of any and all initiatives.

It also means not taking credit for unrelated accomplishments (see announced poverty alleviation gains that had nothing to do with previously announced development goals). It would not award credit for simply holding one hundred meetings in New York City during Climate Week, meetings that have been going on since the early 1970s (see “Our Common Future” and UNCSD; Rio; and, Rio + 10 and Rio + 20, the Year of Energy Access; the Decade of Energy Access; and on and on).

Consider this: The airfare alone related to this week’s meetings could lift >80,000 energy impoverished homes up the first rung of the energy ladder, supplying basic lighting, small amounts of electricity and clean cooking.Imagine if you also added up the salaries paid for Climate Week and redeployed that sum of money to, say,  household energy access?  Do the math, please.

WISH #2: That everyone would stay at home and send the week’s airfare and salaries to an impartial, professional intermediary who would apply the funds directly to transparently accountable projects.



Phil LaRocco is a co-founder of Embark Energy and has spent forty years working at the intersection of public and private development activities.  Since 1990, he has worked exclusively in energy for development, pioneering the “energy through enterprise” approach in more than twenty developing countries. He has managed the investment in and mobilizing of resources for over one hundred energy enterprises. In 1994 he founded E+Co Inc. and retired as its CEO in early 2009. 

Watch Phil’s TEDxColumbiaSIPA talk, ‘The Moment of Energy Access‘.

Thumbnail image: Climate Week NYC 2014 logo on