Celebrate ‘Asheville Climate Week’ at ClimateCon 2018

John Frey, Katharine Wilkinson and Auden Schendler, board chair of Protect Our Winters.

The Collider, a nonprofit innovation center focused on climate solutions, will present ClimateCon 2018 to Asheville this month. The inaugural conference on the business of climate will take place in three segments on March 16-25.

Collider executive director Megan Robinson said the heart of the conference will be the Business of Climate Forum (March 19-21). This is the second segment of the conference.

“Corporate attendees, representatives from cities, and individuals developing climate-related innovations are the targeted audience. It’s designed to be a smaller, more intimate event so people can best exchange knowledge and establish meaningful connections amongst themselves.” Registered corporate attendees already include IBM, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, and Lowe’s Home Improvement. Representatives from cities such as Cambridge and West Palm Beach have also signed up.

An opening reception at the Orange Peel will be private, but the public is invited to an evening reception at Highland Brewing Company on March 20. It is titled An Evening of Climate Action and Innovation, and will include the Climate Solution Showcase in which innovators working on climate solutions have the opportunity to present and demonstrate their projects. Auden Schendler, vice president of sustainability at Aspin Skiing Company will be the keynote speaker at this event. Admission is $25.

Keynote speakers for other events will include John Frey, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise senior technologist & sustainability strategist; Greg Lowe, Aon global head of resilience & sustainability; Erin Meezan, Interface Inc. chief sustainability officer; Paul Walsh, IBM Global Business Services director of weather strategy; and Katharine Wilkinson, Project Drawdown senior writer. Additionally, most of the presenters and panelists could just as well be keynote speakers. “There wasn’t room for all of them to be placed as keynote speakers this year, but they’re all well qualified,” she said.

Robinson hopes attendees will associate as part of The Collider’s ecosystem. “We want them to walk away knowing we have some of the best innovators working on climate solutions connected to corporate needs. Our membership already includes over 65 businesses that either come here daily, or are virtual members that participate in webinars and use climate data to create their products and services.”

The first segment of the conference begins with the Summit for Emerging Climate Leaders (March 19), and targets students and young professional under 25 years of age. “In the morning they’ll hear from all different experts of various career paths from climate communication, to climate data, climate entrepreneurship, and climate research, presented in a TEDx format. In the afternoon, students who are registered will be able to participate in a ‘pitch competition’ to present business ideas and research projects,” Robinson said. Students from UNC Asheville, AB Tech, Lenoir Rhyne University, Warren Wilson College, and some from out of state have already registered.

The third segment of the conference is titled The Climate City Experience, and is for people of all ages who think about climate change. “From climate-themed art exhibits to special craft beers and ice cream, workshops, science lectures, receptions, and everything in between, The Climate City Experience is an immersive opportunity—encompassing ten full days—inviting conference attendees and the general community to enjoy the soul of our vibrant eclectic city,” she said. To register, or to find out more visit www.climatecon2018.com.

On Feb. 27, 2018 Asheville City Council issued a proclamation naming March 19 – 25 “Asheville Climate Week.” Robinson said the proclamation ensures the third week in March will be held in acclaim as such in perpetuity. “Climate Week will be something to look forward to every year, and attendance is expected to climb exponentially,” she said. “We’re really excited about all three components, but the best single way for people to engage in the ClimateCon experience is to go to the Tuesday evening reception because all the keynote speakers, panelists and presenters will be attending.”

By Mark-Ellis Bennett