With a call to resolve the climate crisis by 2030, Prince William and Pope Francis joined an international group of activists, artists, celebrities, and politicians on Saturday who participated in a TED event, aimed at promoting action and unity to rescue the environment.
“The shared goals of our generation are clear,” said the Prince, grandson of Elizabeth II and second in line to the British throne, in a video message at the start of the event, called “Countdown”. “Together we must protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world and fix our climate,” he said.
Countdown, streamed for free, sheltered several proposals for solutions, such as agricultural models that include both crops and wildlife, electric transport systems, cities designed for pedestrians and not cars, economies driven by environmental conservation, and political election sensitive to climatic problems.
“We are living in a historical moment marked by difficult challenges,” said the Argentine pope, calling for the unity of people of all faiths to protect the planet. “The Earth must be worked, cared for, cultivated and protected,” said the head of the Catholic Church. “We can’t keep squeezing it like an orange.”
The five-hour event also addressed how damage to the environment fuels social and racial injustice. “No country is immune to the climate crisis, but in each country the poorest and most vulnerable are the most affected despite being the least responsible for the problem,” said Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General.
David Lammy, a member of the British Parliament, said that “blacks breathe the most toxic air relative to the general population, and it is people of color who are most likely to suffer from the climate crisis.”
More than 65,000 people were connected when former US Vice President Al Gore and 22-year-old actor Jaden Smith opened a session dedicated to young voices and the need for companies to embrace climate solutions.
American economist Rebecca Henderson targeted companies that make fortunes from fossil fuels or other operations that emit greenhouse gases and cause harm, she said, without taking any responsibility, while funneling money to politicians who help preserve the status quo.
“We let capitalism turn into something monstrous,” Henderson said. “It’s going to be difficult to keep the free enterprise alive if most people believe that the rich and whites are tearing the planet apart for their benefit,” she said.
TED Director Chris Anderson highlighted the role of science: “If there is one thing we must surely learn from this year, it is that when scientists warn you that something terrible is coming, you need to pay attention,” he said.
Other voices presented actions that can help stop climate change. The mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, for example, undertook a project there to plant a million trees to protect themselves from floods and absorb carbon dioxide.
The event specifically aimed to mobilize governments and citizens to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half over the next decade and reach net zero carbon pollution by 2050.
Speakers also included the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the young Mexican activist Xiye Bastida and the actor, Chris Hemsworth. Hundreds of smaller “TEDx” events were held simultaneously around the world to encourage local action.
Messages were also issued from citizens who told, for example, how they abandoned plastic bags, started in the separation of waste, or became aware of their waste.
“Countdown” occurs at a time when some world leaders have addressed the issue of climate change for political gain. US President Donald Trump recently sparked outrage by suggesting that global warming will reverse, and dismissed climate change as the cause of the fierce fires raging across vast swaths of the west of his country.
Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, warned that the issue has become “politicized.” “Droughts, floods, giant fires and other natural disasters linked to climate change ignore political questions”, he said. “But democracies have a way of changing leadership,” he added.
Various personalities called on people to use their vote to elect leaders aware of the climate crisis. “I want to cast my vote for the planet,” said African-American filmmaker Ava DuVernay.