UN Celebrates it’s 75th and is Tackling Climate Change

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

Nations United - Urgent Solutions for Urgent times - An image supporting this special broadcast on the Un's 75th anniverary
photo credit: UN.org

We have a special story to tell, following the release of a film as the United Nations celebrates its 75th anniversary. Marking five years since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN’s commitment to tackling climate change. In the midst of a pandemic radically transforming our world, Nations United tells the story of the world as it is, as it was, and as it could be. It focuses on the solutions and action we need to tackle poverty, inequality, injustice and how we could be tackling climate change. 

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75 years with the UN in the world

5 with the Sustainable Development Goals

Including tackling climate change around the world . . . 

We are thrilled to be covering a very special film put together by the United Nations and a roster of stars when they celebrated their 75th anniversary. It also marks the 5th year since the UN Sustainable Development Goals were announced one of which intends to be tackling climate change, amongst other things. The video was released back in September, just as the world experiences a radically transforming world. The UN ‘tells the story of the world as it is, as it was and as it could be. It really focuses on the solutions and actions the world needs such as tackling poverty, inequality, injustice and to tackle climate change. 

It features the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. With guest appearances from Malala Yousafzai, Don Cheadle, Michelle Yeoh, Forest Whitaker, Thandie Newton, Sugata Mitra. There is also an exclusive performance from Grammy-nominated singer Burna Boy. With a new version of a previous UN performance by multi-Grammy award-winning artist, Beyoncé.

So, without further ado, let’s get stuck into what they had to say /sing about

Here is a helpful transcript of what the A-listers had to say

Thandie Newton

This is a very important story. The important story in the midst of Covid 19.  It’s a historic opportunity to look at the facts of the world as it is and then to focus on the solutions to some of our greatest problems. In the 75 years since the United Nations was founded the human race has never had to face a set of challenges as we do right now. But together we can overcome them.

it’s a myth that each and every one of us doesn’t have the ability to change the world dramatically and quickly. There have been enormous shifts in power and behaviour to the benefit of all humanity and it can happen again. Nelson Mandela said, “it always seems impossible until it’s done. These are some of the things that must be done” 

Take it away – Andrea Bocelli 

Amazing grace, how sweet, the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now, I’m found, Was blind, but now, I see.

Andrea bocelli, amazing grace, music for hope - Supporting our story about the un tackling climate change
photo credit: Andrea Bocelli Concert at Milan Duomo Cathedral

Back to Thandie

September 2020, and the world is still in the grip of a global pandemic. There have been more than 27 million confirmed cases and more than 900, 000 people have died. Billions of people have been in lockdown for months. Lives and livelihoods have been threatened and lost. But as some lockdowns are easing, people are emerging into a different uncertain world with a new appetite for change. Today we feel the weight of history on our shoulders. 

The Covid 19 pandemic has shown us how fragile the world is. A microscopic virus has put us on our knees. That fragility should make us humble. Covid 19 has been likened to an x-ray exposing fractures in the skeleton of the societies we have built. A world with great inequality which must be righted and a world which must win the battle against climate catastrophe.  The whole planet is at stake so this is a moment to recognize that the way we have been moving leads nowhere and that we need to change course. 

Our local environments are showing change during the lockdowns 

The lockdowns also showed that our environment itself can change.  In Punjab for the first time in generations, the Himalayas are visible once again. Lions have reclaimed the roads in Kruger national park. In Venice, the canals run clear once more. And across Italy dolphins have returned. If you look at the response of people to Covid 19, people dramatically change their lives. But people have shown an enormous capacity to adapt to new circumstances and enormous capacity to change the way they live, the way they work, the way they organize themselves.

“So change is possible. The problem. The problem is political will.” 

 “So it so decided! On the 25th of September 2015, all United Nations member states signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals. A set of solutions for the biggest problems the world faces.  We’re going to look at the four key areas where we must take urgent action: 

UN 75th anniversary - Image of one of the narrators - Supporting our story about the un tackling climate change
photo credit: UN.org

Key area 1 – How can we be tackling climate change

“Next door’s on fire. Oh my god! Okay. I’m scared.”

“You’re at risk. Leaving now is the safest option. So leave now towards the beach and shelter in place.” 

“We’re going! Claton’s just getting in his car. We’re out of here, guys. The whole place is on fire. Oh my god. My neighbour’s house . . . OK. Come on Clay. We need to go. Oh my god”

This is a real nightmare. I can’t believe this is real. I can’t see anything. This is literally not real. This is not real. Oh, my freaking god. All I want is my family. 

Pictures and stories continue to file out from Australia about the devastating fires.  This one, a satellite image from NASA and as you can see . . . 

We are not tackling climate change well enough – The last decade was the hottest ever

 . . . that have reached two and a half meters in the capital. The rising death toll and fastest evacuation in Indonesia and what a strong way to Jakarta following the heaviest downpour in more than two decades. 

Extreme weather displaces 20 million people a year

. . . it’s the worst plague of locusts to affect the region.  The damage to pastures and crops could create “severe consequences for the region where nearly 12 million people are . . .”

Up to 25 million East Africans were threatened by food shortages due to the swarm 

 . . . It could be the worst the area has seen in 20 years. “This is a double whammy, you know. We’re dealing with the cyclone and with the exposure to Covid.” 

“Well, the fire that is raging in northern California have now become some of the largest in state history. More than 12 000 firefighters are currently battling the places that have the . . . “

“San Francisco bay area smothered by some of the worst air quality on the planet. . . Valley reaches an all-time high of a hundred . . . daily on Tuesday recorded in. . .  temperatures spiking above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. . . 

Climate change is man-made. The main drive is CO2 pollution from the burning of fossil fuels. The climate crisis is happening now. 

“I think this is the most important issue that we need to be talking about.”

“Climate change is here now and it is killing people right now. The people who are looking at it right in the face.”

Christina Figueres – Exec. Secretary UNFCCC: “The next 8 to 10 years is going to determine the quality of life for the next 100 to 200 years”

(Christina Figureres founded the non-profit Centre for Sustainable Development of the Americas). 

Image of Christina Figureres from the Carbon Brief Interview - Supporting our story about the un tackling climate change
photo credit: www.businessgreen.com

Don Cheadle

We all watched with amazement when exactly one year ago, young people from all over the world took to the streets to express their feeling that we’re not doing enough to tackle climate change. That we’re not treating it like the emergency it is. It’s a year later now. Have we done enough? No, we have not.  And climate change is only part of this story. Our rainforests are disappearing at an extraordinary rate. One football field of rainforest is destroyed every six seconds. One million plant and animal species are on the brink of extinction. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. 

And so climate change and our treatment of the natural world are colliding and exacerbating each other to create a perfect storm. This cannot go on. You know it, I know it, and we know what we need to do.

United Nations Global Solutions – How we can quickly be tackling climate change

We need to reduce global emissions by 50% by 2030. To do this we need a rapid but just transition to renewable energy. That means an end to the building of new coal power stations and an end to subsidizing of fossil fuels. The government should also shift the tax burden from payrolls to carbon. Taxing carbon rather than people will increase output and employment while reducing emissions.  And we need to stop deforestation in its tracks, planting trees instead of chopping them down. 

We need to think about what we eat and how we produce food, embracing healthy, nutritious diets, sustainable farming methods and reducing food waste.  The climate crisis is an opportunity. Renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels. Thousands of businesses are working to go carbon neutral and the opportunity to generate clean, safe and decent jobs is enormous. The passion for protests can turn into a passion for changing all of our behaviour to create a better, safer, just, sustainable world. The big question we have to ask ourselves now is this as a species. Are we going to be able to work together urgently to tackle climate change? The clock is ticking. 

Image of Don Cheadle narrating for the UN 75th anniversary video - Supporting our story about the un tackling climate change
photo credit: Don Cheadle UNEP Goodwill Ambassador UN.org

Key area 2 – Poverty & Inequality 

Michelle Yeoh 

Poverty and inequality are universal. They undermine every society, everywhere.  But poverty is not natural – It is man-made.  So poverty is not inevitable.  It’s an area where the world has made huge progress in the past few decades. Just 30 years ago there were 1.9 billion people living in extreme poverty but that number has been transformed.  In 2015, it fell to 734 million people. That’s over a billion people lifted out of poverty.

“A billion people out of poverty is amazing. It was across the world we lifted people out of poverty. Across the world, more kids got into education. As across the world, maternal mortality was reduced. Across the world today not many people will be left without access to a mobile phone. And what that has done to empower them, to access education, to a livelihood is huge.” 

But still, almost 10 per cent of the human race is living unbelievably harsh lives. This is largely determined by their circumstances at birth and these high levels of inequality work against better opportunities for all. Opportunities that could change the world.

Image of Michelle Yeoh endorsing the Un sustainable development goals
photo credit: UNtoday.org

The hole in the wall experiment – By Dr Sugata Mitra

 I want to tell you a story about 1999. I used to teach people how to write computer programs and I had a very you know plush office and everything. And just outside of these offices there was this large sprawling urban slum, full of children. So one day I tried an experiment I made an opening in the boundary wall that separated my offices from the slum and then I fixed a computer so that from the other side of the wall you could see the computer and a touchpad. On the first day, we saw this eight-year-old boy teaching a six-year-old girl how to surf.

How on earth did he figure that out?  How did he know what the computer was doing? Three months after I had first put their computer in the wall the children said they wanted a faster processor and a better mouse. I asked them how on earth do you know these words? Where did you learn this from? And they said well you’ve left a machine here that speaks only in English, so we had no option but to learn the language.  Easy isn’t it? I repeated the hole in the wall experiment for five years across the length and breadth of India. 

“I repeated the hole in the wall experiment for five years across the length & breadth of India.”

In a village 300 miles away from Delhi, one girl is explaining to the other girl what a neuron is. They’re just 12 years old. Wow. We have hope we have an enormous potential of what children can achieve together if we let them.

The hole in the wall experiment as delivered by Dr Sugata Mitra - Supporting our story about the un tackling climate change

There is potential everywhere we just have to unlock it. A huge amount depends on where public money is spent. More of it must urgently go into health. Into giving everyone a safety net. There is a revolution that is happening in education. Connecting every school every person to the internet. This can be done. The recovery from covert must lead to an economy that works for everyone.

Let’s start with tax

Let’s start with tax. We have widespread tax concessions, tax avoidance, and tax evasion. Which means that there’s so much less money for all the crucial things. Many developing countries are weighed down by historical debts, spending more money on debt repayments than they are spending on health care. 

And there’s the importance of global peace

And then there’s the importance of global investment in peace.  The peace dividend for the world is immeasurable. And we must break the vicious cycle of corruption and increase the power of the people to keep a check on the people in power. A free independent media and responsible social media platforms that encourage healthy debate.  Equality unleashes the potential of everyone to improve their own lives and contribute to the lives of everyone else whatever it is.

Excerpt from “The Pandemic is a portal” by Arundhati Roy

“Coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt as nothing else could.  Our minds are still racing back and forth longing for a return to ‘normality’.  Trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists and in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.” 

“Historically pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine the world anew. this one is no different. It’s a portal. A gateway between one world and the next. We could choose to walk through it. Dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred. Our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas. Or we can walk through it lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world, and ready to fight for it.”

Germany's landmark the Brandenburg Gate is illuminated to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory Day and the end of World War II in Europe, in Berlin, Germany, Friday, May 8, 2020. With the projection of the word "Thank You" in various languages Berlin commemorates the liberation of Germany by the allied forces in 1945. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
photo credit: berlin.de

Forest Whittaker

After the genocide and destruction of the second world war, the United Nations was founded. Enshrined in its charter was the fact that all people are equal and entitled to the same respect,  justice and human rights. This remains a simple truth and yet across the globe, the struggle is still being fought.

“There is a certain outrage for injustice right now. I think that that is happening in every sphere. I think we’re at a moment where Covid perhaps has helped us realize that there is an inter-generational transition and that young people now waking up to the calls that we’ve had for my generation. Calls which have said ‘look this is the opportunity you’ve got to make things change’. I mean they are rising up and that we are bringing young people to the table now. Not as a token, but to help us shape and to take that batten. To take up the gauntlet and to move forward. People fighting for justice. But fighting for your justice, not just mine. And to see that without your justice mine won’t be fulfilled either” 

“People fighting for justice. But fighting for your justice, not just mine. And to see that without your justice mine won’t be fulfilled either”

Geroge Floyd 'I can't breath', image painted onto a wall. Full credit to the BBC
Photo credit: Dominican graffiti artist Jesus Cruz Artiles, also known as EME Freethinker. Photo by Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Key area 3 – Justice & Human Rights 

“The world knows him as George, but I called him Perry. Yesterday we laid him to rest. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I’m the big brother now, so it’s my job to come for my brothers, and my sisters, Perry’s kids, and everyone who loved him. And that’s a lot of people. I couldn’t take care of George that day he was killed, but I could make sure that his death would not be in vain. . . “

“To make sure that he is more than another face on a t-shirt, more than another name on the list that won’t stop growing. George called for help and he was ignored. Please listen to the cow ringing out the streets across the world. People of all backgrounds, genders and races, have come together to demand change. The people marching in the streets are telling you ‘enough is enough’. “

To the leaders, the people elected you to speak for them to make positive change. You have the opportunity to make your names mean something too. If his death ends up changing the world for the better, and I think it will, then he died as he lived.  It is on you to make sure his death is not in vain. ‘Perry look up at what you did big brother. You changed the world. I hope you can rest in peace with power.’ “

brother of George Floyd asking the un to help black people in america
photo credit: nbcnews.com

Key area 4 – Gender Equality

Inequality for women is one of the world’s great injustices. And it is an injustice that must be and will be swept away. 75% of parliamentarians are men. 73% of managerial decision-makers are men. 67% of climate negotiators are men. And 87% of the people at the peace table are men, even though we know that when peace settlements include women, the negotiations and outcomes are more durable. 

When peace settlements include women, the negotiations /outcomes are more durable. 

Globally almost one in five women has experienced violence in the past 12 months at the hands of a man they know. Women and girls do three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men. The global gender pay gap is stuck at 16%. Every year 12 million girls are married before 18. All of this has to change. It’s time to stop trying to change women and start changing the systems that prevent them from achieving their potential. And this is the battle that women in this century will not lose. they are too strong and their voices will not be silenced.

“I was named after a girl. . . an Afghani folk hero who was killed in a battle. Just after I was born my father got our family tree.  It went back 300 years but not a single girl or woman’s name appeared on it. He decided to make me the first. He wrote ‘Malala’. “

When her father’s school was closed down by the Taliban, Malala Yousafzai began to campaign for the right of young girls across the country to go to school. 

“I have rights. I have the right to education. I have the right to play.  I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk I have the right to go to the market I have the right to speak up”

An image of Malala Yousafzai following the shooting. Image by Yuri Cortez, full credit to AFP images.
photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

They shot her in the head. She is still in critical condition.  She was airlifted to a military hospital in Peshawar where she had surgery. As surgeons battled to save her life, vigils took place throughout the world.

“Today it is an honour for me to be speaking again after a long time. They thought that the bullet would silence us . . . but they failed.”

In 2014 at the age of 17, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to win the Nobel peace prize. 

“My message right now to young people is that we are living in a world where things are not the way we want.  We are getting a system, we are getting a world, which is unequal, which is sexist,  which is racist. We have systems that are discriminating against people.  Our climate or environment is at risk and there’s so much that needs to be done.  But I hope that young people stand up. They raise their voices.  They start their activism right now.”

“Let your age not stop you.  Often times you’re told that you know you have to be 40 and 50 to change the world.  I do not believe in that. I think you can be a change-maker right now. if you are 11 if you are 16 if you are you know 30, 40,  change is possible anytime. And I want you to believe in yourself and make this world a fairer, more equal and a better place for each and everyone.” 

Image of Malala Yousafzai in one of her Un roles as the UN messanger of Peace
photo credit: UN.org

And once again, there are positive solutions that can turn things around fast. We need more women in positions of power, at every level of government. The time has come for quotas that make sure women are equally represented in every country. It’s time to make our laws equal so that every woman is entitled to a job and a national identification card and to own property. Women must be able to live free from violence and have the right to make decisions over their bodies and lives, especially in choosing if and when they marry.

We must guarantee full access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights. We must provide the money to close the gap in girls’ education. And there are important changes needed to achieve economic empowerment for women -from equal access to finance, to ending the gender pay gap, to equal access to the digital world, from mobile bank accounts to digital payment systems and digital education. It just doesn’t make sense. Women are half of the population, but society does not treat them as equals.

UN Secretary general antonio guterres Un 75th anniversary
photo credit: UN.org

This is a legacy that needs to change here and now.  By changing our behaviours but also by changing laws and common practices across the world. We must all make that happen now everyone can do their part to make it happen. We can create and enjoy green jobs, live healthier lives with cleaner air and better diets, and in more equal societies. All of us men and women can enjoy safer and more productive lives.

“There is power in every decision we make we can shape society and the future of our planet and people in every choice we make.”

My final message is let’s be humble. Let’s recognize our fragilities and let’s understand that only in unity and solidarity we will be able to address them. It’s true in each one of our countries. It’s true at the global level. Let’s take profits of the 75th anniversary of the united nations to think together how better we can organize the international community to address climate change, inequality and pandemics like the Covid 19. And so many other aspects that can only be solved if we join together and if we are able to have one common strategy. One common project and one common determination in favour of peace of development, and human rights in the world. 

Bring it home B . . . 

And if Queen B wasn’t quite enough to hail in the 75th, there was a 2-hour virtual United Nations Barbados & Eastern Caribbean concert, themed ‘United Together: Shaping the Future’. 

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