Action: Notes from Session 5 of the Countdown Global Launch

Countdown is a global initiative to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. Get involved on the Countdown website and watch all the talks, interviews and performances from the Global Launch here.

It’s time to take action. This closing session of the Countdown Global Launch explored the road ahead: How to think urgently and long-term about climate change. How to take into account the interests of future generations in today’s decisions. How we as individuals, communities and organizations can contribute to shaping a better future. 

Session 5 was cohosted by the actors and activists Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Chris Hemsworth, exploring the many facets of climate action. The session also featured a number of highlights: a stunning spoken word piece by poet Amanda Gorman on ending the devastation of climate change; a call to action from filmmaker and writer Ava DuVernay about “voting for the planet” and electing sustainability-oriented leaders into office; a short video from Make My Money Matter titled “Woolly Man,” urging us to check where our pension money is going; and an announcement of the launch of Count Us In, a global movement focused on 16 steps we can all take to protect the Earth. 

Finally, head of TED Chris Anderson and head of Future Stewards Lindsay Levin closed the show, laying out the path forward for Countdown — including next year’s Countdown Summit (October 12-15, 2021, Edinburgh, Scotland), where we’ll share an actionable blueprint for a net-zero future and celebrate the progress that’s already been made. The Countdown is on!

The talks in brief:

“It’s time for humankind to recognize a disturbing truth: we have colonized the future,” says philosopher Roman Krznaric. He lays out a better way forward at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Roman Krznaric, long-view philosopher

Big idea: We don’t own the future — our descendants do. We need to strive to become good ancestors to future generations and leave behind a legacy of sustainability, justice and radical care for the planet.

How? Though they have no influence or say now, our decisions and actions have a tremendous impact on the lives of future generations. A growing movement of people across the world are looking beyond our short-term timelines and envisioning how we can create change that benefits us and our descendants. In Japan, the Future Design Movement structures community-led town and city planning sessions in a remarkable way: half of the residents participate as themselves in the present day, and the other half are tasked with imagining themselves as future citizens from 2060. By prioritizing the needs of their descendents, participants are empowered to pitch bold and ambitious solutions for climate change, health care and more. From a global campaign to grant legal personhood to nature to a groundbreaking lawsuit by a coalition of young activists suing for the right to a safe climate for future generations, the movement to restore broken ecosystems and protect the future is fierce and flourishing. Roman Krznaric names these visionaries “Time Rebels” and invites us to join them in redefining our lifespans, pursuing intergenerational justice and practicing deep love for the planet.


Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner of Wales

Big idea: When well-being is the measure of a society’s success, governments will naturally trend towards lowering carbon, promoting wellness and nurturing social justice. What if a nation could create an agency to promote well-being rather than economic growth?

How? Wales is one of the first governments to enshrine well-being as a measure of a society’s success, and the first government to create an independent agency dedicated to the security of future generations. Sophie Howe, the world’s only future generations commissioner, tells us that such an agency must involve the people in decision-making. In Wales, the people have mandated policies to lower carbon emissions, promote wellness and cultivate justice. With the principles of well-being spelled out in laws that every institution in the country must follow, Wales is “acting today for a better tomorrow.” “Make it your mission to maximize your contribution to well-being,” Howe says.


Miao Wang, United Nations Young Champion of the Earth; Alok Sharma, president of COP26; and Nigel Topping, UK High Level Climate Action Champion, COP26

Big idea: Join Race To Zero, a global campaign to get businesses, cities, regions and investors to commit to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, at the latest.

How? Three participants of Race To Zero give us the lay of the land. To begin, marine conservationist Miao Wang discusses how young people worldwide are calling for change, demanding that leaders act with speed and urgency to create a world that’s healthier, fairer and more sustainable. Next, Alok Sharma talks about how organizations and institutions are already stepping up their climate ambition as they rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, making specific and science-based commitments to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. And finally Nigel Topping describes the exponential growth in sustainability commitments that we’re seeing in sector after sector of the economy, as leaders work to transform their supply chains. At this rate, he says, we can expect to see the transition to net-zero carbon emissions within 10 years — but it will take all of us to get there. Can we count you in?


Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, discusses the company’s ambitious commitment for a net-zero emissions supply chain by 2030. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Lisa Jackson, environment and social VP at Apple, in conversation with urbanist and spatial justice activist Liz Ogbu

Big idea: Under the leadership of Lisa Jackson, former head of the EPA and now Apple’s environment and social VP, the company is already carbon neutral within their own corporate and retail boundaries. By 2030, they hope to extend carbon neutrality to their supply chain and consumers. In conversation with urbanist and spatial justice activist Liz Ogbu, Jackson shares thoughts on leadership, tech, the environment and building a green economy.

How? In conversation with urbanist and spatial justice activist Liz Ogbu, Jackson shares Apple’s green goals, saying there’s no substitute for leadership in the climate change battle. She believes that if Apple leads by example, the nation and world will follow. Apple’s transformation starts with recycling — repurposing materials rather than mining the world’s rare earth elements and “conflict metals” — but it doesn’t end there. We will not win the ecological battle without a vision of climate justice that involves the at-risk communities who stand at the front lines of environmental disaster, Jackson says. She believes that racism and climate justice are inexorably linked, and in order for the whole world to get where it needs to be, Apple (and everyone else) must tackle injustice first, and a green economy will follow. “[There’s] always been this weird belief that we’re taught … that you can either be successful, or you can do the right thing,” Jackson says. “There’s no difference between the two. It’s a false choice.”


“Our conscience tells us that we cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of those in need, to the growing economic inequalities and social injustices,” says His Holiness Pope Francis. He speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

His Holiness Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome

Big idea: We have a choice to make: either continue to ignore the looming environmental crisis, or transform the way we act at every level of society in order to protect the planet and promote the dignity of everyone on it.

How? His Holiness Pope Francis invites us on a journey of transformation and action in a visionary TED Talk delivered from Vatican City. Referencing ideas from his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, the spiritual leader calls our attention to a global socio-environmental crisis — one marked by growing economic inequalities, social injustices and planetary harm. “We are faced with the moral imperative, and the practical urgency, to rethink many things,” he says. He proposes three courses of action to transform in the face of our precarious future: an education based on scientific data and an ethical approach; a focus on making sure everyone has safe drinking water and nutrition; and a transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, particularly by refraining from investing in companies that do not advance sustainability, social justice and the common good. Watch the full talk on TED.com.


Andri Snær Magnason, writer, poet

Big idea: We need to connect to the future in an intimate and urgent way in order to stabilize the Earth for generations to come. 

How? In 2019, the Earth lost its first glacier to climate change: the Okjökull glacier in Borgarfjörður, Iceland. “In the next 200 years, we expect all our glaciers to follow the same pattern,” says Andri Snær Magnason. He wrote “A letter to the future” — a memorial placed at the base of where Okjökull once stood — in poetic, poignant form: “This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.” Magnason invites us to recognize how glaciers connect us to the past, present and future. These icy bodies, that once felt eternal to people like his glacier-exploring grandparents only decades ago, are now at risk of vanishing. “The year 2100 is not a distant future — it is practically tomorrow,” Magnason says. Now is the time to act, so that future generations look back on us with pride and gratitude, because we helped secure their future.

Actor and singer Cynthia Erivo performs “What a Wonderful World,” accompanied by pianist Gary Motley, at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

In a moment of musical beauty that calls for reflection, Cynthia Erivo performs a moving rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” accompanied by pianist Gary Motley. With her words and voice, Erivo urges us all to do better for the Earth and the generations to come.

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The making of His Holiness Pope Francis’s second TED Talk

His Holiness Pope Francis speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

The speaker sits in front of a bookshelf, notes in hand, a deliberate tone to his voice. As we live through a pandemic and see an even bigger socio-environmental crisis quickly approaching, he says, we all face a choice: “The choice between what matters, and what doesn’t.”

That’s how His Holiness Pope Francis frames his second TED Talk, which was livestreamed on October 10, 2020 during the closing session of the Global Launch of TED’s climate initiative, Countdown

The head of the Roman Catholic Church is not new to the TED stage: he gave his first TED Talk in 2017, surprising the audience at TED’s annual conference in Vancouver via video. His acceptance to give a second TED Talk highlights his strong advocacy for action on climate change. We asked Bruno Giussani, TED’s Global Curator, who led the team that developed the Countdown program, to share the genesis of the talk.

What about the present moment made it the right time for Pope Francis to give a second TED Talk?

Bruno Giussani: In 2015, Pope Francis published an important Encyclical letter (a book) about the environment or, in his words, about “caring for our common home.” It is called Laudato Si’” (“Praise be to You”), and it received global attention. In it he put forward the concept of “integral ecology,” and wrote: “Although the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the 21st century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities.” That same year, 195 countries signed the historic Paris Agreement committing to do their part to keep the increase in global temperature under 1.5 degrees Celsius and well below 2 degrees, to lower the risk of dramatic impacts of climate change

Five years later, fires, floods, droughts and hurricanes occupy the front pages. Science has never been so rich in data and so conclusive about what’s going on: we humans and our activities are changing the climate. Yet, as the data and the analysis that we have shared during Countdown show, the world is not on track to reach the targets of the Paris Agreement, and we have not really started shouldering the responsibilities the Pope wrote about. 

Pope Francis has repeatedly referenced the need for real action and advocated for science, and I have the feeling he harbors impatience for the lack of progress. Actually, just one week before the Countdown Global Launch, he published a new Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti (Brothers All). It is a vast analysis of the current moment, discussing the twin climate and social crises, the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the way forward, and a renewed call for solidarity as well as personal and collective responsibility. All of these themes intersect with the intentions and goals of Countdown.

What are the core messages of Pope Francis’s second TED Talk?

BG: He asks us to listen to the science. He underscores the urgency of confronting climate change and social inequity. He conveys how we won’t come out the same from the COVID-19 crisis. And he invites us to partake in what he calls “a journey of transformation and of action.”

He also voices three very concrete suggestions concerning education, access to food and water, and transitioning to clean energy sources. On the latter, he makes the case for divesting from “those companies that do not meet the parameters of integral ecology,” which I understand to mean first and foremost fossil fuel companies.

To whom is this talk addressed?

BG: As he says himself, it’s addressed to “all people of Faith, Christian or not, and all people of goodwill.”

How important is it that a major religious leader is speaking on climate change?

BG: We live in a world where everything has become politics or profit. Face masks become a political battleground and vaccines become a race for profit, to use current examples. The role of spiritual and religious leaders in social and environmental activism is to remind us of the essential values that reside above politics and profit: those of the common good, of dialogue, inclusion and compassion. 

At the end of the talk, Pope Francis speaks of the future being built “not in isolation, but rather in community and in harmony.” Over the years he has convened several gatherings of scientists, businesspeople and interfaith dialogues, and he has launched many other initiatives focused on the climate. 

Nor is this a Catholic exclusive. From the Dalai Lama to Indigenous spiritual leaders, from the Church of England to the Bahá’í, there is a lot of religious engagement for the protection of the planet and of those who live on it. In the US, there is a group of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, for instance, and in India a few years ago, a Hindu Declaration on Climate Change was issued. But it is true that the voice of Pope Francis is of particular power and resonates well beyond the confines of the Catholic Church.

How does one go about inviting the Pope to give a TED Talk?

BG: One goes through contacts established throughout the years and benefits from the generosity of people who opened doors and made introductions. Pope Francis gave his first TED Talk in 2017, so many at the Vatican are now familiar with TED. The demands on the Pope’s time are plenty, and we are enormously appreciative of his kindness in considering our invitation and in engaging with Countdown. 

How was the talk prepared? TED curators usually work closely with the speakers.

BG: We worked with several of Pope Francis’s collaborators over a period of months, discussing ideas, options and framing. In the end, of course, Pope Francis decided what he wanted to say in the talk. He was filmed by a crew from the Vatican Television Center, and then the talk was subtitled in several languages by a group of TED Translators

The Pope spoke from a private study on the ground floor of the guesthouse where he lives in Vatican City. It is a rather unpretentious building called Domus Sanctae Marthae. When he became Pope, he decided to live there instead of occupying the papal apartments above St. Peter’s Square. I believe this choice manifests a genuine preference for a simpler life. But it also sends a message: that just because things have been done a certain way in the past doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be changed. Which, of course, is a message that maps perfectly onto the climate crisis. 

Can you tell us a little about your observations of Francis, the man? Does he have a sense of humor?

BG: He certainly does. He’s warm and evidently cares for people, who they are and what they think. He’s an acute observer and quick-witted. I had the privilege to be invited, together with a couple dozen other people, to the early-morning Mass that he celebrates in the private chapel at Domus Sanctae Marthae. When I met him afterwards, he pointed out immediately that he had noticed my nodding at certain passages in his sermon. I had nodded indeed: his words related to the themes of his first TED Talk. He’s also 83 years old and carries the double weight of being the spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics and at the same time the head of the Church’s complex hierarchy.

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Breakthroughs: Notes from Session 4 of the Countdown Global Launch

Countdown is a global initiative to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. Get involved on the Countdown website and watch all the talks, interviews and performances from the Global Launch here.

The world around us is mainly made of two things: nature and the materials that we extract from it. To fight climate change, we need to protect and regenerate nature and transform materials into low- or zero-carbon alternatives. Session 4 explored the nexus of protection, regeneration and transformation, using powerful examples.

This penultimate session was hosted by digital content creators Hannah Stocking and Prajakta Koli, who highlighted the global span of Countdown and the innovative climate solutions already in existence. The session also featured a TED-Ed Lesson, created by educator Brent Loken, which asked: Can we create the “perfect” farm? And finally, we heard from TEDx organizers across the globe — including Kampala, Uganda; Putalisadak, Nepal; Almaty, Khazikstan; Darlinghurst, Australia; Rome, Italy; and Sana’a, Yemen, among others — who are hosting TEDx Countdown events today. In total, more than 600 TEDx Countdown events are happening across 86 countries.

The talks in brief:

Ecosystem ecologist Thomas Crowther introduces a new tool that could help restore and regenerate ecosystems across the globe. He speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Thomas Crowther, ecosystem ecology professor

Big Idea: Across the world, people are working together to restore the natural glory of biodiverse ecosystems. By gathering and openly sharing these projects, we can unite a robust movement of responsible environmental stewardship and restoration.

How? Restor is a data platform that aims to connect and share the learnings of environmental conservationists who are developing micro- or macro-level projects that reintroduce biodiversity to essential landscapes worldwide. It evolved from another climate change solution — the Trillion Trees movement, which Thomas Crowther helped bring to the mainstream. Research showed that planting a trillion trees worldwide could help capture up to 30 percent of the excess carbon in the atmosphere; however, following criticism that the Trillion Trees movement sought to simply offset carbon emissions, Crowther realized that solving the climate crisis is going to take more than planting trees. We need solutions as diverse as our ecosystems themselves. With Restor, conservationists can learn about key biodiversity restoration projects from around the world, and with machine learning, we can glean insights that will help us develop more resilient and effective solutions.


“We can’t fight the climate emergency if we cannot protect and regenerate our land,” says climate and gender activist Ernestine Leikeki Sevidzem. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Ernestine Leikeki Sevidzem, climate and gender activist

Big idea: We need to care for and live in harmony with the environment.

How? By nurturing a generation — young and old — to protect the nature that provides for them: a forest generation, as Sevidzem calls it. In her native Cameroon, she teaches her community a nature-first dedication to restoring the 20,000-hectare Kilum-Ijim forest that sustains and supplies livelihood for hundreds of thousands of people. Her organization also helps develop gender equality by training people as beekeepers to harness the economic opportunities present in harvesting and selling products from honey and beeswax. In educating both children and adults on what it means to love and preserve the Earth, Sevidzem stands by the need for all of us to foster generations that will inherit a mindset that works with nature, not against it. “We can’t fight the climate emergency if we can’t protect and regenerate our land,” she says.


John Doerr, engineer and investor, in conversation with Hal Harvey, climate policy expert

Big idea: Humanity has to act globally, at speed and at scale, if there’s any hope of cutting the world’s carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030. 

How? While it’s difficult to remain optimistic in the face of ever-increasing carbon production, countries like Germany and China have implemented energy policies that have reduced solar costs by 80 percent and wind by half. As a result, it’s now cheaper to generate clean energy than it is to burn dirty fossil fuels. If the 20 largest-emitting countries — which are responsible for 75 percent of the world’s emissions — commit to green grids, electric transportation and efficient homes and factories, then scalable energy solutions could become a global reality. Although Doerr estimates that we only have 70-80 percent of the energy technology we need to avoid climate catastrophe, he and Harvey believe that committed governments and investment in amazing entrepreneurs could turn things around. “The good news is it’s now clearly cheaper to save the planet than to ruin it,” Doerr says. “The bad news is we are fast running out of time.”


Cement researcher Karen Scrivener shares a breakthrough that could lower concrete’s CO2 emissions by 40 percent. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Karen Scrivener, cement researcher

Big idea: We can cut down the CO2 emissions of concrete — the second most-used substance on Earth (behind water), responsible for eight percent of the world’s carbon footprint.

How? If concrete were a country, it would rank third for emissions, after China and the USA, says Karen Scrivener, who is working on new, greener ways to make this crucial building material. When concrete cools after it’s mixed, the limestone that helps hold it together breaks down, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And while we can’t make concrete without a bonding material, it’s possible we could replace concrete with things like LC3 — a concrete-like mixture of calcine clay, limestone and cement that doesn’t require heating the limestone, slashing concrete’s carbon emissions by 40 percent. Despite its enormous emissions, concrete is still the lowest-impact building material we have, emitting less carbon than iron, steel or bricks. “The possibility to replace portland cement with a different material with [the] same properties … but with a much lighter carbon footprint, is really crucial to confront climate change,” Scrivener says. “It can be done fast, and it can be done on a very large scale, with the possibility to eliminate more that 400 million tons of CO2 every year.”


Tom Schuler, cement entrepreneur

Big idea: Over the last 2,000 years, the art of mixing cement and using it to bind concrete hasn’t changed very much — but the sad truth is that concrete, which is all around us, is one of the biggest emitters of carbon, both when it’s made and when it’s destroyed. But there’s an opportunity to take the carbon out of our infrastructure.

How? One of the key ingredients of concrete is cement, and portland cement is made of limestone — which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when it breaks down as it is heated and cured (or destroyed). Tom Schuler’s company has figured out a way to use less limestone in making cement — and even repurpose waste carbon dioxide as a catalyst for curing concrete. This innovation could potentially save trillions of gallons of water, use existing processes and factories, and even make concrete carbon negative, cutting emissions from concrete by as much as 70 percent.


Rahwa Ghirmatzion and Zelalem Adefris, climate activists, in a video narrated by actor, author and director Don Cheadle

Big idea: Under-resourced communities are the most vulnerable to the instability of climate change — and the best equipped to create new, sustainable, resilient solutions for those challenges.

How? The rising threats of natural disasters, extreme temperatures and polluted environments are driving up energy costs and exacerbating housing insecurity across the United States. In response, marginalized communities across the country are coming together to design people-powered projects that address the issues of climate catastrophe and social inequality. These problems are all connected, and the solutions will be too, says Don Cheadle, introducing social and climate justice advocates Rahwa Ghirmatzion and Zelalem Adefris. In Buffalo, New York, Ghirmatzion shows how the nonprofit PUSH Buffalo mobilized 800 residents to transform an abandoned school into a solar-powered community center, offering affordable housing units to the elderly and mutual aid resources throughout the pandemic. And at Catalyst Miami in Florida, Adefris shares how she’s helping to build a coalition of local partners working to ensure housing is affordable and energy-efficient. One collective, Konscious Kontractors, formed in 2017 to help restore and fortify neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Irma. To mitigate the impacts of the changing climate, we will need to work alongside our neighbors in our communities to create solutions that are inclusive, innovative and long-lasting.


From under the boughs of an ancient oak tree on the grounds of Windsor Castle, Prince William calls for an Earthshot to repair the planet. He speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge

Big idea: Fixing climate change is possible if we urgently focus human ingenuity and purpose on repairing our planet.

How: Speaking from beneath a nearly 1,000-year-old oak tree on the grounds at Windsor Castle, Prince William issues a challenge to every person around the globe: to show leadership on climate change. With just 10 years to fix the climate before its effects damage the Earth beyond repair, he calls this new decade the most consequential period in history, saying, “The science is irrefutable. If we do not act in this decade, the damage that we have done will be irreversible. And the effects felt not just by future generations but by all of us alive today.” But the same speed of human innovation that accelerated climate change is precisely what makes him optimistic about our future. Inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s audacious “Moonshot” mission, Prince William now calls on us to rise to our greatest challenge ever: the Earthshot. A set of ambitious goals targeted across industries and sectors, they include: protecting and restoring nature, cleaning the air, reviving oceans, building a waste-free world and fixing the climate … all in the next decade. To do it, we will need people in every corner of the globe working together with urgency, creativity and the belief that it is possible. If we succeed, we win the health of our planet for all. Watch the full talk on TED.com.


Sigrid performs “Home to You” and “Don’t Kill My Vibe” at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED

Norwegian singer-songwriter Sigrid, standing in front of a stunning view of a forest lake, delights with uplifting vocals, warm guitar strums and delicate melodies in a performance of her songs “Home to You” and “Don’t Kill My Vibe.”

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The making of Prince William’s TED Talk

Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, speaks at Countdown Global Launch 2020. October 10, 2020. Photo courtesy of TED.

In a park close to Windsor Castle, to the West of London, is an old oak with a large protruding root. It’s sitting on that root that Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, gives his first TED Talk as part of Countdown, TED’s climate initiative launched on October 10, 2020. 

Prince William’s climate engagement is known. Just two days before the Countdown Global Launch, he escalated his commitment by announcing the Earthshot Prize, a new global award for the environment to incentivize change and help repair our planet over the next ten years — a critical period for changing climate change. “The science is irrefutable. If we do not act in this decade, the damage that we have done will be irreversible and the effects felt not just by future generations, but by all of us alive today,” Prince William says in his thoughtful talk. 

A talk of this nature requires careful preparation. We’ve asked Bruno Giussani, TED’s global curator and the person responsible for the Countdown program, how it came to be.

 

What are the core messages of the Duke’s TED Talk?

Bruno Giussani: It is an optimistic talk. Very clear on the nature and the scope of the climate challenge, but also optimistic that we can rise to the biggest challenges of our time. He takes inspiration from President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot in the 1960s, which catalyzed, around the goal of putting a man on the Moon within a decade, the development of solutions and technologies that have then percolated into daily lives. Think, for instance, of breathing equipment, CAT scanners and solar panels. Prince William urges us to harness that same spirit of human ingenuity and purpose, and turn it, to use his words, towards “the most pressing challenge we have ever faced: repairing the planet.”

 

From Moonshot to Earthshot. Tell us about the Earthshot Prize.

BG: It is a compelling and ambitious vision. The Prize is centered around five clear goals — or Earthshots — underpinned by science-based targets to trigger and accelerate new ways of thinking as well as new technologies, policies and solutions for the planet. The five goals are: protect and restore nature; clean our air; revive the oceans; build a waste-free world; and fix our climate. Starting next year and until 2030, the Prize will be awarded every year to five winners, one per Earthshot. The awards are each worth £1 million GBP (about $1.3 million USD). 

 

And the Earthshot Prize is a strategic partner of Countdown.

BG: Yes, the two initiatives are quite complementary, both global in nature, built on a collaborative approach and rooted in science. We look forward to continuing the collaboration with Prince William and The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. 

 

How does one go about inviting Prince William to give a TED Talk?

BG: We had been thinking about inviting Prince William for a while, we were just waiting for the right opportunity. When a member of the TED community alerted us about the work the Duke’s team is doing on the Earthshot Prize and how it mapped onto the aims of Countdown, we felt that the moment had come. We engaged preliminary discussions with his brilliant team, which rapidly led to his decision to accept the invitation.

 

Why do you think he agreed to doing this talk?

BG: He is very focused right now on the climate and ecological emergency. The Earthshot Prize has a real chance to contribute to accelerating solutions, and it could change the narrative to one of excitement and opportunity. In the talk, Prince William was able to set out his vision of how we can bring a sense of optimism and hope to meet the challenge of this moment. In his own words: “I’m determined to both start and end this decade as an optimist”.

 

Did Prince William write his own talk?

BG: Like every person in his position, the Duke has collaborators helping prepare his public speeches. This was no different. We discussed ideas, drafts and framing, and we had a very productive discussion with him — via videoconference of course. At the end, obviously, he decided what he wanted to keep in the talk and what not. If you watch it, you will immediately appreciate the genuine and deeply felt nature of the message he’s conveying from under that old oak.  

 

What is the Duke of Cambridge like?

BG: Prince William is remarkably humble and approachable for someone who has spent his whole life in the public eye. His constant focus on how to get things done gives the strong impression of someone who is very determined to make an impact on the world and will use all resources he has available to him to do it. He asks good questions and listens carefully to the answers. 

 

Who filmed the talk?

BG: You are right to point that out: the talk is filmed in an intensely simple — a man under a tree — yet very powerful way. It was filmed by great British documentary producer, Alastair Fothergill. Among other titles to his credit, he was the series producer of world-famous nature documentaries such as The Blue Planet and Planet Earth.

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Transformation: Notes from Session 3 of the Countdown Global Launch

Countdown is a global initiative to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. Get involved on the Countdown website and watch all the talks, interviews and performances from the Global Launch here.

Transforming big systems is a huge task. Energy, transportation, industry and infrastructure all pose their own challenges. And yet that transformation is already happening. The experts in Session 3 showed us how and where, and offered powerful ideas for accelerating it: developing an economy without coal, decarbonizing fossil fuels, electrifying mobility and more.

This session was cohosted by actor and activist Jane Fonda and climate activist Xiye Bastida, who kicked off the hour by discussing what it means to fight for climate justice and how to ignite large-scale change.

The talks in brief:

Varun Sivaram, CTO of India’s largest renewable energy, presents a comprehensive plan for India’s ambitious clean energy transition. He speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Varun Sivaram, clean energy executive, physicist, author

Big idea: India has a historic opportunity to power its industrialization with clean energy. 

How? In a country where fossil fuels are still a luxury for many (only six percent of Indians own cars, and only two percent have air conditioning), India has a unique opportunity to build a new, green energy infrastructure from the ground up. An incredible 70 percent of India’s infrastructure of 2030 hasn’t been built yet, says Varun Sivaram, CTO of India’s largest renewable energy company, presenting the nation with a historic opportunity to industrialize using clean energy. By making renewable energy “the beating heart of a reimagined economy,” Sivaram thinks India can add thousands of gigawatts of solar and wind production capacity, green the country’s power grid and transportation system, and radically improve energy efficiency — electrifying communities that remain beyond the reach of the power grid.


Myles Allen, climate science scholar

Big idea: The fossil fuel industry can play a central role in solving climate change by decarbonizing their product. Oil and gas companies know how to decarbonize their fuels, and they have the money to do it. Now, they need the will.

How? The fossil fuel industry contributes 85 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. To stop global warming, oil and gas companies need to stop dumping carbon into the atmosphere — but that doesn’t mean they have to stop selling their product altogether, says climate scientist Myles Allen. In lieu of a total ban on fossil fuels, which would harm the growth of developing countries (and is frankly unrealistic), Allen proposes a bold plan for fossil fuel companies to progressively decarbonize their product and reach net zero emissions by 2050. Engineers at energy companies have known how to decarbonize fossil fuels for years: collect CO2 as it burns, purify and compress it, and inject it deep into the Earth from which it came, where it can be stored for thousands of years. This process is expensive, so fuel companies haven’t done it yet at scale. But Allen puts forth a progressive decarbonization model in which 10 percent of fuels can be decarbonized by 2030, 50 percent by 2040 and 100 percent by 2050, allowing companies time to build a robust carbon dioxide disposal industry that works for everyone. With the know-how, money and plan to get to net zero emissions, all fossil fuel companies need now is will power. 


“Africa and other poor nations deserve to get the balance of what’s remaining in the world’s carbon budget,” says energy researcher Rose M. Mutiso. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Rose M. Mutiso, energy researcher

Big idea: The world must reach a zero emission future. On the way there, Africa deserves its fair share of the carbon budget to make that transition possible and equitable. 

Why? 48 African countries, combined, are responsible for less than one percent of the world’s carbon footprint, says Rose M. Mutiso. Pointing to this stark divide between those with limited energy access and those who have it in abundance, she highlights why Africa’s energy needs must be prioritized when reimagining the global carbon budget. The solution may sound counterintuitive, but to achieve a zero emission future, Africa needs to produce more carbon in the short term in order to develop in the long term — all while wealthier continents drastically cut their own emissions. For climate adaptation to be possible, Mutiso says, the world must recognize the vulnerability of developing countries and grant them the resources needed to build resilient infrastructures.


Monica Araya, electrification advocate

Big idea: The global shift to 100-percent clean transportation is under way.

How? People around the world are demanding clean air — and cities are responding, says Monica Araya. In her home base of Amsterdam, for instance, the city is rolling out a plan to make all transportation fully emission-free by 2030. The city will ban petrol and diesel vehicles, starting with public buses and working up to all kinds of traffic, from taxis, trucks and ferries to personal cars and motorcycles. Other cities across the globe are following suit by electrifying transportation options and championing sustainable forms of travel. There is (and will be) resistance to change, Araya notes — our addiction to fossil fuels runs deep. So we need clever combinations of finance and policy. Whether we can create healthy cities, while meeting our transportation needs, all depends on the choices we make this decade. “The end of the internal combustion engine is within sight,” Araya says. “The question is no longer whether this will happen, but when.”


Al Gore and climate activists Ximena Loría, Nana Firman, Gloria Kasang Bulus and Tim Guinee

Big idea: It’s been almost 15 years since Al Gore sounded the alarm on climate change with An Inconvenient Truth. Today, with the Climate Reality Project, he’s helping mold future leaders to build the movement for climate survival and social justice from the ground up.

How? Gore introduces us to four of the graduates of the Climate Reality Project, who each confront climate change on their own terms and on their own doorsteps: Ximena Loría, founder of Misión 2 Grados, an NGO influencing public policy in Central America; Nana Firman, “daughter of the rainforest” and advocate for climate justice among Indigenous peoples; Gloria Kasang Bulus, a Nigerian activist for women and education; and Tim Guinee, a first responder and climate change fighter in upstate New York. Together, they’re gathering local actors into a global, grass-roots movement that aims to turn the climate fight around. “The global pandemic, structural and institutional racism with its horrific violence, the worsening impacts of the climate crisis: all of these have accelerated the emergence of a new and widespread collective understanding of our connection to the natural world, the consequences of ignoring science and our sacred obligation to build a just society for all,” Gore says.


Photographer Stephen Wilkes distills time in a single image by capturing the transformation of a landscape over the course of a single day. He presents his work at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Stephen Wilkes, photographer

Big idea: When we look at a landscape in the wild, we see only a moment in time. Photographer Stephen Wikes seeks to grasp the complex choreography of the natural world as it transitions from day to night — and to more deeply feel the impacts the human race is having on Earth’s ecosystems.

How? Using a special technique that captures the passage of time from day to night in a single image, Stephen Wilkes is able to photograph vanishing habitats and species in astonishing detail. These narrative images reveal how Earth changes over time, in all its beautiful complexity, and drive home the impacts of climate change with unprecedented force — from the threat of melting ice to the Arctic food chain to the disruption of flamingo migrations in Africa. “Our planet is changing before our eyes, but to witness that change is also to witness the remarkable relationships between all of nature — to see the infinite beauty of it, to learn how much bigger than us it is, and why it is worth fighting for,” Wilkes says.


Raye Zaragoza sings “Fight For You,” a song dedicated to everyone who stands up for the Earth, at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

With an acoustic guitar on her knee, folk songwriter Raye Zaragoza sings her original song “Fight For You,” dedicated to everyone who stands up for the Earth. Later in the session, musician and actor Yemi Alade returns to sing “Africa,” a celebration song for a continent already experiencing the harmful effects of climate change.

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Leadership: Notes from Session 2 of the Countdown Global Launch

Countdown is a global initiative to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. Get involved on the Countdown website and watch all the talks, interviews and performances from the Global Launch here.

The climate crisis demands leadership at every level. Governments, cities and businesses are three key players in designing and implementing the necessary transition. In Session 2 of the Countdown Global Launch, cohosted by Al Gore and Jaden Smith, speakers discussed putting climate back on the political and social agenda, rethinking cities and what businesses can do to transform.

Gore and Smith opened the session by talking about how young people are at the forefront of climate activism, and discussed the global art collaboration between Countdown and Fine Acts: ten public artworks on the topic of climate change, аll launching on 10.10.2020 in ten cities around the world, all created by TED Fellows.

The talks in brief:

Environmental educator Severn Cullis-Suzuki reflects on the historic speech she gave at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 — and the work that’s still left to do. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Severn Cullis-Suzuki, environmental educator

Big idea: Nearly 30 years ago, 12-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki spoke at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit in hopes of reversing the planet’s slide into ecological disaster. Some at the summit listened, producing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, among other then-radical documents. But for the rest of the world, it was business, politics and full-steam-ahead economic growth. Now in 2020, with the Paris Agreement once again stoking the fervor to fight climate change, it’s time to make sure governments actually listen. 

How? Cullis-Suzuki believes that crises can show us not only the potential for societies to react decisively against existential threats, but also expose the inequities, injustices and weaknesses of our infrastructure. COVID-19 is one such crisis: it has sparked calls for social justice and shown just how deadly indecision can be. Cullis-Suzuki believes it’s a warning. She reminds us that if we don’t change, next time could be far worse. This time, if we can make our actions reflect our words around climate change, we can work towards a better world for our children.  


Ursula von der Leyen discusses the EU’s ambitious plan to become the first carbon-free continent by 2050. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Big idea: The European Union has committed to becoming the first carbon-free continent by 2050, with the goal of reducing emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030. These ambitious goals are vital — and possible — and they require everyone’s participation. 

How? The evidence of climate change is unfolding before us: melting glaciers, forest fires, unpredictable weather. This is only the beginning. Such extreme circumstances call for extreme action, and that is exactly what Ursula von der Leyen has laid out in response. Resolving not to be derailed by COVID-19, the EU’s commitment to climate action milestones is now stronger than ever, von der Leyen says. She details some of the 50 actions in the European Green Deal aimed at building a more sustainable world, such as planting trees, creating a circular economy, recycling and more. With the crisis escalating every day, she calls for action from every direction.


Olafur Eliasson, artist

Big idea: Known for big, attention-grabbing installations — like his four towering waterfalls in New York’s East River — Olafur Eliasson has scaled down his latest project: an art platform for kids designed to spur budding climate activists to lead discussions on some of the biggest issues on the planet.

How? Inspired by world-shaping movements helmed by the planet’s youngest environmentalists, Eliasson built Earth Speakr, an app that helps concerned kids get serious messages in front of adults in a fun, novel way. The app uses AR to let kids animate photos of anything — trees, rocks, water — and record a message from nature, speaking in their own voices. These recorded messages help get the word out about the issues kids care about most — conservation, climate change, pollution and more.


Rebecca Henderson, capitalism rethinker

Big idea: Capitalism is driving climate change — but for-profit businesses can also help fix it. 

How? “We let capitalism morph into something monstrous,” says economist Rebecca Henderson. Companies emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases that wreck the environment and harm human health, and governments don’t hold them accountable to pay for the damages. If governments won’t do it, Henderson says, it’s time for businesses themselves to step up on their own. Sound counterintuitive? Henderson thinks it may be the only option: it’ll be hard to stay in business if the world continues to be rocked by the negative effects of climate change. She’s confident that business leaders can start to marshal change with a four-pronged framework: start paying for the climate damage they cause; persuade competitors to do the same; let investors know there’s money to be made in a clean economy; and convince governments to implement these changes far and wide. “The truth is: business is screwed if we don’t fix climate change,” Henderson says.


If trees could talk, what would they say? Novelist Elif Shafak shares her answer at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Elif Shafak, novelist and political scientist

Big idea: There is a sublime art at the heart of storytelling: the art of foregrounding silence, bringing to light things that we don’t talk about, and using these things to “speak louder than demagoguery and apathy.” Writers can learn to voice the unspoken loudly enough to inspire action.

How? “One of the many beauties of the art of storytelling is to imagine yourself inside someone else’s voice,” says writer Elif Shafak. Surprisingly, we can learn a lot from imagining the voices of trees, whose experience of time, stillness and impermanence are utterly different than our own. Listen to the trees, she says, and discover that “hidden inside [their] story is the past and the future of humanity.” 


Jesper Brodin, CEO of Ingka Group (IKEA), in conversation with Pia Heidenmark Cook, CSO of Ingka Group (IKEA)

Big idea: Success in business doesn’t mean being at odds with the Earth. What’s good for climate can be good for business, too. 

How? Jesper Brodin and Pia Heidenmark Cook discuss the company’s ambitious commitment to go climate positive (going beyond net-zero emissions by actually removing carbon from the atmosphere) by 2030 — and still remain profitable. The popular Swedish furniture and design company is rethinking how to make their entire business sustainable, from their raw materials and supply chain and to their products’ disposal. Their plan includes sourcing sustainable cotton for fabrics, buying wood from solely sustainable sources by the end of 2020 and committing to fully renewable and recycled materials for all their products by 2030. They’re also thinking about how to extend the life of products, once people have already bought them, through reuse, repurposing or recycling. The exciting part about their plan, Brodin and Cook say, is that none of these innovations will affect the quality, form, function and affordability of their products.


Dave Clark, SVP of worldwide operations at Amazon, and Kara Hurst, head of worldwide sustainability at Amazon

Big idea: Amazon is making a commitment to sustainability across its expansive array of businesses — and inviting other companies to do the same.

How? In 2019, Amazon cofounded the Climate Pledge, a commitment to become a net-zero carbon company by 2040. Dave Clark and Kara Hurst discuss how they’re working together to reduce Amazon’s carbon footprint across all aspects of business, from embedding sustainability teams throughout the organization to rethinking entire supply chains. For instance, last year Amazon ordered 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from the startup Rivian in an effort to begin converting the company’s fleet to renewable energy. The scale of transformation will be massive, Clark and Hurst say, and they’re encouraging other companies to follow suit. “One thing we know about the scale of the urgent challenge we have in front of us is that it’s going to take everyone. We cannot do it alone,” Hurst says, “It’s going to take companies and governments, communities and individuals, to come up with solutions, new innovations and technologies.”


Aparna Nancherla, comedian

Big idea: Taking out the trash can be fun.

Why? If you love garbage, you can get an endless supply with “the stuff that our modernist, consumer, carbon-powered culture makes us buy endlessly, and often for no good reason,” says Aparna Nancherla. She runs through the pleasure and pain of garbage, from “micro-decluttering” by throwing things away, to the fact that only 10 percent of our plastic gets recycled. Nancherla shares the dire state of our recycling industry (imagining the Pacific garbage patch as a wedding destination), but there’s also plenty of humor around just how hard it is to stay green in a world that’s choking on ever-larger piles of trash.


Carlos Moreno introduces the 15-minute city: a new way of redesigning urban spaces that puts people’s basic needs within a 15-minute walk, at all times. He speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Carlos Moreno, scientific director, Panthéon Sorbonne University-IAE Paris

Big idea: Urban areas should be built to function as “15-minute cities,” so that inhabitants have access to all services they need to live, learn and thrive within their immediate vicinity.

How? City life has become more inconvenient than ever, with long commutes, underutilized spaces and lack of access. Our acceptance of this dysfunction has reached a peak. Carlos Moreno invites us to ask ourselves: “What do we need to create a 15-minute city?” This would mean access to necessities like school, work, parks, cultural centers, shops and living space all within a 15-minute walk, at all times. Moreno’s ideas to create cities like this are guided by four principles: ecology, proximity, solidarity and participation, with inhabitants actively taking part in their neighborhoods’ transformations. He calls for urban areas to adapt to humans, not the other way around. 


Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, the Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, shares how her city is planting one million trees in just two years. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Big idea: Trees offer us a crucial way to trap carbon and save the climate. Get planting.

How? Driving home one day outside Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr gazed out at the landscape in horror. The lush green forest she used to know had disappeared, replaced with barren hills. The shock wasn’t merely visual. Without trees standing as a critical bulwark against land erosion, the citizens of Freetown — where more than 70 informal settlements have sprung up in the last two decades — are at great risk of catastrophic effects of climate change, a fact driven home in August 2017, when a massive landslide killed 1,000 people there in less than five minutes. In that moment, Aki-Sawyerr vowed to save her city in the most direct way she could — she ran for mayor, won and has now committed to making Freetown a “tree town” once again. She’s on track to increase vegetation cover in the city by 50 percent by the end of her term in 2022, planting one million trees along the way. Freetown citizens have planted half a million seedlings so far, all tracked using a custom app, setting the stage for a safer environment and stirring collective civic pride. “A million trees is our city’s small contribution to increasing the much-needed global carbon sink,” Aki-Sawyerr says.


Actress and musician Yemi Alade performs “True Love” at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Actress and musician Yemi Alade joins the show to close out the session, singing and dancing to the upbeat tune “True Love.”

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LIVE now! Watch the Countdown Global Launch, a call to action on climate change

 

Watch the Countdown Global Launch, a call to action on climate change, live on YouTube NOW!

TED’s first-ever free conference, the Global Launch kicks off Countdown, a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. This weekend’s virtual event will explain why the climate crisis is so urgent, share ideas from experts in a range of fields and call on leaders and citizens everywhere to take action.

This special event features hosts Jane Fonda, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Al Gore, Xiye Bastida, Prajakta Koli, Hannah Stocking and Jaden Smith; and speakers Prince William, His Holiness Pope Francis, Monica Araya, Jesper Brodin, Dave Clark, Christiana Figueres, Kara Hurst, Lisa Jackson, Rose M. Mutiso, Johan Rockström, Nigel Topping, Ursula von der Leyen and many more; with special musical performances by Prince Royce, Sigrid and Yemi Alade.

The Countdown Global Launch, presented by TED and Future Stewards, will run today from 11am – 5pm ET. Segments from the event, including the biggest talks and performances, will be made available immediately across TED’s digital platforms.

For more information and to #JoinTheCountdown, visit countdown.ted.com and follow along live on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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Urgency: Notes from Session 1 of the Countdown Global Launch

Countdown is a global initiative to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. Get involved on the Countdown website and watch all the talks, interviews and performances from the Global Launch here.

Today is the day we’ve all been waiting for: the Countdown Global Launch, a call to action on climate change and the first-ever free TED conference. Watch this special virtual event live on YouTube now!

Launching Countdown means asking ourselves the big questions: What’s the state of the climate today? How are we going to achieve a net-zero future? How do we center climate justice in our work? We heard from experts, policymakers and activists in this opening session, cohosted by Don Cheadle and Mark Ruffalo, who reflected on their own love for the environment, as people who grew up in the midwestern United States.

The opening remarks were followed by an introduction from head of TED Chris Anderson and head of Future Stewards Lindsay Levin, who teamed up to create Countdown a year ago. They laid out what we’re hoping to achieve at the Countdown Global Launch: taking a deep look at what it will take to tackle climate change, specifically by harnessing creativity and innovation to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 and get to net-zero by 2050.

The talks in brief:

“The foundation of our civilization is a stable climate and a rich diversity of life,” says climate impact scholar Johan Rockström. “Everything — I mean everything — is based on this.” He speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Johan Rockström, climate impact scholar

Big idea: Earth’s climate has reached a global crisis point. We have 10 years to avoid irreparably destabilizing the planet.

How? In his TED Talk from 2010, Johan Rockström outlined nine planetary boundaries that keep earth’s ecosystems in a state of stability, allowing humanity to prosper. At that time, evidence showed that just one planetary boundary was at risk of being breached: Arctic sea ice. A decade later, Rockström warns us that nine out of the 15 big biophysical systems that regulate climate — from the permafrost of Siberia to the great forests of the North to the Amazon rainforest — are approaching tipping points, which would create a “hot-house Earth” largely uninhabitable for humanity. “These systems are all linked like dominoes: you cross one tipping point, you lurch closer to others,” Rockström says. So what are we to do? Over the next 10 years, we need to get serious about stabilizing the planet. Rockström proposes a model of “planetary stewardship” rooted in science-based targets for all global commons (i.e., the ecosystems that support the planet’s stability) and an economy based on well-being, which would decarbonize big systems like energy, industry, transport and buildings. “This is our mission,” he says. “To protect our children’s future.”


“Cities are starting to flip the script on climate change, proving to be part of the solution and not just the problem,” says climate and data scientist Angel Hsu. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Angel Hsu, climate and data scientist

Big idea: Tackling climate change must start in cities, and many around the world are already implementing ambitious plans.

How? Cities are at the highest risk of the damaging effects of climate change: all-time temperature highs, sweltering humidity, rising sea levels, suffocating air pollution. The irony is that cities are also the biggest offenders in causing this shift in climate, says Angel Hsu. Cities pump out 70 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions and gobble up between 60 to 80 percent of global energy resources. The good news, Hsu says, is that cities are quickly becoming leaders in the fight against climate change by forging new, low-emission pathways. Already, 10,000 cities have pledged to undertake sweeping climate initiatives. Now Hsu asks: What impact could we make if 20,000 cities made these same efforts? At the same time, she points out that cities must fairly and equitably implement these initiatives across all populations, especially for those most at risk. For example, expanded bike paths in Latin America will connect more people to jobs, schools and parks, while in Africa, green power grids have the ability to electrify nearly 73 million power-deficient households. Cities may be causing climate change, but they also have the power to mitigate it while raising the quality of life for their populations.


António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

Big idea: The race to a zero emission world is under way. If we don’t act now, this coming century may be one of humanity’s last.

How? As the world continues to struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic, António Guterres urges us to use this moment to rebuild with ambitious climate action in mind. Momentum is increasing, he says, as companies, cities and countries commit to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. He outlines six actions that governments can take to keep ramping up their climate ambitions: invest in green jobs, drop polluting industries, end fossil fuel subsidies, put a price on carbon, take climate risks into account in all financial and policy considerations and work together in solidarity — leaving no one behind. During next year’s Countdown Summit (October 12-15, 2021, Edinburgh, Scotland), Guterres expects to share an actionable blueprint for a net-zero future and celebrate the progress that’s already been made. “We can only win the race to zero together,” he says. “So I urge you all to get on board. The countdown has begun.” 


Climate Action Tracker, an interactive online map that monitors the climate commitments of countries worldwide

Big idea: With the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, 197 countries agreed to set emission targets that would limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by capping greenhouse emissions at “net zero” — or absorbing as much carbon as they emit — by 2050. So far, only two countries (Gambia and Morocco) are hitting their targets, while the biggest emitters are falling flat, or ignoring their goals entirely. How can we hold these countries accountable?

How? Enter the Climate Action Tracker, an interactive tool that allows citizens to track the climate commitments and actions of the 36 countries that emit 86 percent of global greenhouse gases. Emissions are still rising, according to the Tracker, and there’s more bad news: the US has withdrawn from the Paris Agreements, and while China’s goals alone could drop global warming by .3 degrees, their actions are troubling, as they continue to invest in new coal plants while touting green energy. The good news: the Tracker reveals that many cities and businesses within some of the biggest economies are committed to green electricity and emission-free transportation and construction.


“The exploitation of our planet’s natural resources has always been tied to the exploitation of people of color,” says member of the UK Parliament David Lammy. He speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

David Lammy, Member of Parliament, UK

Big idea: There cannot be true climate justice without addressing racial, social and intergenerational issues. The global community must invite Black voices to lead in repairing our systems, society and planet. 

Why? Black people and people of color are most at risk of climate change due to cheap housing, polluted neighborhoods and other systemic inequities. So where are all the Black climate activists? According to David Lammy, the first Black MP to hold the Justice post in British Parliament, racial justice and climate justice have been viewed as distinct problems, with equality advocates seeing environmentalism as elitist while white climate activists rarely enlist the support of Black voices. Lammy sees the climate emergency as the direct result of generations of violent abuse, disregard and theft of minority communities. “The climate crisis is colonialism’s natural conclusion,” he says. To repair the Earth, we must solve the racial, social and economic injustices that plague communities of color. Lammy calls for environmental groups, international organizations, the press and everyone in between to support Black leaders on climate, including awarding scholarships for people of color, enacting stronger international laws to support vulnerable communities and even moving company headquarters to the urban areas most affected by the climate emergency.


“From my father, I learned stubborn optimism, the mindset that is necessary to transform the reality we’re given into the reality we want,” says climate advocate Christiana Figueres. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Christiana Figueres, stubborn optimist

Big idea: To face a problem as big as climate change, the world needs to adopt a new mindset: stubborn optimism.

How? Christiana Figueres, the climate leader who helped broker the historic Paris Agreement in 2015, learned stubborn optimism from her father, José Figueres Ferrer. He refused to give up on his country, Costa Rica, when it was thrown into political crisis in 1948. Instead, he took action, set out to restore democracy and bring peace to his homeland and was elected as the country’s president three times. Today, in the face of an extreme climate crisis that threatens the globe, Figueres champions her father’s special brand of optimism. “Our optimism cannot be a sunny day attitude,” she says. “It has to be gritty, determined, relentless. It is a choice we have to make every single day. Every barrier must be an indication to try a different way. ” With a remarkable fighting spirit and an unwillingness to accept defeat, she urges everyone to envision the future they want for humanity — and work to make it reality.


Prince Royce performs four fan favorites at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Bronx-raised Latin music superstar Prince Royce also adds his voice to the call for action on climate. “Climate change is the defining issue of our time,” he says. “History is defined by moments when people rise up and cause change. The decisions we make as individuals add to this collective forward motion.” Backed by his band (donning face masks), he performs fan favorites “Luna Negra,” “Carita de Inocente,” Corazón Sin Cara” and “Darte un Beso.”

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Congratulations Carrie Anne Philbin, MBE

We are delighted to share the news that Carrie Anne Philbin, Raspberry Pi’s Director of Educator Support, has been awarded an MBE for her services to education in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020.

Carrie Anne Philbin MBE
Carrie Anne Philbin, newly minted MBE

Carrie Anne was one of the first employees of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and has helped shape our educational programmes over the past six years. Before joining the Foundation, Carrie Anne was a computing teacher, YouTuber, and author.

She’s also a tireless champion for diversity and inclusion in computing; she co-founded a grassroots movement of computing teachers dedicated to diversity and inclusion, and she has mentored young girls and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. She is a fantastic role model and source of inspiration to her colleagues, educators, and young people. 

From history student to computing teacher and YouTuber

As a young girl, Carrie Anne enjoyed arts and crafts and when her dad bought the family a Commodore 64, she loved the graphics she could make on it. She says, “I vividly remember typing in the BASIC commands to create a train that moved on the screen with my dad.” Being able to express her creativity through digital patterns sparked her interest in technology.

After studying history at university, Carrie Anne followed her passion for technology and became an ICT technician at a secondary school, where she also ran several extra-curricular computing clubs for the students. Her school encouraged and supported her to apply for the Graduate Teacher Programme, and she qualified within two years.

Carrie Anne admits that her first experience in a new school as a newly qualified teacher was “pretty terrifying”, and she says her passion for the subject and her sense of humour are what got her through. The students she taught in her classroom still inspire her today.

Showing that computing is for everyone

As well as co-founding CAS #include, a diversity working group for computing teachers, Carrie Anne started the successful YouTube channel Geek Gurl Diaries. Through video interviews with women working in tech and hands-on computer science tutorials, Carrie Anne demonstrates that computing is fun and that it’s great to be a girl who likes computers.

Carrie Anne Philbin MBE sitting at a disk with physical computing equipment

On the back of her own YouTube channel’s success, Carrie Anne was invited to host the Computer Science video series on Crash Course, the extremely popular educational YouTube channel created by Hank and John Green. There, her 40+ videos have received over 2 million views so far.

Discovering the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Carrie Anne says that the Raspberry Pi computer brought her to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and that she stayed “because of the community and the Foundation’s mission“. She came across the Raspberry Pi while searching for new ways to engage her students in computing, and joined a long waiting list to get her hands on the single-board computer. After her Raspberry Pi finally arrived, she carried it in her handbag to community meetups to learn how other people were using it in education.

Carrie Anne Philbin
Carrie Anne with her book Adventures in Raspberry Pi

Since joining the Foundation, Carrie Anne has helped to build an incredible team, many of them also former computing teachers. Together they have trained thousands of educators and produced excellent resources that are used by teachers and learners around the world. Most recently, the team created the Teach Computing Curriculum of over 500 hours of free teaching resources for primary and secondary teachers; free online video lessons for students learning at home during the pandemic (in partnership with Oak National Academy); and Isaac Computer Science, a free online learning platform for A level teachers and students.

On what she wants to empower young people to do

Carrie Anne says, “We’re living in an ever-changing world that is facing many challenges right now: climate change, democracy and human rights, oh and a global pandemic. These are issues that young people care about. I’ve witnessed this year after year at our international Coolest Projects technology showcase event for young people, where passionate young creators present the tech solutions they are already building to address today’s and tomorrow’s problems. I believe that equipped with a deeper understanding of technology, young people can change the world for the better, in ways we’ve not even imagined.” 

Carrie Anne has already achieved a huge amount in her career, and we honestly believe that she is only just getting started. On behalf of all your colleagues at the Foundation and all the educators and young people whose lives you’ve changed, congratulations Carrie Anne! 

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