Held on the sidelines of the General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York, the SDG Media Zone engages experts, innovators, content creators, young leader, and personalities to highlight actions and solutions in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. Day 1, focused on the Climate Action Summit.

Act Now: A Conversation with Climate Advocates

Laura Parker, Environment Desk Editor at the National Geographic Magazine, in conversation with Dia Mirza, actress, SDG Advocate, and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador for India, and Sonika Manandhar, Young Champion of the Earth for the UN Environment Programme, discussed the issue of plastics around the world, as well as climate solutions centered on green energy and products. Mirza emphasized the havoc plastics have caused to the soil and air but noted that there had been a significant shift in consciousness. Plastics wage war to health and the environment, she said. Manandhar highlighted how the promotion of electric mobility in public transportation sector was driven by women.

Early Childhood Development in Emergencies – Small Asks for Big Impact

In 2018 alone, 29 million babies were born in conflict zones. Early childhood experience has long-lasting effects, and small actions can have a significant impact. Michael Reinvillard, Initiative Lead for Humanitarian Programmes at the LEGO Foundation, spoke about the LEGO Foundation’s focus on empowering children to become lifelong learners. Often, the Foundation deals with children with trauma, with no access to social and emotional support health services. Marianne Stone from the International Rescue Committee talked about how Sesame Workshop developed programmes to reach refugee children in Myanmar and Syria. Sesame Street is also developing a show in Arabic, Ahlan Simsim that will be broadcast in the Middle East region within the next few years.

Sustainable, Climate-conscious and Delicious Food

Restaurateur Massimo Bottura’s community kitchens aim to eliminate food waste and promote social inclusion. Created during the World Expo in Milan and carried on in Rio de Janeiro with the Food for Soul Foundation – a community that helps restore people’s souls — his eight community kitchens around the world focus on serving nourishing dishes in the most neglected neighborhoods. Bottura has since collaborated with social organizations, world class chefs and supermarkets, and is planning to bring this to the United States. Louise Mabulo, UNEP Young Champion of the Earth from the Philippines spoke about how she was affected by a typhoon which eliminated food sources and power and destroyed agricultural land, creating the need for climate-resilient solutions to restore livelihoods. Cacao was a crop that was found to be stable and resistant, and could grow in windy conditions, bringing hope for the future.

Climate Science: From the Height to the Depth of Earth

Dr. Bertrand Piccard, an Aeronaut and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador, spoke about new, clean technologies. His dream was to fly with solar-powered airplanes and show the world it can be done, he said. Dr. Enric Sala, world-famous Marine Ecologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, works with communities and governments to protect oceans. Challenges related to this are interconnected: in order to live you need to drink and breathe. “What we believe is natural, is not natural, but if we let nature recover, the results would be spectacular,” he said. “Underwater, we are seeing coral reefs dying. The ocean has absorbed 90% of heat, and it’s killing marine life like we have never seen. Our activities on the planet are causing this chaos.”

Universal Health Coverage: Accountability to Ensure Health for All

Kul Chandra Gautam, co-chair of UN Independent Accountability Panel for Every Woman Every Child, emphasized that accountability means keeping your promises. Leaders agree to ambitious targets, but once commitments are made they must be monitored. Gautam underlined the importance of the private sector.  Dr. Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health of South Africa, emphasized the importance of a framework to protect people who are vulnerable. Mkhize stated that it is foremost the government’s duty to provide universal healthcare and that the people’s fundamental rights to clean water and food needed to be protected.


Conservation in a Changing Climate

Amy Dickmanfrom National Geographic Explorer Magazine and conservationist Adjany Costa know that there is a positive relationship between a healthy ecosystem and climate. Struggles on conservation and human interaction include the lack of habitable land. As an example, they spoke about communities where lions and people are forced to share the same space, which can result in conflict and deaths on both sides. Local communities see lions as threat to their safety and a nuisance, and have treated poaching as a solution for the problem. However, educating children about conservation can empower people at all levels and make them understand that changing the culture – and connecting development with conservation  – could actually increase security.

Climate Change and its Impact on Our Health

Dr. Maria Neira of the World Health Organization says we have evidence that climate change is affecting our health and that the sources of air pollution are mainly from burning fossil fuels. For example, in Asia and Africa, there are 7 million deaths a year due to increased Dengue catalyzed by climate change. Dr. Neira reminds us that ‘’the poor are most likely to suffer from climate change.’’ According to Dr. Agnès Soucat, health coverage is within our reach and there has been major increase getting access to helth within the past 15 years, but we are not well enough prepared for climate change. Climate change and general environment degradation threaten the progress together with processed and industrial food. Dr. Soucat also warns us that an ‘’epidemic influenza may be coming because of climate change.’’

 Affordable and Clean Energy

Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All says there is an urgency for a transition to renewable energy and a need to build an economy that can operate with zero carbon by 2050. Many different partnerships are emerging to focus on moving forward from fossil fuels for example, and in terms of energy systems, she spoke about how in the near future, cities will have to accommodate new, energy-efficient systems as the world continues to get warmer, particularly cities in Asia and Africa. Overall, Kyte stressed the fact that “we must act more deeply, quickly” towards an affordable and energy efficient future.

Climate Hour at the United Nations: Interviews with Global Leaders on Their Commitment to Climate Action

This session featured three interviews: Emmanuel Lulin, Senior Vice President and Chief Ethics Officer at L’Oréal discussed the impact of climate change and how it will negatively affect business Lulin said that “we are not acting fast enough, soon we’ll reach a point where things will be too late. There are gaps that need to be addressed between generations.” Taking the floor after him, Jesper Brodin, CEO of IKEA Group, emphasized the need to find ways to change the equation. Citing an example, he said that the company plans to invest more in renewables. Lisa Kingo, the CEO of the UN Global Compact, commended the commitments of CEOs to prove that a 1.5°C-compliant business model is possible.