They are Aware. They Are Active. They are one of Us.

From a celebrity who wants to end plastic pollution, to scientists who unexpectedly discover climate action on their trek through the American heartland, to a young woman who listens to coral reefs – these are the stories of how eight diverse individuals are raising climate awareness in unique and exciting ways.

Young Climate LeadersSolutions for Small Island Developing States 

Climate Solutions at the Heartland of America | Beating Plastic Pollution

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Young Climate Leaders


The world’s coral reefs are screaming at us right now.”

Emma Frances Camp is a young marine bio-geochemist based in Australia, studying the effect of climate change on the world’s coral reefs.

According to her, “Coral reefs have historically been indicators of stress. They tell us that the climate is changing, and we need to wake up. We have a problem.”

She is also a UN Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a position that will see her work with the United Nations to advocate for the empowerment of young people everywhere as well as the 17 SDGs.

She emphasizes the importance of protecting the world’s coral reefs, even though many people around the world have never seen one.

“Reefs might not seem relatable to everyone, but there are millions of people around the world who rely on them for their survival. As a young person, I don’t want to be the generation that loses that. We have to realize we are at risk.”

Hugh Weldon, a UN Environment’s Young Champion of the Earth, is spending his youthful years with intent. After graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in Ireland, he developed a mobile application, Evocco, through which users take a photo of their shopping receipt and instantly receive information on the environmental impact of their purchases. It also tracks the environmental impact over time.

“I wanted to build something that people can relate to. When encouraging new behavior, you need something that people can interact with regularly. Food was a good entry point. Another reason I chose to build an app around food is its effect on climate. It accounts for one third of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Hugh has high hopes for his app. “It can cause a ripple in the food supply chain and incentivize more sustainable produce.”

Emma and Hugh are some of the many young people who are developing solutions for climate change every day. “Dream about the world you want to see and compare it to the reality. Then get angry,” adds Hugh.

FACT: According to the recent IPCC Report 2018, coral reefs will disappear completely if we keep up with the current goal of limiting global warming to 2°C. The report recommends limiting global warming to 1.5°C, even if in that scenario, 70 to 90 per cent of coral reefs will still be lost.

For interview opportunities with the UN Young Leaders for the SDGs, please contact Nicholas Ceolin and for the Young Champions of the Earth, please contact Russell Galt.

Solutions for Small Island Developing States

In 2006, the President of Palau had a challenge for his contemporaries- what if their small island nations came together to find homegrown solutions to the unique problems that their islands face?

From this call to action, the ‘Global Island Partnership’ was formed. The partnership aims to mobilize for joint island action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially climate change.

It is co-led by its founder the President of Palau, President of Seychelles, Prime Minister of Grenada and Premier of the British Virgin Islands.

Riad Meddeb, Policy Advisor for Sustainable Development, UN Development Programme notes, “Small islands represent 20 per cent of UN Member States. Their vulnerability can be transformed into opportunity.”

Matt Tranchin, Director of the Island Resilience Project believes, “Public-private partnerships can help these governments achieve their SDGs through market-oriented forces.”

His organization facilitated the partnership between the Republic of Palau and the technology company, GridMarket, which is providing renewable energy solutions to the citizens of the small island.

Riad Meddeb believes such public-partnerships will greatly benefit the people on the ground.

“What I like in this partnership is the data. We are helping the SIDS (Small Island Developing States) to use what is globally available (the data). It can be an instrument for them to develop a strategy for renewable energy. It reduces the cost of energy by 20 to 30 percent. It also sends a message that states should be innovative in their partnerships.”

FACT: According to the recent IPCC Report 2018, the existence or well-being of many small island states is threatened by climate change and sea-level rise over the next century and beyond.

For interview opportunities with the members of the Global Island Partnership, please contact Ariel Alexovich.

Climate Solutions at the Heartland of America

We love electric cars!”

The lady at reception told Nick Nutall as he checked out of her hotel one morning. Nick was the Communications Director for the Global Climate Action Summit and the Spokesperson for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This was not a modern hotel in Manhattan, or San Francisco.

Nick was having a conversation about electric cars with a hotel receptionist in Green River, Utah – a town in the American heartland with just over 940 residents.

When Nick asked her why her town loved electric cars, she replied, “We love ‘em! Everyone has to come to our town to charge up!”

Green River is one of many small quiet towns in Utah equipped with charging facilities for Tesla’s electric car. Drivers who would have usually sped past the town, now stop to use the electric charging station, as well as end up eating at the local restaurants, sleeping in the hotels and buying from the small shops. Even the local museum is now a tourist hotspot.

Green River was one of the many pleasant surprises that Nicholas Nutall and his two colleagues, scientist Joao Taocchi and comedian Jessica Coccoli found as they made a unique road-trip through the American heartland. Their aim was to hear the perspectives of Middle America on climate action and climate change.

“I asked myself why the climate conversation was always happening on the coasts, in New York and California. I wanted to change that- to take the conversation to the middle of America, but also bring what’s happening there to the rest of the world,” said Joao Taocchi, Managing Director of Purpose Climate Lab, which is a hub of strategists, campaigners and creatives aiming to amplify and accelerate global climate change solutions.

They began their journey at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco and eventually ended up at their destination in New York, where they narrated their cross-country journey to an audience at the United Nations. Jessica explained that Pittsburgh in Philadelphia was her most emotional stop.

“This is my hometown, an industrial town. They are trying to change their ways and move towards electric renewable energy, even though it’s scary for the coalminers and steelworkers,” Jessica acknowledged.

“Here, and in very other city we visited, the older generation were told they would be taught the new skills so that they are not left behind.” This promise has quelled some of the fears that blue-collar workers in Pittsburgh and elsewhere may have.

The travelling trio even met up with the Mayor of Pittsburgh who was fully behind his city’s transition to renewable energy. He told them, “we have a proud past, but we are not going to let it define our future.”

Fact: According to the recent IPCC Report 2018, if we are to limit global warming rises to 1.5C, renewable energy sources will have to account for 70% to 85% of electricity production by 2050. The use of coal should decrease steeply and should account for close to 0% of global electricity, and gas just 8%.

For interview opportunities, please contact Nick Nuttall.

Beating Plastic Pollution

“When my nephews go to a restaurant and ask not to be given plastic straws, I know we are doing something right.”

Dia Mirza, UN Environment’s (UNEP) Goodwill Ambassador, is not the only one who practices a sustainable lifestyle in her family. She has also inspired her nephews in India to do their part.

Today Dia’s influence goes beyond her family. The actor, producer, entrepreneur and former Miss Asia Pacific uses her platform to raise awareness about the issues she cares such beating plastic pollution and protecting wildlife.

Dia has a strategy to get people to pay attention to the topic of pollution, which may not seem as interesting as one of her many Bollywood films.

“It’s about bringing personal action to the forefront. We live in a time when stories matter, and we need to find every possible tool to tell these stories.”

Dia loves to tell the story of Afroz Shah, a young lawyer from Mumbai, who took the initiative to clean up the heavily-polluted beach that was once the clean playground of his childhood.

His individual action to pick up the garbage on Mumbai’s Versova Beach became a movement that captured the attention of fellow citizens, the Indian government and eventually the world. In 2016, UNEP named Afroz Shah a Champion of the Earth. In 2018, India, which has the 7th longest coastline in Asia (7,500 km), joined the UN agency’s Clean Seas campaign and pledged to ban single-use plastics in all states by 2022.

Aside from narrating such stories of the ordinary people making a difference in India, Dia inspires her audiences by posting on social media about her use of bamboo straws and other bamboo products to replace plastic. Showing the simple actions people can take to beat plastic pollution, has given her legions of fans the agency and inspiration to do the same.

Fact: According to UN Environment, every year, around 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans, poisoning our fish, birds and other sea creatures. That’s the equivalent of one garbage truck of litter being dumped into the sea every minute.

For interview opportunities with Dia Mirza and other Goodwill Ambassadors at UN Environment, please contact Naysan Sahba.

All quotes are retrieved from face-to-face interviews and panel discussions conducted during the SDG Media Zone at the United Nations in September 2018.

About the SDG Media Zone

In collaboration with UN Foundation, GSMA and Pvblic Foundation, the United Nations in September 2018 brought together well-known personalities, Member States, content creators, influencers and media partners to highlight their work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Known as the SDG Media Zone, the event took place during the high-level week of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly. It consisted of interviews, panel discussions and TED-talk style speeches.