At the end of a dramatic first week of climate negotiations in Paris, Leonardo gave a speech to a packed room of hundreds of mayors and local leaders from around the world, convened by Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris and Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City.
The agreement being negotiated by 195 world leaders is a major step to address the global climate crisis, but it will take strong action at the local level to make the dramatic changes we need to help restore balance to our climate system.
More than 50% the world’s populations live in cities, generating as much as 3/4 of all CO2 emissions, the main cause of global warming. Cities are also on the front lines of climate impacts, experiencing severe storms, sea level rise and heat waves. The good news is mayors and local leaders can move much faster than national governments.
Leonardo called on the local leaders gathered in Paris to rise to the challenge:
Below is the full transcript of Leonardo’s speech:
We gather here on what may be the most important conference of anyone’s lifetime. Our world’s leaders are here in Paris in an effort to finalize a global agreement 20 years in the making. To finally address the very real threat that climate change poses to our planet. These leaders have met before, they have met in Kyoto, they have met in Copenhagen, and in the cities on every continent but each and every time they have come up short. This time must be different… because we are fundamentally running out of time.
Climate change is the most fundamental and existential threat to our species. The consequences are unthinkable and worse, it has the potential to make our planet unlivable. The solutions we seek require all of us to make real changes in the way we live our lives, operate our businesses, and govern our communities. Our future will hold greater prosperity and justice when we are free from the grip of fossil fuels. Now to get there, we must act. We must finally leave behind the inefficient technologies of another century and the business models that they have created.
Now in an effort to understand the real impacts of climate change, as the U.N. Messenger of Peace, as a concerned citizen, and for my upcoming climate documentary, I have traveled to places like the Arctic, the Antarctic, Greenland, where scientists were astonished to find once solid impermeable ancient glaciers rapidly melting away. In Canada I have seen the devastation left behind in the wake of energy giants who have leveled large tracks of the great Boreal forest in an insatiable quest for tar sands oil. In India, I met with farmers in a village outside of New Dehli whose crops and livelihoods had been destroyed by unprecedented flooding. One thing has become fundamentally clear. That the world’s most poor and under-privileged are the first to feel the devastating effects of climate change.
No matter what country, region, or continent the evidence of climate change is apparent and it is apparent right now. There is no doubt, there is no doubt to scientists or to the millions around the world, that this is a result of man-made activity.
In a year which has been the hottest in recorded history, it is hard to understand how some still refuse to accept the reality of climate change. Every year that we allow their refusal to hold the world back from making progress is another year gone. Precious days, weeks, months, and years wasted on inaction. But today is different. Across the globe people of all communities are demanding change. Marching and raising their voices to say enough is enough! We must act and we must all act now.
Our world leaders have come to Paris constricted by politics, the individual needs of their constituencies, but we need to leave here liberated by their humanity and emboldened by their sense of stewardship to our planet. They have a choice. Be timid and stop at an agreement that merely allows them to save face. Or they can lead. They can return to their own towns and cities with a real plan to save the planet. And it is in these cities that the change must start.
Over half the world’s population lives in urban areas, areas that generate more than 70% of global emissions, emissions that are driving climate change. Imagine what could be achieved if these population centers were transformed into models for sustainability. Powered by 100% renewable energy. This sounds like the kind of idea that an actor might come up with but believe it or not, it is achievable.
Professor Mark Jacobson and his team of researchers at Stanford University recently proved that we can meet the world’s energy demand with 100% clean renewable energy using existing technologies by 2050. And to avoid many of the unthinkable effects of climate change. To do this local and regional leaders like all you must move quickly to enact policies that support a transition to low carbon transportation, energy efficient buildings, better waste management, and renewable energy. Model cities like Vancouver, Sydney, Stockholm, and Las Vegas have already committed to using 100% renewable energy in the coming decades. These cities have shown true leadership to tackle climate crisis head-on.
This shift doesn’t require scientific breakthroughs, the technology exists right now. All we need is political will and strong leadership from all of you. So to all the mayors and governors in this room today, I implore you join with your peers to commit to moving to no less than 100% renewable energy as soon as possible, do not wait another day.
The Compact of Mayors formed under Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership today encompasses 361 cities representing 337 million people pledging to take bold action on climate change. But that number needs to grow. I challenge all of you to please do more. Whether you are an elected public official, a business leader, a mother, a father, or a student you must commit today to making your communities and companies more resilient and more sustainable.
Regardless of the scope of this agreement. Now what is reached here in Paris, the real work lies ahead. It lies in this room. You are the catalysts of that. At a moment where our differences push us all apart, we can find common cause together, our shared interest in a sustainable future.
We are now in a race to better ourselves, to better our planet. Please do not let fear and doubt slow all of you down. Be bold, be courageous, do everything in your power to change our current course. After all, the entire world is watching you.