The 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly (or #UNGA if you're Twitter) got off to a flying start last week, with a primary focus on two key issues: pandemic recovery and environmental action. The agenda included the General Assembly's first global meeting on renewable energy since 1981, and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres stated definitively last Tuesday: "The war on our planet must end."
Here's How Celebrities Embraced Climate Discussions at the U.N. General Assembly
The gathering of more than a hundred world leaders and diplomats to discuss climate change and other environmental matters, of course prompted a variety of celebrities to chime in and share their viewpoints, too. (Perhaps, not since "Parks and Recreation" dedicated an entire episode to a Model U.N. has the work of the intergovernmental body been so thoroughly absorbed and regurgitated by pop culture in so short a space of time.)
Here's a handy roundup of what some of the non-politicians — hosts of late night, BTS, and Camila Cabello among them — had to say for themselves about the climate last week.
BTS performs at the U.N.
Probably the most high profile — and, let's be honest, bizarre — clash of policy and pop culture came on Monday when pop superstars BTS gathered on stage at U.N. headquarters a day before the General Assembly officially opened. The singers, dressed in smart suits, appeared as "special presidential envoys of the Republic of Korea."
After an introduction by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the boy band spoke of gratitude, optimism and how caring for nature helped so many young people through COVID-19.
"If we believe in the possibilities and hope," said Kim Seok-jin (better known to BTS fans as Jin), "even when the unexpected happens, we will not lose our way, but discover new ones."
The song "Permission to Dance," he announced "is our message of welcome that we want to share with everyone today."
Then, above them on a big screen, this happened:
Camila Cabello and friends write a letter
On Thursday, pop star and former Fifth Harmony singer, Camila Cabello gathered more than 60 celebrities together to sign an open letter demanding climate action. Addressed to the CEOs of 14 major media companies — including Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Netflix, Fox, Facebook, Disney and Sony — the letter asked them to publicly back President Biden's climate agenda and supporting legislation.
It said in part:
The plan currently before Congress will protect people’s health and clean up our drinking water. It will create a just transition away from dirty fossil fuels and create millions of new jobs. It will protect communities from climate change through investments in clean energy, clean transportation, and infrastructure upgrades. And it will make sure we finally prioritize and invest in the low-income communities and communities of color that are hit hardest by both fossil fuel pollution and climate impacts. This plan will create a stronger, brighter, and more just America—and we need you to help make this vision a reality.
Shakira, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake signed the letter, along with other major stars including: Cate Blanchett, Sean Penn, Kerry Washington, Hugh Jackman, Dua Lipa, Don Cheadle, Ellen DeGeneres, Shawn Mendes, Selena Gomez, Billie Eilish, Jimmy Fallon, Barbra Streisand and Sigourney Weaver.
Late night hosts do "Climate Night"
Last Wednesday, all the late-night hosts dedicated episodes to the climate crisis under the banner of one "Climate Night," with a mixed bag of results. Seth Myers and James Corden joined forces for a 3-minute segment that broadcast on both NBC and CBS before their shows (which featured interviews with John Kerry and Bill Gates, respectively). "Climate is a universal topic," Corden said inanely. "Please learn all you can and then call your congressman."
Elsewhere, Samantha Bee focused on aging infrastructure and overflowing sewage, and Trevor Noah talked endangered coffee beans, wine grapes and sea turtles. Also, Jimmy Fallon told Dr. Jane Goodall — a woman who's trying to get literally a trillion trees planted over the next decade — that "The Tonight Show" would plant one for her. (One! And it was tiny!)
On the plus side, Stephen Colbert had the decency to acknowledge that late night's dedicated evening of shows was about as likely to stop climate change as Gal Gadot's version of "Imagine" was to stop COVID-19.
If there was a leader of the pack though, it was Jimmy Kimmel, who brought on actual real-life climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. Kimmel also used his monologue to share some under-discussed political info. "Joe Biden is on track to approve more oil and gas permits than any year of the Trump administration," Kimmel said at one point. "And the Democrats in Congress left fossil fuel subsidies in their big climate bill."
Harry and Meghan attend Global Citizen Live
The Duke and Duchess traveled to New York last week, to attend Saturday's Global Citizen Live concert in Central Park. The couple's primary mission was to talk about COVID-19 vaccine accessibility, but the theme of the festival was: "Defend the planet. Defeat poverty." It featured performances by Coldplay, Billie Eilish, Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo, and many other special guests. Simultaneous concerts also took place in Paris, Rio, L.A., London, Mumbai, Lagos, Sydney and more, as part of a 24-hour streaming event.
Global Citizen says its mission is to: "call on world leaders, major corporations, and foundations" to combat "catastrophic climate change." It seeks to secure commitment from governments and other powerful leaders to reach net zero emissions; "conserve, restore and grow" more trees; and "for the wealthiest nations to deliver on their promise to give $100 billion annually to address the climate needs of developing countries."
Nothing too ambitious, then.
How useful celebrity interventions can possibly be when it comes to a crisis of this magnitude is impossible to say. But, look on the bright side. At least they gave us something to look at last week that featured neither fire nor flooding.
No wonder that BTS video has been watched 22 million times already.