Last week, Plastic Pollution Coalition and our allies joined tens of thousands of others to take part in Climate Week NYC, “the biggest climate event on Earth.” Coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) annual meeting on pressing global issues, Climate Week kicked off with the March to End Fossil Fuels, and involved hundreds of events at which activists, artists, businesses, frontline and community groups, non-profit organizations, scientists, and world leaders collaborated to take action to stop climate collapse. The following is our recap.
This year, we and our movement members and allies represented and engaged in the March to End Fossil Fuels, frontline activists’ gatherings, The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Nia Global Solutions with Jane Fonda, AY Young’s Battery Tour performance in Times Square, Climate Nest, Global Citizen, and more.
Climate Week demonstrates that our movement is making a difference—addressing plastic pollution, fossil fuels, and the climate crisis together. Just and equitable, real solutions to these urgent challenges for people and the planet exist today, and we need everyone onboard to help actualize the changes we need.— Dianna Cohen, CEO and Co-Founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition
Connecting Plastics & Climate at the March to End Fossil Fuels
Climate Week NYC 2023 kicked off with the March to End Fossil Fuels, which was attended by an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 people. Many Plastic Pollution Coalition Members and partners participated, including Beyond Plastics; Break Free From Plastic; Greenpeace; Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador Xiye Bastida, founder of Re-Earth Initiative; Dr. Kristal Ambrose, 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner and Founder of Bahamas Plastic Movement; and more. As groups and individuals mobilized, they called on the U.S. and other governments, as well as corporations, investors, and other entities to stop prioritizing fossil fuel and plastic industry profits over people and the planet.
A major highlight of the march was that it was the first time we noticed an abundance of posters and calls emphasizing the connection between plastics, fossil fuels, and the climate crisis. It is critical for all of us to identify—and act on—the connections between plastic pollution and the climate crisis. Plastics are made of fossil fuels, driving injustice and creating toxic pollution and high emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases. Scientists, Indigenous knowledge holders, and other experts have emphasized that plastic pollution must be stopped at its source by regulating and requiring industries dealing in fossil fuels, petrochemicals, and plastics to turn off their taps.
To push forth serious action accelerating an equitable shift away from fossil fuels to a healthier and more regenerative future, Plastic Pollution Coalition has joined nearly a million signatories in endorsing the Fossil Fuel Non- Proliferation Treaty. The petition calls on world governments to join a group of Pacific nations led by Vanuatu and Tuvalu to support creation of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to complement the Paris Agreement. Plastic Pollution Coalition also distributed a one-page fact sheet emphasizing the connections between plastic pollution, fossil fuel, and climate change to Climate Week attendees.
Plastic Pollution Coalition Member Businesses Take Action on Plastics & Climate Change
At the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)’s meeting in Midtown Manhattan, we heard from an inspiring array of speakers focused on this year’s theme to “Keep Going.” We heard from Plastic Pollution Coalition Business Member Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, founder of Ahimsa, nontoxic stainless steel kid-friendly tableware. Dr. Mantravadi announced that Ahimsa is a 2023 CGI Commitment Maker focused on decarbonizing school cafeterias by shifting from plastics to reusable stainless steel foodware and increasing students’ environmental health knowledge by sharing Ahimsa’s curriculum.
On the CGI stage, Dr. Mantravadi discussed a pilot project to eliminate plastic foodware from New York City schools and called on event attendees to reach out if they know schools that are interested in participating, or if they want to sponsor a school. Chelsea Clinton was so motivated and moved by Manasa’s project she made a public announcement on stage that she wants her kids’ public school to be part of the pilot project.
Plastic Pollution Coalition Business Member Sea Briganti, Founder and CEO of Loliware, also attended CGI. Loliware’s nontoxic, biodegradable single-use straws made from seaweed were the “official straws” of CGI, and were made available to all attendees. Loliware’s iconic blue straws can be manufactured using conventional plastic-production equipment.
PPC Notables & Board Members at Climate Week
Nia Impact Capital is a woman-led investment firm that carefully chooses companies with woman leadership across six solutions themes, based on their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) impact. Nia actively engages with companies in its portfolios, holding them accountable to the most inclusive, sustainable, and ethical business practices. Nia held an exciting event featuring Kristin Hull, Nia Impact Capital Founder, in conversation with PPC Notable Jane Fonda.
We learned about Hull’s and Fonda’s efforts to help shift money and power toward leadership for a sustainable and inclusive future, and how we can support systems change by using our voices and money to push forth our environmental and social goals. Calling it “the most important thing I will do in my lifetime,” Fonda announced the Jane Fonda Climate PAC, which is focused on electing climate champions at all levels of government—not fossil fuel supporters.
During Climate Week we were delighted to hear from Plastic Pollution Coalition Notable Kyra Sedgwick, who joined tens of thousands of others at the March to End Fossil Fuels, on a special Climate Week segment on MSNBC. She emphasized that addressing the climate crisis also means addressing plastics and fossil fuels—and discussed how each of us can take real and swift action to make positive change.
We connected with Plastic Pollution Executive Advisory Board Member Dr. Michel K. Dorsey at Rising to the Challenge: How Storytelling Drives Climate Action, a panel hosted by Sun Valley Forum and Local Projects. Dr. Dorsey, an environmental scientist and globally recognized expert on clean energy, finance, and environmental health, has helped inform and push forth solutions to the climate crisis and climate injustice. Also at the event we attended an engaging and hopeful panel with Plaintiffs for Youth vs Montana.
Youth and Creators Make an Impact
At Climate Week NYC, we heard from many young people and creators calling for systems shift on fossil fuels, climate change, and plastic pollution.
In Times Square, we enjoyed an energizing renewable-powered musical performance—the first of its kind—featuring PPC Youth Ambassador AY Young. AY Young is an artist who has combined his passions for creating music and making a difference in the world to launch the “Battery Tour” with portable solar batteries providing electricity for his performances—more than 900 and counting—that are also expanding communities’ access to energy, the internet, and education around the world.
At the performance, which was livestreamed, Plastic Pollution Coalition Co-Founder and CEO Dianna Cohen spoke on stage about the enormous impact of plastics on people and the planet, and the connection between fossil fuels, plastics, and the climate crisis. She introduced Plastic Pollution Coalition as an implementation partner to AY Young’s Project17—a related project that brings attention to meeting the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—and introduced AY Young for his performance of the song for UN SDG #14: Life Below Water. Other speakers on the stage included: Plastic Pollution Coalition Members Ali Weinstein and Allison Begalman, the founders of Hollywood Climate Summit; Xiye Bastida, Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador and founder the Re-Earth Initiative); and Plastic Pollution Coalition Notables Rocky Dawuni, a Ghanaian musician; and Paul Hawken, the founder of Drawdown.
Project17 serves as an umbrella for an intricate partnership of 17 Organizations, 17 Sponsors and 17 partner musicians to develop 17 Impact projects destined to make our planet a healthier, kinder, and more sustainable world. Plastic pollution contributes to nine of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 3, 6, 9, 11–15, and 17. Ending plastic pollution is necessary to meet the UN SDGs. Meeting these SDGs can support building a healthier, more just, and more sustainable world for all people.
Ahead of Global Citizen, a festival aimed at inspiring and empowering people to learn and take action to address climate change, poverty, and inequality, we attended several impactful Global Citizen NOW: Climate Sessions. At one of these sessions, Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador Xiye Bastida joined an esteemed panel titled: Partnerships To #PowerOurPlanet: Working Together to Address Climate Change Now. During the conversation, Xiye advocated the importance of using both Indigenous knowledge and scientific evidence in implementing solutions to the climate crisis. On the Global Citizen stage, Bastida joined engineer and science communicator Bill Nye to call for an end to fossil fuel expansion.
The week had its fair share of corporate greenwashing, which has become the ironic norm at events, conferences, and major climate talks. Yet the overall turnout and public participation with meaningful dialogue focusing on real solutions introduced by both the public and private sectors showed that corporate polluters may have the profits, but people are pushing forth the positive change necessary to build a better world.
Overall, this year’s Climate Week NYC was full of encouraging events and developments that show us there is positive change underway to address plastic pollution, fossil fuels, and the climate crisis. Despite being up against “Goliath,” individuals and communities are coming together to work toward a healthier and more just, equitable world. We celebrate, among other Climate Week achievements, that 15 Earthshot Prize finalists were recognized for their innovative solutions and that construction of five petrochemical plants have been stopped by frontline communities and supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies Beyond Petrochemicals.
But more work is needed to make the change we need, and we need your help. With the UN Plastics Treaty now being negotiated, we have the opportunity to address plastic pollution at the source, starting with its fossil fuel ingredients. The U.S. is the world’s biggest plastic and fossil fuel polluters, and this is a critical time to push them to do more to solve these interconnected crises. Please join us in calling on the U.S. Government (USG) to take a strong stance on the UN Plastics Treaty so it can accomplish all it must.