Plastic Pollution Coalition Co-Founders Reflect on Climate Week 2022 in NYC

By Dianna Cohen and Julia Cohen

In late September, Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) members spent Climate Week — “the biggest climate event on Earth”— in New York City. We gathered there with world leaders, scientists, activists, artists, non-profit organizations, businesses, and youth leaders to inspire, to collaborate, and to take action to stop climate collapse.

This year’s Climate Week presented impactful engagement opportunities including those at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Connected Women Leaders (CWL), The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), NY Society for Ethical Culture Up2Us2022: Strategies and Solutions to Save the Coolest Planet in the Universe, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Nations Climate Action: Race to Zero and Resilience Forum, the Fridays For Future March and Rally at Battery Park, Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, and many others. Plastic Pollution Coalition is honored to have had dozens of our friends, frontline activist allies, Executive Advisory Board Members, Scientific Advisors, Notable Members, Coalition Member Organizations and Businesses, and Youth Ambassadors represented in the voices leading and participating in discussions on climate and plastics.

More than 500 events, performances, conferences, and other gatherings took place throughout the city; these presentations, conversations, and commitments were compelling and energizing! Following are highlights we would like to share:

UNGA opens, ‘The Battery Tour’ and ‘Project 17’ Light Up NYC

Back in February, parties to the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) agreed on a mandate to negotiate a legally binding treaty addressing the full life cycle of plastics, from production to disposal. This commitment to address petrochemical-based plastic adds weight to the international governing body’s efforts to address the climate crisis and address its 17 Sustainability Goals, among other efforts to protect the environment and bolster human health, justice, and rights.

As Climate Week unfolded, representatives from the UN Member States met in NYC for the UN General Assembly (UNGA). UN Youth World Leader and musician AY Young kicked off the event with amazing performances at The Century Association and in Times Square. We are excited by AY Young’s creative music, uplifting activist energy, and commitment to making the planet a better place. His lyrics focus on themes that empower people and advocate for positive environmental and social change. In his role as a PPC Notable Member and Youth Ambassador, AY Young connects people to information through his art, and models real solutions to today’s most pressing issues, including the climate and plastic crises.

AY Young’s Battery Tour is one of the first renewable-energy powered grassroots concert series that raises money through donations to purchase portable, solar-powered boxes for villages that do not have reliable access to electricity. At the same time, while performing more than 800 concerts as part of the Battery Tour, AY Young is further developing Project17, a music album based on the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each of the 17 songs on the album will represent a different goal with guest performances from 17 prominent recording artists. Plastic Pollution Coalition is proud to be a Project17 Impact Partner.

World Leaders Convene to Discuss and Commit to Solutions

As the UNGA met in Manhattan, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) held in-depth discussions about how communities are taking action together to address the most pressing issues of our time—including the plastics and climate crises. Attendees included PPC Executive Advisory Board Member Heather White; in addition to PPC Youth Ambassador Xiye Bastida and Sea Briganti of PPC Business Member Loliwear. There, Xiye Bastida presented on stage and was interviewed byVICE News about her work as a young climate leader.

At CGI, Heather White, presented on the mental health impacts of the climate crisis, the focus of her book One Green Thing: Discover Your Hidden Power to Help Save the Planet. Her panel on mental well-being amid climate collapse underscored the importance of emotional health as a component of climate change and plastic pollution activist work. During Climate Week, Heather White appeared on Good Morning America and presented to the Warner Music Group and at the United Nations International School.

[During climate week…] We encouraged everyone to LISTEN to how young people are feeling about the future. The takeaway: listen, then commit to action.

Heather White, One Green Thing

In addition to calls to action, we heard from business leaders who are addressing the climate and plastic crises, including Sea Briganti, CEO and Co-Founder of PPC Business Member Loliware, who talked about how her company uses non-toxic, biodegradable seaweed to replace single-use plastics. We attended the announcement and presentation of a new collaborative platform called the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)—which aims to bring transparency to businesses’ plastic use and ecological impact, sponsored by Pew Charitable Trust, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and the Minderoo Foundation.

Plastic pollution threatens our health, environment and economies. Most companies do not have good knowledge about their plastic footprints.

Winnie Lau, Pew Charitable Trusts

Youth Leaders Call Attention to Climate, Plastic Crises

Xije Bastida is interviewed by VICE News at CGI 2022. Photo by Plastic Pollution Coalition

The Global Futures Conference, hosted by Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory and the Earth League, at the Javits Center, kicked off with an uplifting keynote speech from legendary oceanographer and PPC Scientific Advisor Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue (also one of our PPC nominees for The Earthshot Prize 2022). 

At the “Conversation for the Future” panel, which centered the voices of youth leaders, PPC Youth Ambassadors Xiye Bastida and Sophia Kianni shared their experiences advocating for real solutions to the climate and plastic crises, as well as social and environmental injustice. Xiye Bastida, who is Co-Founder of Re-Earth Initiative, an organization focused on making individual and systemic solutions to the climate crisis accessible to all, also attended Bloomberg Philanthropies’ “Race to Zero” event. There, she spoke about the needs of the climate justice movement and youth to a large audience.

To learn more about how to solve these issues, we heard from Gillian Caldwell, Chief Climate Officer of USAID, who emphasized the need for “systems change to survive.”

Igniting a Culture Shift

As an organization that recognizes the important role of art in shaping cultures and our world, PPC was excited to see actors Priyanka Chopra and Katie Holmes open Climate Week’s Global Citizen Festival in Central Park. After calling attention to the climate crisis and injustice faced by underserved communities, and emphasizing the need to fund climate solutions, the pair introduced youth leaders and climate activists Xiye Bastida and Vanessa Nakate.

That same day, PPC Youth Ambassador Kevin Patel delivered key facts about plastic pollution to attendees of the Holistic Climate Solutions Summit, hosted by the Tzu Chi Center for Compassionate Relief. Patel is Founder of OneUpAction, which supports youth leaders by providing them with the resources they need to become changemakers.

Look Forward, Act Now!

Plastic Pollution Coalition recognizes that the climate and plastic crises are intrinsically linked. We learned much during Climate Week, and feel honored to have had the opportunity to listen to and share ideas with a diverse and dedicated cohort of individuals and organizations focused on common goals: stopping injustice and pollution to create a peaceful, healthy, and just world for everyone. 

As we move on from Climate Week, at PPC we look forward to continuing to educate, connect, and advocate for a more just, equitable world free of fossil fuels and plastic pollution. Find out more about our initiative to Flip the Script on Plastics, join our coalition, take action with us, and help us continue to advocate for strong solutions globally by donating today.

Solutions to the climate and plastic crises exist. As Climate Week leaders show us, it’s time to keep showing up, and continue pushing for change.