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  • [Citizens of the world]

  • [We face a global crisis of unprecedented scale]

  • [Please stand by for a message from ... ]

  • [the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres]

  • The climate emergency is the defining crisis of our time.

  • We are in a race against time, and we are losing.

  • There is a growing tide of impatience, especially among young people,

  • with global inaction.

  • We need more ambition from all:

  • governments, cities, businesses, investors and people everywhere.

  • So I'm pleased you are launching TED Countdown.

  • Your influence and ideas can help accelerate momentum

  • for a carbon-neutral world by 2050.

  • That is the only way to avert the worst impacts of global heating.

  • We have the tools, the science and the resources.

  • Let us now get into this race with political will and energy.

  • To do anything less will be a betrayal of our entire human family

  • and generations to come.

  • Thank you.

  • Announcer: And now, please welcome

  • one of the architects of the Paris Climate Agreement

  • Christiana Figueres

  • and the head of TED, Chris Anderson.

  • (Applause)

  • Chris Anderson: Welcome, welcome.

  • Something remarkable is going to happen in the next hour.

  • The world's single most alarming challenge,

  • which looks something like this ...

  • is about to go head-to-head

  • with some of the world's most amazing minds

  • and courageous hearts,

  • which look something like you.

  • The extraordinary audience we have here in New York and around the world.

  • Christiana, it's quite the crowd we get to hang out with this morning.

  • Christiana Figueres: It sure is, no kidding.

  • It's a good thing that everyone is here together,

  • because actually, this initiative that we're just about to launch

  • needs everyone to participate.

  • And here it is.

  • Countdown.

  • CA: Countdown is a global initiative to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

  • It's seeking bold solutions in five big areas,

  • imagining what could be achieved

  • if different groups broke out of their silos and acted together.

  • Starting today, you can go to countdown.ted.com

  • and sign up to join the Countdown.

  • Early in 2020,

  • we'll be sharing plans on how you can connect

  • with others in your company, your city or your school

  • to engage in this issue.

  • It's all leading up to global gatherings

  • on 10.10.2020.

  • Everyone in the world is invited to participate.

  • CF: And so that's why,

  • although I've been part of many initiatives along the years,

  • I'm really excited about this one.

  • Because Countdown is an invitation to everyone, everyone,

  • to play their part in saving our planet

  • and creating an exciting future.

  • Politicians and citizens,

  • CEOs and their customers,

  • their employees, their investors,

  • old and young,

  • north and south.

  • CA: (Laughs) I see what you did there.

  • (Laughter)

  • But look, our goal is not to plunge in

  • with something new that is competitive

  • with the amazing initiatives already out there.

  • No.

  • It's to identify the best solutions that have already been worked on,

  • to cross-fertilize them, to amplify them

  • and then activate them

  • by bringing together these different groups.

  • CF: And if that happens,

  • we believe there is a way out of the climate crisis.

  • That's what we want to facilitate.

  • But now, Chris, question:

  • Why are you and TED interested in participating

  • and actually activating the climate agenda,

  • when I thought you were all about spreading ideas?

  • CA: Well, indeed, that has been our focused mission for the last 15 years,

  • Ideas Worth Spreading.

  • But last summer,

  • we concluded that the urgency of some issues,

  • and especially climate,

  • demanded that we try to do more than just spread ideas,

  • that we actually try to activate them.

  • Now, we're just a relatively small nonprofit --

  • that would not amount to anything if we fail to bring other people on board.

  • But the amazing thing is that that has happened.

  • Everyone we've spoken to about this has got excited about participating.

  • And one of the key moments, frankly, was when you came on board, Christiana.

  • I mean, you were key to the Paris Agreement.

  • And the world was stunned at the consensus that emerged there.

  • What was the key to creating that consensus?

  • CF: I would say it was to really challenge and change people's assumption

  • about what is possible if we set a shared intention

  • and then collectively pursue it and achieve it.

  • So our mantra then, and continues to be:

  • "Impossible is not a fact,

  • it's an attitude."

  • In fact, only an attitude,

  • and that is something we can change.

  • CA: Well, that mantra, certainly, we're going to have to hold onto

  • in the months ahead,

  • because the scientific consensus is actually worsening.

  • For a quick report from the front lines,

  • here's the head of the thousands of scientists

  • who make up the IPCC, Dr. Hoesung Lee.

  • (Video) Hoesung Lee: We recently released three special reports

  • that show the damage and risks of past and future climate change.

  • They also show that stabilizing climate

  • would imply a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions

  • in the near term.

  • Society will have to go through unprecedented changes

  • to meet this goal.

  • Even limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius

  • will bring more extreme weather,

  • rising sea levels

  • and water shortages in some regions,

  • and threats to food security and biodiversity.

  • Higher temperature will bring more of these damages,

  • threatening lives and livelihoods

  • of millions of people all around the world.

  • CA: We're lucky to have with us another world-leading scientist,

  • Johan Rockström here.

  • He was responsible for creating the Planetary Boundaries framework.

  • Johan, how serious is our situation?

  • (Video) Johan Rockström: Last week, we released in "Nature"

  • the 10-year update of the risk of crossing tipping points,

  • irreversible tipping points, in the Earth system.

  • We know 15 such tipping points,

  • including the Greenland and West Antarctic ice shelf,

  • and the permafrost in the Siberian tundra, for example,

  • and we today have observational evidence,

  • I mean, empirical evidence,

  • that nine of the 15 have woken up and are on the move.

  • We haven't crossed the tipping point yet,

  • the window is still open,

  • but they are warning us that now is the time to truly move,

  • because the moment we cross them,

  • like, for example, approaching a tipping point in the Amazon rain forest,

  • we would risk losing the battle,

  • because the planet will be taking over its self-reinforced warming.

  • So that is why this initiative is so incredibly important.

  • Let's go.

  • CA: Well said.

  • (Applause)

  • So, both are very clear there that this agenda of cutting emissions

  • is absolutely crucial.

  • How has that been going?

  • CF: Not very well, because despite what we know,

  • despite everything that science has told us,

  • despite everything that we have done,

  • including adopting the Paris Agreement,

  • we've actually been increasing greenhouse gases consistently

  • over the past few decades,

  • to the point where we're now at 55 gigatons

  • of carbon dioxide equivalent

  • that we are collectively, as humanity, emitting every year.

  • And as we have heard, we have one path,

  • there is one path that we have to follow, and that is:

  • Start now to decrease emissions,

  • instead of going up, go down --

  • reverse the trend, bend the curve.

  • Reduce emissions, starting in 2020,

  • to the point where we will be at one half the current level of emissions by 2030,

  • and then continue decreasing them, until we are at net zero by 2050.

  • It's the only path that we can accept.

  • CA: How do you even begin to start tackling a goal as daunting as that?

  • CF: Well, we could starting by breaking

  • the simple, yet daunting, challenge

  • into its constituent pieces,

  • five main areas.

  • CA: And so these five together are actually all huge,

  • and if we can find compelling solutions in each of them,

  • they would actually add up to an action plan

  • that matches the scale of the problem.

  • Well, here are the five.

  • CF: Power.

  • How rapidly can we move to 100 percent clean energy?

  • CA: The built environment.

  • How can we re-engineer the stuff that surrounds us?

  • CF: Transport.

  • How do we transform the ways we move -- ourselves and goods?

  • CA: Food.

  • How can we spark a worldwide shift to healthier food systems?

  • CF: And certainly, nature.

  • How extensively can we re-green the earth?

  • Now, it's worth noting that the answers to these questions

  • and the measures that we would undertake

  • don't just reduce net emissions --

  • they do that, certainly, together, to zero --

  • but they also point the way to a future

  • that is much better and genuinely exciting.

  • So, think about cool new forms of transport,

  • clean air, healthier food, beautiful forests

  • and oceans bursting with life.

  • So, you know, solving the climate crisis

  • isn't about sacrificing and settling for a mediocre future,

  • it's about the exact opposite.

  • It's about co-creating a much better future for all of us.

  • CA: So how do we tackle these questions?

  • (Laughter)

  • CA: Let's take this question here and think about this.

  • How extensively can we re-green the earth?

  • I mean, there are obviously many responses to this question,

  • many proposals.

  • It's fundamentally about,

  • "How do we increase the amount of sustainable photosynthesis

  • on planet Earth."

  • Photosynthesis sequesters carbon.

  • There could be proposals around giant kelp forests or seagrass,

  • or about forms of plants that have deeper roots

  • and can sequester across the planet.

  • But suppose a major proposal that came out was about reforestation.

  • A massive, global reforestation campaign.

  • I mean, a single organization, no matter how big,

  • cannot take that on.

  • The key is for everyone to join forces,

  • for governments (with zoning),

  • businesses to invest,

  • investors to do that investing,

  • environmental groups and philanthropists who support them,

  • and just a massive movement among citizens everywhere,

  • transforming their lawns, their cities, their neighborhoods,

  • going on trips together.

  • That is where, suddenly, you can dream about something really big.

  • CF: So can we test that theory?

  • Because we are fortunate to have with us today

  • someone who grew up inside a tree-planting movement,

  • probably the most well-recognized tree-planting movement.

  • And she is the daughter of the Nobel Prize winner

  • Wangari Maathai,

  • and she heads up the Wangari Maathai Foundation today.

  • So can we invite our very dear friend Wanjira Mathai?

  • (Applause)

  • (Video) Wanjira Mathai: Thank you very much,

  • Christiana and Chris, for doing this.

  • Trees have been, indeed, a part of my life for as long as I can remember,

  • but we also know that for centuries,

  • trees and forests have cushioned us against the harsh impacts

  • of climate variation

  • for very many years.

  • In my lifetime, my mother,

  • through the Green Belt Movement, as you mentioned,

  • inspired the planting of 50 million trees and counting