The Global Citizen Festival serves as a platform to unify people from all walks of life in the urgent mission to extreme poverty and its systemic causes. The festival has always aimed big with its goals and speakers invited to the stage have consistently delivered with inspiring words and even more inspiring action. 

In recent years, ever more focus has been paid to the consequences of the climate crisis and how we as a species can overcome it. Building an ecologically sustainable and safe future depends on phasing out fossil fuels, investing in conservation and restoration efforts, supporting a just transition that involves reparative justice, and shifting to a circular economy.  

The 2022 Global Citizen Festival campaign, with festival events hosted in New York and Accra on Sept. 24, will be no different. Ahead of the United Nations General Assembly in September, and the G20 Summit and COP27 in November, we’re calling on world leaders to close the annual $10 billion climate financing shortfall and deliver $500 million to help farmers in Africa respond to the global food crisis, two goals critical to effective climate action. 

But before we get there, with this year marking 10 years of Global Citizen Festival in NYC, let’s revisit some of the artists, activists, politicians, and celebrities who have appeared on Global Citizen Festival stages over the years to advocate for climate justice. 

Here are 10 of our favorite climate moments over the years. 

1. Leonardo DiCaprio Highlighted Climate Injustice.

Leonardo DiCaprio has been a mainstay at the Global Citizen Festival over the years, where he has outlined the grave threat of greenhouse gas emissions and delivered rousing calls to action for investments in renewable energy and conservation. 

In 2015, he took to our stage to highlight the profound injustice at the heart of the climate crisis, namely that the people least responsible for rising temperatures are the ones most affected by the consequences. 

2. Jim Yong Kim Called for Accountability.

Former World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has worked to turn the multinational financing body into a tool for fighting poverty worldwide. 

While on the Global Citizen stage in 2018, he urged the Global Citizens in the audience to keep holding leaders like him accountable by demanding investments in climate action.

“I’m telling you right now — don’t trust anyone over 30 to make decisions that will determine the kind of world you’ll inherit,” he told the audience. “It’s up to you to force leaders, including me, to do the right thing for your generation and all future generations.”

“Hold us accountable for combating climate change,” he continued. "Hold us accountable for investing in women and girls. Hold us accountable for building human capital. Hold us accountable for ending poverty. Hold us accountable to build the world you deserve.”

3. Paul Simon United Generations.

Legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon closed out Global Citizen Festival 2021 in New York by bringing out famed biologist and writer E.O. Wilson, who has dedicated his life to protecting biodiversity. Wilson, who died later that year, shared his latest initiative with the crowd, The Half-Earth Project, which seeks to protect 50% of land and marine species. 

4. Youth Climate Activists Showed Their Wisdom. 

Young people are the driving force behind the global climate movement, energizing street protests, organizing communities, educating the masses, and pushing for climate policy. 

Three youth activists took the stage during the 2019 Global Citizen Festival in New York to talk about their paths to activism and their hopes for the future. After being introduced by Leonardo DiCaprio, Alexandria Villaseñor, Xiye Bastida, and Selina Neirok Leem each received standing ovations. 

“We are demanding that leaders enact policies that will limit global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with the IPCC report on climate change that was released last October,” Leem said on stage. “My island home in the Marshall Islands is already experiencing the effects of sea level rise and could be uninhabitable by the time I’m 50 years old.”

“Our leaders must do more,” she said. “We demand that you do your part now." 

5. Norway Defended the Ocean.

The Northern European country is a consistent presence at the Global Citizen Festival and took to the stage in 2018 to announce its support for the blue economy, which refers to marine activity. The ocean is under tremendous stress from economic exploitation and pollution and needs urgent interventions. 

Norwegian minister Nikolai Astrup pledged to use $200 million to combat marine litter and microplastics.

“Ocean pollution does not respect borders,” Erna Solberg, former prime minister of Norway, said in a video appearance. “We can only solve this world’s problems when countries work together. This is why Norway works hard to secure pledges from countries around the world to combat marine pollution; and this is why Norway is increasing our own investments in ocean protection.”  

6. Lorde Championed Solar Power. 

The pop star had recently dropped her effusive single “Solar Power” when she called for more solar energy and climate action in general from the 2021 Global Citizen Live stage in New York.

“Environmental systems’ change must come from our biggest businesses and our law-makers, but the movement has always belonged to the people,” said the New Zealand singer-songwriter as part of the Global Citizen Live opening ceremony. 

“May we all continue to ask questions of our world and remember the future is solar,” she said. 

7. Drew McIntyre Cheered on the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Image: Anne-Charlotte Compan for Global Citizen

The Paris climate agreement is the treaty negotiated to tackle climate change, but it’s only as effective as the effort that countries voluntarily put into it. 

That’s why WWE Superstar Drew McIntyre rallied support for the then-upcoming COP26 climate conference during Global Citizen Live in 2021 — because governments could use the opportunity to enact policies that would keep temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.   

“Heat waves, droughts, rising sea levels, and extreme storms are already affecting hundreds of millions globally, particularly women and girls who are more likely to live in poverty because they lack access to critical resources like education, proper nutrition, and fair pay,” he said. 

“That’s why this year’s climate summit, COP26, in Glasgow, will be so important,” he continued. "The eyes of the world will be on my home country of Scotland. It is up to all of us to ensure that COP26 lives up to the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.”

8. Billie Eilish Demanded Climate Legislation.

During a performance with her brother FINNEAS, award-winning singer-songwriter Billie Eilish urged the US Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act  

“The US Congress is taking a vote next week to pass the strongest climate laws in US history and send a strong message to leaders and policymakers across the world to put the world on a pathway to reduce emissions,” she said. “And we need President Biden to deliver on the US’ promise to provide $100 billion in funding each year to developing countries."

Eilish has enormous power as a pop star, with millions of devoted fans, and by highlighting important legislative efforts, she’s able to both boost the resolve of politicians on the side of climate justice and hold obstructionists accountable.  

9. Rev. Lennox Yearwood Sounded a Planetary 'Code Red'.

Hip Hop Caucus President and CEO Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. warned that the climate crisis was accelerating at a scary pace and echoed Eilish to urge Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act.

“This legislation isn’t only important to climate action in the US,” Yearwood said. “Without it, President Biden won't have the weight needed to push other big polluting countries like India, China, and Brazil to prevent catastrophic levels of global warming.

“So we need a true groundswell of public support to show Congress that this essential legislation must pass without getting watered down,” he continued. “Already the polluting industries are trying to kill the bill.”

10. Mia Mottley Called for Global Solidarity. 

The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, is one of the fiercest critics of an unjust world order that has brought humanity to the brink of climate mayhem. But she’s also one of the savviest and most charismatic unifiers, able to build unlikely alliances toward a shared goal. 

During the 2018 Global Citizen Festival, she called on everyone assembled — fans, politicians, artists, Global Citizens — to take climate action. 

“We are living in a climate crisis,” she said. “We will do what we have to do as small island states, but we need the larger countries of the world, and we need you to exercise the power of agency, we need you to mobilize … we need you also to be able to use your voice to persuade all who you work with, all who rule you, that this is our world and our children deserve better, and we intend to save this world.”

Global Citizen Festival is calling on world leaders, corporations, and philanthropists to do more than they’ve ever done before to End Extreme Poverty NOW. Through our global campaign and with stages in two iconic locations — NYC’s Central Park and Accra’s Black Star Square — we will unite leaders, artists, activists, and Global Citizens around the world on Sept. 24 to achieve an ambitious policy agenda focused on empowering girls and women, taking climate action, breaking systemic barriers, and lifting up activists and advocates. Wherever you are in the world, you can join the campaign and take action right now by downloading the Global Citizen app.

Global Citizen Life

Defend the Planet

10 Artists, Activists & Leaders Who Stood Up for Climate Justice at Global Citizen Festivals

By Joe McCarthy