It was a night to remember. 

On June 22, 2023, huge names such as Lenny KravitzBillie EilishH.E.R.Jon Batiste and more took to the Global Citizen stage on the iconic Champ de Mars alongside some of the most fearless and inspiring activists on the front lines of the climate crisis to speak to the audience of 20,000 Global Citizens, and many more around the world.

The aim of Power Our Planet: Live in Paris was to bring an urgent message to world leaders’ doorstep so loud that it could not be ignored — and loud it was.

The message? We need radical and seismic change to the way the world’s outdated financial systems work, to ensure the world’s poor and developing nations have access to the financing they urgently need to quicken their transition to clean energy, strengthen their resilience against natural disasters, and address their most urgent needs.

But no one could ever put it better than the people experiencing and fighting the climate crisis themselves. So we’ll hand them the mic.

1. Camille Etienne spoke about the crackdown against climate activism.

"For many people around the world, the climate crisis is already a question of life and death,” said the 28-year-old French environmentalist and spokesperson for the environmental group On est Prêt. “Those on the front lines of climate disruption are the least responsible for this disaster.”

French climate activist Camille Etienne at Power Our Planet: Live in Paris, Thursday 22 June, 2023.
Image: Getty for Global Citizen

“The climate emergency is a question of justice. And yet, activists who oppose it are imprisoned, attacked, criminalized, or threatened with dissolution, as is the case today in France with the Soulèvements de la Terre,” she continued, alluding to the recent news that the French environmental movement has been officially dissolved by the French government. “That's why we need you to join us and become part of this unstoppable wave!"

2. Elizabeth Wathuti spoke about how deforestation is destroying Africa’s biodiversity. 

“I grew up in one of the most forested regions in Kenya,” said Elizabeth Wathuti, the Kenyan environmentalist and founder of Green Generation Initiative. “As a child, I was surrounded by beautiful trees and fast-flowing streams. Africa’s remarkable biodiversity and abundant natural resources are a beacon of opportunity and offer solutions for a resilient and prosperous future.”

“Today, deforestation is not only destroying my home’s environment, but due to the effects of climate change, it is becoming harder and harder to reverse forest loss and land degradation,” she said. “It is time to prioritize people and our planet over short-term profits.”

3. Xiye Bastida reminded us why activists must play a role in decision-making. 

“The state of our world proves we need to do more than hold rallies,” said the Mexican activist, who is a leading advocate for frontline communities and youth in local and international policy and the founder of the Re-Earth Initiative. “Activists need to be in the room where the decisions are being made. We need the people in power to listen to us — the generation that will inherit their decisions.”

Climate activist Xiye Bastida at Power Our Planet: Live in Paris, Thursday 22 June, 2023.
Image: Getty Images

“The United States also needs to step up and use its power to help unlock critical funds held by the World Bank,” Bastida said. “Think of it this way: each country in the world has a garden. The United States has a deal with the water supplier: they get the most water and other nations need to make absurd deals to get some. They need to pay back in oil, timber, and minerals that destroy their soil and ruin their garden.” 

4. Brianna Fruean spoke about hope and resilience in the midst of the climate crisis.

“​​We will all be impacted by the climate crisis one day, though in very different ways,” said the environmentalist and activist from Samoa and 2022 Global Citizen Prize winner. “We are sailing the same troubled waters, but in very different boats. Vulnerable countries that contribute the least to climate change suffer the most.”

Climate activists Brianna Fruean and Mitzi Jonelle Tan on stage at Power Our Planet: Live in Paris, Thursday 22 June, 2023.
Image: Cyril Marcilhacy for Global Citizen

“But there is still hope! Hope that can be found in the resilience of our vulnerable communities,” she continued. “Our Indigenous people have always lived in harmony with nature. It’s this relationship that makes us a vital part of climate solutions. Protecting Indigenous people and knowledge is climate justice.”

5. Helena Gualinga spoke about the importance of putting people and nature first.

“We need more than a green transition. We need a new system where we put people and nature first,” said the Ecuadorian co-founder of Polluters Out. “Latin America is one of the most dangerous places in the world for Indigenous people and land defenders. But our life’s work has been to protect our land. Therefore, our existence is our resistance."

Gualinga then drew the crowd’s attention to a historic referendum set to take place on Aug. 20, 2023, in which Ecuadorians will be asked whether to keep oil in the ground in the Yasuni National Park. 

“This referendum is the first of its kind and could set an amazing precedent because it puts decision-making power into the hands of the people,” she said. “A win for us, is a win for our planet.”

6. Ineza Umuhoza Grace spelled out loss and damage simply. 

“In short, when we’re talking about loss and damage, we’re saying that the countries that caused the damage should be paying to fix it," said the Rwandan eco-feminist and 2023 Global Citizen Prize winner.

7. Mitzi Jonelle Tan called on the Global North to drop disaster debt. 

“Shh… I have a secret for you all,” the Filipino climate justice activist told the crowd. “Capitalism and the fossil fuel industry are causing the climate crisis. Wait, is that not a secret? Then why are governments, private institutions, and multinational companies still investing billions of dollars in the very industry that’s causing the suffering of billions of people around the world?”

“We call on the Global North to drop the disaster debt, which would allow countries hit by natural disasters to focus on responding to them instead of being burdened by loans,” she continued. “We demand that these leaders step up and pay up through climate financing. This financing is critical to ensure all countries can adapt to climate change and see a rapid transition to clean energy.”

8. Wangari Kuria spoke about how alarming global warming truly is.

As the Kenyan activist and 2023 Global Citizen Prize winner told the crowd: “I am a smallholder farmer from Ngatataek Kajiado, a dusty town in arid Kenya… In our local language, Kiswahili, global warming literally translates to: 'Alarm, alarm! The world is on fire.' This is something the whole world needs to hear.”

9. Dean Bhebhe reminded us why the time is now. 

Bhebhe, campaigner for the Don't Gas Africa campaign, said: “There is a saying that goes: ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the next best time is now.’”

10. Jerome Foster II spoke about the need for environmental justice.

“Climate crisis and social injustice are inextricably linked,” said the youngest-ever White House advisor for environmental justice. “Our economic system must work not only for the few, but for all nations and all people, especially communities that are impacted first and worst by the climate crisis."

"We demand not only action, but transparency and accountability from governments on existing commitments," Foster continued. "Now is the time for change and now is the time for real action.”

Climate activist Xiye Bastida, Jerome Foster II, and Common on stage at Power Our Planet: Live in Paris, Thursday 22 June, 2023.
Image: Cyril Marcilhacy for Global Citizen

11. Wawa Gatheru reminded us of the impact the climate crisis on smallholder farmers. 

“I come from a long line of farmers,” said the Kenyan-American climate storyteller and founder of Black Girl Environmentalist. “I became invested in environmental work as a teenager when I realized it was an issue of social injustice."

"Climate change disproportionately affects communities of color, and women and girls are hit the hardest," she said. "Today, only 1.7% of climate funding worldwide goes to support smallholder farmers in developing countries who are on the front lines of the climate crisis. This is not fair. Smallholder farmers produce one-third of the world’s food and Wangari has already explained how hard that job has become.”

Global Citizen Life

Defend the Planet

11 of the Most Powerful Quotes From Climate Activists at Power Our Planet: Live in Paris

By Tess LoweryFadeke Banjo  and  Lana Lenfant Al Zouheiri