The annual Pathway to Paris concert, taking place on 5 November at Carnegie Hall in New York, is a music event with a momentous mission. The evening will feature an incredible line-up of musicians and speakers — all raising their voices for climate action.
A partnership between Pathway to Paris and UNDP, the concert takes place on the eve of the COP 23 climate conference. Rebecca Foon and Jesse Paris Smith are the founders of Pathway to Paris, and Carl Mercer is a policy specialist on climate change and disaster risk reduction at UNDP. They spoke with us about using art to move the needle on climate change.
How did this partnership come about?
Rebecca: Pathway to Paris is committed to helping turn the Paris Agreement into reality and this requires a global dialogue. The Paris Agreement represents a global solution of peace, giving us a roadmap to achieve a sustainable world for ourselves and future generations. Working with UNDP is a beautiful partnership as UNDP unites the world in an effort to strive for peace, and this is our chance to work together to transition the world off of fossil fuels into a renewables future.
Carl: From our side, it really was a case of ‘big things have small beginnings’. UNDP was in the midst of planning for COP21 when we received an invitation to speak at the concert that Pathway had organized in Paris. We weren’t really involved in that first concert — two concerts actually, back-to-back nights — aside from having our colleagues provide opening remarks. But it was that event and the clear sense of optimism and excitement that Pathway helped generate that led us to immediately reach out to them and talk about a deeper, more meaningful partnership.
What role does music and art have in climate action?
Rebecca: Music and events bring people together, opens their hearts, unifies them, sparks inspiration, helps to turn passion and concern into action and tangible solutions. A show like this is a step towards change. Musicians and speakers on a stage are there to inspire the audience to action. The audience is there to be inspired, to be motivated, and hopefully the shows will encourage people to continue their activism, and to take it to the next level, no matter where they are in their fight for climate justice.
Jesse: These events are helpful because it helps concerned citizens to find each other. When events like this are in the press, it puts the topic of climate action into the mainstream, it shows what people are doing. It shows that we are not normalizing the conversation of climate change, that there are people all over who are declaring it an emergency, who will not stand for it idly. The more we do, the better.
Carl: The Paris Agreement laid out a plan to tackle climate change and, while it has a very promising ‘destination’, the journey to get there is long and, occasionally, bumpy, which makes sense when you consider the whole world is involved. For many people though, they think of the Paris Agreement as something that has to deliver results right now. That isn’t necessarily the case. It’s very much a long-game. So, for me, music and art are important mediums to convey to people that this issue is still here, that is requires action today, tomorrow, next year and in the next 20 years. We have to keep this in the public mind. I hope these concerts and others like them go on for a long time.
What is the ideal outcome and where do you see this going?
Carl: Hopefully we have a sold-out show and hundreds of thousands of people tune in to the live-stream on Facebook! Hopefully we encourage as many people as possible to take action, to push for action and to remember how important this issue is.
Jesse: We believe that we can help build a movement through music and art that is committed to turning the Paris agreement into action. We also believe a solution to climate change comes from transforming our communities, one city at a time.
Rebecca: Pathway to Paris is launching 1000 Cities, a bold initiative to unite the world to turn the Paris Agreement into action. The initiative invites 1,000 cities around the world to transition off of fossil fuels and become 100 percent renewable in order to make Paris real. As part of 1000 Cities we are launching a petition that anyone can sign to urge city leaders to reject fossil fuels and commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. You can check out the campaign here.
If you had to describe the concert in three words, what would they be?
Jesse: Passion. Collaboration. Action.
Carl: Encouraging. Motivational. Fun.
Rebecca: Making Paris real!