Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles [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 through the work of the Green Belt Movement, one organization. But the world now needs us to plant 100 times more trees than we did then. And the only way to do that is for all of us to come together -- cities, citizens, governments, companies, environmental organizations -- and we must believe, therefore, in the capacity for each of us to be potent agents of change. And that together, we are a force. And I hope you will all join us.