Global Citizen has announced another all-star concert aiming to help force a real effect on world poverty and climate change, this one set to stream live from Paris’ Champ de Mars on June 22 and featuring Billie Eilish, Jon Batiste, Lenny Kravitz and H.E.R., with additional special appearances by Ben Harper, Finneas and Mosimann.
The Live Nation-produced event, “Power Our Planet: Live in Paris,” will be held before a ticketed audience and streamed from in front of the Eiffel Tower on the Global Citizen channel on Amazon’s Twitch, with further broadcast or streaming partners to be announced in the coming weeks.
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The location wasn’t chosen just for its scenic value. The Summit for a New Financial Pact is being held in Paris on June 22-23, and Global Citizen’s stated hopes are that the concert will help compel World Bank President Ajay Banga, the U.S. government’s Janet Yellen and all the G20 Nations to take action on loosening up funds for less developed nations to deal with climate change.
In fact, some of the leaders gathering for the summit might earn a special spot on the guest list, provided they can do more than just prove their Billie Eilish fandom. “Literally at the very same moment that concert is happening, the world leaders are meeting that evening,” Global Citizen CEO and co-founder Hugh Evans tells Variety. “Some leaders might be able to come over if they’re stepping up on the issues that we know they need to step up on.”
Global Citizen is not just shouting at these world leaders from across a chasm as a protest; the org maintains close ties with some of the heads of state participating in the summit. Emmanuel Macron, president of the French Republic, has thrown his support behind “Power Our Planet: Live in Paris,” and the campaign is co-chaired by Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados.
Although most of the entertainers involved are veterans of Global Citizen’s concerts, Kravitz is a first-timer. “I’m thrilled with that because I’ve wanted to work with him for a very long time. And his manager Craig (Fruin) said that Lenny’s super passionate about climate change and wants to play a bigger role with this campaign.”
The issues involved in this campaign may seem arcane to the average music fan who might tune in, but Evans says the artists involved can be closer to policy wonks than we might expect. “You’d be surprised, when you sit down with an artist or a manager, how much people love to engage in the minutiae of reform.” The Global Citizen head notes that some, like Eilish, are known for their commitment to these issues at a local level. “If you look at like Billie’s mom, Maggie, she obviously focuses on climate change and on plant-based food to support homeless people across the Bay Area, so it’s an example of complete consistency with the way their family operates and why she’s standing up for this issue.”
What are the global political issues involved, and what does Global Citizen hope to accomplish in the short term, on or by the fourth weekend of June, as well as long-term? Take a seat: Evans can lay it all out in the same detail for readers as he would for Kravitz or Batiste.
“About a year ago, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley of Barbados convened a meeting of leaders in Bridgetown, Barbados to discuss the need to change the way the financial system works and address the climate crisis,” Evans explains. “It became known as the Bridgetown agenda. She brought leaders from the United Nations, other heads of state, the heads of the IMF, a range of economists, the head of Rockefeller, and Global Citizen, among others. And the whole purpose of this meeting was to say that for many years the World Bank, for example, has been loaning at a rate of 22% equity-to-loan ratio when it could be loaning a rate of 19% equity-to-loan ratio, which basically means it’s sitting on about $25-40 billion that hasn’t been lent to the world’s poorest nations to help them adapt to the devastating effects of climate change and transition to clean energy. So it’s really irresponsible the way that the global financial system has been not working to achieve its objectives.
“And part of that was intentional,” he continues. “You know, when Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and installed David Malpass as president of the World Bank, he made a very intentional decision. In fact, some Trump colleagues have said to me directly that they saw David Malpass as an empty suit. So it was actually a very deliberate strategy for the World Bank not to be effective in its outcomes.
“And Mia Mottley brought this group together and then called President Macron of France and she said, ‘We need to bring G20 leaders together to reform the way the World Bank works, but also to make sure that the climate change negotiations this year don’t fail again.’ Last year, the Egyptian climate negotiations were a complete failure. You got no major policy outcomes. And then they announced this thing called a loss and damage fund that so far has $0 in it. So it’s incredibly ineffective as an instrument to achieve its stated outcome. And the world can’t afford for another year of climate negotiations to fail. The reason why they’re failing is that the world’s wealthiest nations committed this $100 billion pledge to the world’s poorest nations to adapt to the devastating effects of climate change, but they’re $16.7 billion short of that pledge. Most of that is attributed to the United States — about $11 billion of that — through the fact that Congress didn’t pass President Biden’s Climate Act.
“But ultimately there are instruments that the White House and Treasury can pull right now,” Evans notes, “because they’re the largest shareholder of the World Bank, so they don’t need to wait for an act of Congress. They can do it right now. And that’s why this meeting is so significant, because we’ve got a couple of things going for us. You’ve got Janet Yellen, Secretary of Treasury, who signaled the climate change as a priority. You’ve seen Biden talk a lot about it. But you’ve also got a new head of the World Bank in Ajay Banga, who starts on June 2. So he’ll have three weeks in the job to actually come out with some immediate reforms of the World Bank. And Treasury has said that they’re not gonna invest more in the World Bank until they make those reforms.
“So this is that key moment where the world has the opportunity to change for good and actually address the issues that the U.S. already has the power to address — and, frankly, has already pledged to address under the Climate Change Accord. We’re not asking them to do more than they’ve already promised to do. We’re merely asking them to fulfill their promise.”
It gets more complicated, with credit ratings affecting the link between poverty and climate change that is so much of Global CItizen’s focus. “The World Bank is the loaner, right? But the IMF sets the rules of engagement. and then you’ve got the credit rating agencies that decide basically how much risk the World Bank can assume before it loses its AAA credit rating. And so, in this instance, we need the World Bank to move from a posture of laziness that it’s had for the last five years into a posture of increasing loans. But also we need the rating agencies to uphold the AAA credit rating of the World Bank, given it’s backed by the world sovereigns anyway, the U.S. being the largest sovereign as the largest shareholder, as well as the G20 nations.”
“So,” Evans rhetorically asks, “how will we do that through a concert? Well, when President Macron and Mia Mottley asked Global Citizen to be part of this, they were really candid. They said there are conferences every day of the week. There are summits every day of the week. People don’t know about 90% of them. They might see a photo of the G8 meeting, and it looks nice, but these summits come and go all the time. The only way we’re gonna make this summit count in this critical year that counts for climate change is to bring the whole world to focus its attention on it. That’s why we’re thrilled that Billie Eilish, Lenny Kravitz, H.E.R., Jon Batiste, Ben Harper and so many incredible artists are volunteering their time to be part of this, because we need the U.S. public to engage with this — so that the U.S. Treasury engages with this, so that they actually reform the World Bank.”
The Paris concert will not be the end-all of Global Citizen’s high-profile consciousness-raisers in 2023. Their annual concert on the Great Lawn will be announced soon. “We’ve got an incredible lineup for Central Park this year,” Evans says, “including a couple of artists that I’ve wanted to work with for the last 10 years. This isn’t about one (event). This campaign is complex. In the minutiae of understanding geopolitics, it’s hard to understand things like equity-to-loan ratio. It’s hard to understand World Bank reform. The bottom line in the things that unite everyone is the fact that we need to address climate change, and we just happen to highlight what levers are gonna best affect it right now. This is going to take the entire year, through to the COP gathering that the UAE is hosting at the end of the year. So I see this as a year-long campaign with key milestones, not as a one-off.”
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