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With less than a week until the start of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris, representatives from the Hip Hop Caucus, the Global Environment Facility, and the United Nations Foundation hosted a conversation on how climate change affects communities both locally and globally and the importance of an integrated and collective effort to ensure strong climate action. 

Panelists included Reverend Lennox Yearwood, President of Hip Hop Caucus; Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility; Reid Detchon, Vice President for Energy and Climate at the UN Foundation; and Esther Agbarakwe, Digital story-teller and Nigerian +SocialGood Advisor. The organizations at the briefing are working to address climate change in a variety of ways, from financing various environmental projects around the world to engaging with celebrities and musicians to create social change.

Here are three important takeaways from the discussion:

1. Cities and local governments have huge potential to mobilize individuals in addressing climate change. Governors and mayors are close to their communities, and they have the power to lead in creating environment-friendly policies and initiatives. Conversely, individuals should push their local leaders to take steps in the right direction.

2. Climate change affects everyone, and everyone’s voice must be heard. Climate change affects all of us, which is why many communities in the U.S. and around the world are pushing for climate action. As we move forward, everyone – including low-income communities – has to be included not only in local discussions but also in the global discussion. Additionally, women are disproportionately affected by climate change around the world. Engaging with local women leaders in the U.S. and abroad is essential, as they often have significant influence in shaping the next generation.

3. Combatting climate change is quickly becoming the next generation’s fight. Continuous support and activism through social media is a must for uniting youth around the world. Celebrities also play a major role in this movement. Organizations like the Hip Hop Caucus must continue to reach out and connect with celebrities and artists in advocating for real change; their voices carry a lot of weight and are powerful enough to be heard by youth and people in all corners of the world.

Confronting climate change can at times seem overwhelming, but we must remember Reid Detchon’s message that coming together to do so is “the most amazing part of humanity.” The climate change conference can be a major turning point for our world, bringing together people and sectors to protect our shared planet. This movement will continue beyond Paris, locally and globally, and everyone must have a voice.

UN Photo/Mark Green