UN Conference Day 2: How to address climate change through collaboration, inclusion and with unconditional love

Day 2 of the 68thUnited Nations Civil Society Conference was even more exciting than the first.

Yesterday, the conversation swirled around ideas for building peaceful societies by helping communities recover from conflict, creating opportunity and economic success for our youth, the importance of inclusivity and philosophies of leadership.

A big focus of my day was on climate change. It’s an issue close to my heart as both a mother and a Mayor and it was my privilege today to participate in panel discussions that highlighted the way local communities like ours — even in small ways — are moving the ball toward a greener world.

I eagerly shared the story of Salt Lake City’s partnership with power provider, Rocky Mountain Power, that will allow us to reach our goal for a 100 percent renewable energy city by 2030. Our agreement also paved the way for a new state law that gives every Utah city and county the same opportunity.

I believe it’s a model for cooperation and collaboration that could be replicated across the globe and gratefully, we got a round of applause for our work.

Cooperation and collaboration are the key words I hear in each discussion that we have.  One of my favorite examples of this is the UN’s partnership with Sony Pictures on a promotional video for the UN’s new ActNow (UN.org/ActNow) climate change campaign. It features characters from the Angry Birds movies, working out their differences to save the planet. It’s a delightful message for people of all ages. And I believe that if the birds and the pigs can work it out, so can we! (See the video here: https://bit.ly/2PrvFxw).

I also shared with the panel my belief that none of us have time to wait for climate change naysayers or those who don’t think its effects are a local issue.


Here in Salt Lake we know that’s not true. We can see the pollution in our air, the reduction in our snowpack and are rise in average temperature which is occurring at twice the rate of the global average. Do we need more tangible evidence?

With a great team behind me at the City, I have tried to put policies and practices in place to help us adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. That’s something I will continue to work on when my term ends in January.  It’s an issue too important to ignore.

Another issue close to my heart is inclusion and equity for our LGBT community. Some people may not think that there is a connection between securing equality for the gay and transgender community, but there is. Without equity for all, we cannot solve this climate challenge, or really any other important global issue.

As I said today: We have to stop fighting with each other. We must come together. Unity can happen, I believe, if we strive to greet everyone with unconditional love. It’s a principle I learned growing up in Minnesota with parents who were practicing Catholics.

I remember telling my father, “you taught me to love unconditionally and at the end of the day, you have to do the same. And if you believe in God, then we are all God’s children.”

I think that if we can carry those basic ideals in our hearts and offer them to each person we meet, we can rise above the things that sometimes divide so we can work toward common goals.

Shared effort is critical to the work we have before us. As leaders in government, industry, nonprofits and NOGs, none of us can do it alone.

None of is armed with the skills to do everything and trying will only spend our individual resources and energy to the ground.

That’s why we must gather smart and talented people around us and do the work side by side. That includes the youth, who I see as critical to our mission. As leaders, we must spend time lifting them up, sharing our experiences and serving as mentors to guide them toward a path of success.

Through social media sharing during a workshop on youth success, we quickly learned what barriers they see standing in their way.

On the list: Debt, education, racism, gender inequity, poverty, access to education, resources, age discrimination, access to reproductive health care and so much more.

Certainly, we must work to help them meet and conquer those challenges. The future of our world depends of them and we must give them the tools they need.

As I told a gathering of youth today, I believe that their energy and fearless enthusiasm for saving our planet will have a tremendous impact, even though the job seems insurmountable.

Don’t lose faith, I told them, keep going.


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