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Billie Eilish live at Global Citizen concert

Torsten Landsberg
September 24, 2021

Ed Sheeran and Coldplay were also among the various artists who performed on Saturday at the worldwide concert highlighting climate issues and poverty.

Billie Eilish, woman with blond hair sticks out her tongue and makes a hand sign
Billie Eilish at the 2021 MTV Video Awards Image: ANGELA WEISS/AFP

Benefit concerts across the globe have a decades-old tradition. In 1985, international stars played the Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia, which were relaunched as Live 8 in 12 cities in 2005.  

Two years later, the world listened to Live Earth, initiated by Al Gore. Events like these, broadcast live around the world, create a sense of community. 

The "Defend the planet, defeat poverty" concert held on Saturday, September 25 saw artists from all continents taking to the stage, but it was no longer just about solidarity with people in other parts of the globe. Instead, it was to highlight the common problems facing people now.  


The issues on the agenda at Global Citizen Live included climate change, poverty, and vaccine equity. The Global Citizen organization has set itself the goal of ending poverty by 2030 and creating a just, sustainable, and healthy world for everyone. 

The 24-hour livestream concert promoting this cause included Billie Eilish, Lorde and Jennifer Lopez, Metallica and Aldeia Mutum, Elton John and Ed Sheeran. The concerts took place in New York and Los Angeles, Paris and London, as well as in Rio, Lagos and Mumbai.

 Chris Martin, coldplay, a male singer on stage with a microphone
Coldplay's Chris Martin at the Global Citizen Festival 2017Image: picture-alliance/AP Images/J. Meyer

The live concerts took place a day after climate activists, including Greta Thunberg, joined hands to protest environmental policies as part of the #FridaysforFuture movement. Large demonstrations were held in many countries, including Germany, where Thunberg attended a rally in Berlin.

Jetting about for climate change? 

A look back at July 13, 1985, shows just how much times have changed. Back then, stars like Tina Turner, David Bowie and Madonna gathered at either London's Wembley Stadium or Philadelphia's John F. Kennedy Stadium to play their sets at the Live Aid concerts and collect donations for Africa famine relief.

After his set in London, Phil Collins boarded a Concorde supersonic jet to fly to the US and perform live there, too. Decades before anyone thought twice about carbon footprints, the crowd in Philadelphia cheered the musician. But even in the recent past, climate-conscious people like Leonardo DiCaprio have traveled to climate summits on private jets. In 2019, observers at the high-profile Google Camp on climate change in Italy listed more than 100 takeoffs and landings by private jets, which, according to media reports, emitted a combined 864 tons of carbon monoxide.

Offset emissions

Global Citizen Live aims to avoid any such scenario where possible. The organizers promise to offset all CO2 emissions generated by the event, which means Global Citizen plans to finance projects that protect the climate. According to Global Citizen, the compensation for events from 2019 and 2020 benefited a Brazilian project that protects the rainforest from deforestation.

The concerts streamed live on Global Citizen's YouTube channel are part of the global Recovery Plan for the World campaign to end COVID and kickstart global recovery. The organizers point out, for instance, that about 700 million people worldwide live in extreme poverty.

The campaign aims to deliver one billion doses of COVID vaccine to countries in the global South by the end of September and another two billion doses by the end of 2022, as well as to end hunger crises and curb the climate crisis through the zero-emissions goal of the world's largest companies.

Some of the money raised at the event will also be used to donate vaccines. The organizers argue they want governments, big business and philanthropists to work together to protect the planet and defeat poverty.

Various international leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, support the event, as do the EU Commission and the United Nations — although it is not entirely clear what that support involves.

This article has been translated from German.