Leonardo DiCaprio Denounces Climate Change Deniers at Global Citizen Festival

Leonardo Dicaprio at 2019 Global Citizen Festival — Getty — H 2019
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen

Hosted by Hugh Jackman and Deborra-lee Furness, the annual festival, along with its partners and members of Congress, made commitments worth $1.6 billion.

Over 60,000 people piled into New York's Central Park on Saturday night for the 2019 Global Citizen Festival to not only see performances by the likes of Queen + Adam Lambert and Pharrell Williams, but also hear from stars and activists about Global Citizen's movement to end extreme poverty by 2030 and achieve the sustainable goals set forth by the United Nations.

Leonardo DiCaprio, a staunch environmental activist, took the stage to condemn the politicians who "have failed to live up to the promises" of the Paris Agreement, along with those who have responded to the recent Global Climate Strike by criticizing its leader, 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

"Last Friday, young people led the world in strike. Millions of individuals did more than simply walk out of their schools and places of employment. They took a stand. They set an example of true leadership that our planet so desperately needs. These young people have said clearly, definitively and without fear, that the time for inaction is over," said DiCaprio. "Yet, surprisingly, some have reacted to this movement with insulting tweets and negative talking points — individuals that seem to care more about profit and their own self-interests than about your own future. But we know that the climate youth movement is more important and crucial than at any time in human history."

The actor added that the scientific community has made this clear, "and unless you live in alternate reality, there is no more time for denial."

Fellow actors Natalie Portman, Laverne Cox, Forest Whitaker and Kal Penn also highlighted other worthwhile causes. Dakota Johnson returned to the festival after sharing her phone number onstage last year, encouraging sexual assault survivors to call her and leave a voicemail telling their story. 

"I received calls from six continents, 70 different countries, adding up to around 60 hours of real stories," Johnson said. "These stories are from every age, and every gender, and 95 percent of them being women. The oldest called identified as 71, the youngest was 11."

Johnson announced that she'd be sharing some of these stories in a new podcast called The Left Ear, to "create a safe and compassionate conversation around sexual violence, and to bring awareness to the fact that we live in a time where gender-based violence affects over 35 percent of women around the world."

French Montana was the first musical performer of the evening, followed by OneRepublic, Ben Platt, Carole King, H.E.R. and more. Alicia Keys played a medley of her biggest hits, and spoke to the crowd about the power of music.

"Music just makes you remember, it makes you remember how important all of us together are so important, and tonight that’s what we’re here for," she said. "Because we are the power of the collective, the beautiful sound of the collective, the beautiful noise of the collective, and when we support each other, and we love each other, and we fight for each other, we come up with beautiful music."

Rami Malek introduced Queen + Adam Lambert, who performed everything from "Somebody to Love" to "Bohemian Rhapsody." The group's guitarist Brian May also played "Love of My Life," alongside a video of late iconic frontman Freddie Mercury.

Prior to the end of the show, Coldplay's Chris Martin, a festival curator, appeared onstage to tell the crowd about the 2020 Global Citizen campaign, which will culminate next September with a historic 10-hour global broadcast event spanning five continents. The campaign, "Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream," will focus on garnering the $350 billion needed to achieve the UN's Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

Miley Cyrus, Lizzo, Metallica and Billie Eilish are among those set to make appearances at the simultaneous festivals in Central Park; Lagos, Nigeria; and other yet-to-be announced cities in Latin America, Europe and Asia.

"The number of artists will keep growing," Martin said. "And I hope the number of Global Citizens will keep growing."