Actor and environmental activist Robert Redford paid his first visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York this week.

The reason for his visit: to address the UN General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on Climate Change, which aimed to energize multilateral cooperation on the issue ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year. In the French capital, countries will discuss an agreement intended to succeed to the landmark Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Redford has been heavily involved in environmental issues for decades, renowned for his commitment to it and for speaking out on various issues affecting the environment, in addition to serving as a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York City-based non-profit organization, since 1975.

Now climate change is in everybody’s backyard. The question is to make people aware of it, to make people aware not only of the dangers but what the positive move would be, and bring it to their attention that it’s already in their own backyard.

After his speech to the General Assembly, Mr. Redford spoke with the UN News Centre about his visit, his experience in the environmental movement and his thoughts on the need to fight climate change.

UN News Centre: No negotiations were due to take place at the meeting you addressed on Monday, so what exactly can the global public expect to come out of this meeting?

What can they expect? I don’t know. I don’t know what the consensus is here, this is a first time for me so I don’t have any experience knowing how they operate, how they think, how they vote – I can only hope. But I think that because every nation is affected, this issue gets their attention.

UN News Centre: What would it take to get everybody’s attention on this issue?

Years ago there used to be a saying, they called it “NIMBY,” which is an abbreviation of “Not in My Back Yard.” People would not get interested or focus on anything, particularly if it was a danger, unless it was in their backyard. It was somebody else’s problem – they didn’t have to think about it, or worry about it, or address it. But now climate change is in everybody’s backyard. The question is to make people aware of it, to make people aware not only of the dangers but what the positive move would be, and bring it to their attention that it’s already in their own backyard. Look at the drought in California, the flooding, what’s happened in New York – it’s pretty clear that something is happening.

UN News Centre: In a nutshell, what message would you give to the international community on the importance of fighting climate change?

First of all, pay attention. Put it out there as a topic. Once it’s out there as a topic, request that others pay attention to the topic and then see how, if they look around, how they can see why it is such a topic. If you talk about climate change, all you have to do is look around. Unfortunately, I declared some negative examples: flooding, drought, wildfires. But all you have to do is open your eyes and pay attention and you’ll look this way or that way, and you’ll see fire, flood, tornadoes, hurricanes, and if that’s the case, you can’t tell me it’s not going to affect people. So I would say pay attention and look at how climate change is being evidenced around you.

To read the full interview, please click here.

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