Ellie Goulding accepts a TIME 100 Impact Award at the Museum of the Future in Dubai on March 28, 2022.
Pause Films / Alin Razvan
March 28, 2022 4:55 PM EDT

Ellie Goulding may be a best-selling pop star, but she’s not in the business for the glitz and glamor. Arriving in Dubai for the first TIME100 Impact Awards and Gala, Goulding spent her evening backstage with her backup singers and crew, preparing for her performance. Yet Goulding wasn’t just in the United Arab Emirates Monday to share her music with the crowd of global leaders; she also accepted a TIME100 Impact Award herself—in recognition of her longstanding work toward advancing climate change awareness.

Taking the stage during the star-studded evening at the Museum of the Future to share her acceptance, Goulding reiterated the concerns shared around the globe: “I am no different to anyone living on the planet right now. I suffer from anxiety and fear about world events. The climate crisis is never far from my thoughts,” she said. “Right now the Antarctic is 40 degrees Celsius hotter than it ought to be. The Arctic is 30 degrees Celsius hotter. This is the stuff of nightmares.”

“There is still a small window of possibility, but we must act now,” she said. “It is by taking action that I maintain hope.”

She also takes hope knowing that there is a global community working to improve the world and slow climate change: “There are millions of us, working towards a different future. Our goal is a stable, abundant biosphere providing for a healthy, peaceful human population. We can see it. We can feel it.”

Goulding shared a stripped-down performance of three of her hits to close out the TIME100 Impact Awards and Gala: “Power” and “Flux” off of 2020 album Brightest Blue, and platinum single “Love Me Like You Do,” backed only by three accompanying singers.

This was Goulding’s first live, in-person performance of 2022. Catching up with her backstage just before her performance, she admitted it was strange to return to the stage after her hiatus; she became a mother in the interim. But some things are worth the challenge.

She reiterated that the quest for climate solutions can often feel like an uphill slog, although there is hope—in the form of the engagement of the next generation.”Young people are already already switched on, engaged, informed. They already know. I haven’t met a young fan who hasn’t been worried about climate change. It’s really the leaders—the powers that be—that need enlightening,” she said.

A devoted United Nations Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador, Goulding recently spoke at last year’s COP26 climate conference, urging politicians and leaders to use their power to put our environment first. That struggle, she says, continues.

She recognizes her unique position as a star with an audience—and has decided to use it to get out the message while setting an example as an environmentally-conscious touring musician. While she’s currently working on album, she’s already gearing up for future shows. Next: finding a way to make her entire touring experience carbon-neutral.

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Write to Raisa Bruner at [email protected].

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