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Small Island States in Need of Climate Resilience

Dec 3, 2015 News, United Nations , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Comments are off
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner at the UN Climate Summit Photo: Simon Ruf / UN Social Media Team

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner at the UN Climate Summit Photo: Simon Ruf / UN Social Media Team

by Britta Schmitz

PARIS, Dec. 2 – Climate negotiations at COP21 in Paris are framed by a great number of side-events and press conferences aimed at bringing together all stakeholders needed to mitigate climate change and climate resilience.

While many talk about scientific findings and economic aspects, examples of the impact that climate change has on the lives of millions of people around the world are also the subject of a few other events.

The UNFCCC Adaptation Committee hosted an event to raise awareness on climate resilience through poetry and documentary. After the screening of “Adapting to a changing climate”, a short award-winning documentary which features examples of countries that are affected by climate change, performance artist and poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands performed her poem “2 Degrees”.


“I got engaged with the United Nations because I was nominated to be a civil society speaker last September at the United Nations climate summit. From there, I performed a poem dedicated to my daughter and that pretty much launched me into climate conversations,” Jetnil-Kijiner told Europa Newswire.


Her poems bring attention to the challenges that the small Micronesian state has been facing recently. The 60,000 inhabitants of the Marshall Islands feel the impacts of climate change first hand.


“My own sister is experiencing the flooding on the island where she is a nurse, the hospital where she is working in. The hospital got flooded because of the high tides,” Jetnil-Kijiner said.


“Besides this, I visited an island just last week that once was lush but died within ten years. And what I mean by died is that a flooding occurred so often over that one island that used to have trees that now it’s just a site of rocks and sand. So it used to be alive and that was just ten years ago. That’s what the rest of our islands would look like, they would become unlivable. And I saw this first hand, this island that was once lush.”


An important aspect of climate resilience is the recognition that adaptation and development go hand in hand. The minimum wage on the Marshall Islands is two dollars an hour. Experts in the film explained that communities can be more prepared for climate change if they are not poor. The solution to climate resilience is connected to basic development which is why lifting endangered islands economically is an essential step towards making them climate resilient.


“I was going to get a barbecue plate from some friends, you know, some women and children who were doing a fundraiser and turns out they were fund raising for sea walls because they couldn’t afford it. But then also, I have cousins who have lost their homes entirely, literally because of the flood,” Jetnil-Kijiner said.


“It’s an extremely vulnerable country in terms of climate change,” John Maggs, President of the Clean Shipping Coalition and Senior Policy Advisor at Seas At Risk, said about the Marshall Islands. At a press conference he spoke about a proposal made by the state regarding the reduction of shipping emissions. “That was a very bold proposal and that is exactly what we need. It wasn’t taken forward at that point but it remains at the table,” he said. Small islands in the Pacific are especially threatened by climate change. Their governments are important initiators when it comes to making proposals on how to protect their states.


Small islands in the Pacific are dealing with various issues regarding climate change. They have to build sea walls against floods, lose land and income, lose their homes and often have to relocate. The Advisory Group on Climate Change and Human Mobility or researchers like Dr. Koko Warner for example are urging negotiators to include climate migration into the Paris agreement, especially in Article 5 on loss and damage. “Cook Islands is doing its part, here in Paris let’s do our part,” Prof. Walter Kaelin, Envoy of the Chairmanship of the Nansen Initiative, said at a side event on climate change and human mobility at COP21.

Source: EuropaNewswire

Photo by: Simon Ruf / UN Social Media Team

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