Schools Training

Poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s Eye-Opening Speech at U.N. Climate Summit

6 OCT 2014

Poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijner has shown the U.N. what climate change means for her home of the Marshall Islands, and the consequences facing young people who live there. She voiced her concern through poetry at the 2014 U.N. Climate Summit, where U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited world leaders to attend and participate in a discussion on how to mobilize action against climate change.

The Marshall Islands, a small Micronesian country of islands in the Pacific now lies only two metres above sea level—a testament to anyone who denies climate change exists. While Atlantic nations like Canada, the U.K. and most of Europe can dismiss climate change because it does not currently disturb their day to day life, the truth is that these are the nations who have the most power in dictating climate action. Extraction of natural resources and the waste brought on by large populations are among many of the contributing factors to climate change, for which island nations are beginning to pay the price. Rising sea levels means a threat of forced migration for island nations, and the reality of losing their homes and with it, their culture.

Out of 190 nations, 125 leaders attended the summit. Leaders who chose not to attend the U.N. Climate Summit are surprisingly from some of the largest and most powerful nations, including China, India and Russia. Canadian PM Stephen Harper, who has often been criticized for his lack of devotion to climate issues (despite Canada being the 6th largest oil producer in the world), also skipped the summit, as did Australian PM Tony Abbott.