Mary Robinson: "We may lose countries entirely"

Speaking at the One Young World 2016 Summit in Ottawa, Canada, Ms. Robinson, a United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Change, warned that the current trajectory for global warming could be "disastrous". She said the world was "running out of time" in addressing the growing damage caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon.

"I'm very worried that we may lose countries entirely because of sea level rise," she told One Young World's YouTube channel. "Indeed we now know that there are some 75m people who live on coastlines around the world that are less than a metre above sea level. It's not just low-lying states. A great many people may have to move and we know what that is like - we are not coping well at the moment with refugees and migrants, particularly in Europe but elsewhere as well."

Warning of rising temperatures, she said: "We are not on course for a safe world, we are on a trajectory to a world of 2.7 degrees Celsius warming, or perhaps 3-4 degrees, and that is disastrous."

Ms Robinson praised the role of the Marshall Islands, a Pacific nation endangered by rising sea levels, in achieving commitment to global change by raising awareness among industrialised nations of the threat to millions living in low-lying coastal areas. "It's not often you see that kind of solidarity between countries," she said.

But she said that while women were "most affected" by the impact of climate change on communities and invariably the "most proactive" in tackling problems, there was a need for more women to be given key roles in organisations dedicated to the issue. "Women do tend to think more inter-generationally and we need that very badly," she said.

Mary Robinson, Catherine McKenna- Minister of Environment and Climate Change & Barkha Mossae- Climate Justice Award Winner

Her Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice is committed to working with "grassroots women" as well as those in senior roles in Governments and the United Nations, she said. "We have to make climate more people-centred, we have to focus on climate justice and address the injustice."

Asked what she had to say to young women considering entering politics but concerned at media coverage of female leaders, Ireland's first female President recalled how visiting male heads of state would often ask what clothes she would be wearing at state events. "We (women) are held to an unfair standard," she said. "I remember when I was President my special adviser would get questioned: 'What is the President going to wear to meet the incoming President?' And her answer would always be 'If you tell me what he's going to wear, I will tell you what my President is going to wear!'"

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