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Faces of Climate Change

Mary Robinson, UN Special Envoy for Climate Change, Ireland

"We need much more compassion and understanding and we need a different narrative about how to get to a better world."

#link:http://www.mrfcj.org/about/board-of-trustees/mary-robinson-chair-of-the-board-of-trustees/:Mary Robinson# can silence a room in a way many could only ever dream of. When she lends her voice to a microphone, the audience does not fidget or file stealthily out of the room, but stays put and listens. Drawing on her ability to talk both hard politics and raw emotion, the former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights and current UN Special Envoy for Climate Change commands a level of respect commensurate with her experience - and diversity thereof.

For she is a woman who well understands the complex relationship between the problems that are facing the planet and life on it.

"I came to climate change through human rights. When I was UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, I never spoke about climate change, because it was spoken about elsewhere in the UN. We were in silos, as often happens."

It was only later, when she began to work on economic and social rights in Africa, and was exposed to tales of changes to weather and harvest patterns that people couldn't comprehend, that she realized the extent to which the climate struggle is actually about human rights. That, sadly, is a connection many still fail to make, but which cannot be ignored if what the former president of Ireland describes as an "existential threat," is to be overcome.

"This is about the future of the planet and requires a response that is all about human solidarity," Mary Robinson said. "It is about understanding that we are all in this together and that we shouldn't be talking about climate finance as a source of aid for developing countries, we should see it as the means to a safe world for all of us."

Speaking both in her role as special envoy and as a grandmother of five, she says it is time to rethink the ways in which we live and to ensure the correlations between climate, poverty, education and gender equality are demystified and dealt with.

"If very very poor people get clean energy, they will take themselves out of the poverty they are in. The women will have more time, they won't have to go and look for firewood or water miles away, and the children will get to study because they have light."

With the right approach and the right thinking, that life-changing scenario is within reach. But it comes back to the idea of working together as a single global community. As humanity.

"Developing countries must develop, and we are asking them to develop without emissions," Robinson concluded. "They can't do that unless they get the investment and transfer of technology we have. I hope it will be helped by a strong, robust Paris agreement."

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