By UNCCD Land Ambassador Ricky Kej
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement launched at UNFCCC COP21. The historic legally binding treaty between 189 countries was a significant milestone towards achieving a sustainable low-carbon future and negating the effects of human-induced climate change. My relationship with the COP21 summit is very special and was a turning point in how I use my music to inspire behavioural change and positive social impact.
In September 2015, The Honorable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi invited me to his office in New Delhi to congratulate me for the Grammy I received for my album Winds of Samsara. I was thrilled by this invitation, and what I assumed would be just a courtesy call turned into an hour-long philosophical exchange that resulted in my epic album for world environment consciousness Shanti Samsara and changed the course of my life.
I have always been passionate about our environment and this was one of the key topics the Prime Minister touched upon – specifically, the need to preserve and protect our environment. He wanted to share this view with the world and told me that he would do just that by delivering a speech at the United Nations COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015 where he would also launch the International Solar Alliance – an initiative by 120 nations to promote affordable solar energy worldwide.
I was very inspired by our conversation and realized that we were on the same page philosophically. Prime Minister Modi also encouraged me to make an uplifting album that could inspire environmental consciousness. He also suggested that the album should emphasize inclusivity and incorporate different cultures and experiences.
I went on to create Shanti Samsara – World Music for Environmental Consciousness that featured over 500 musicians from 40 countries including Peter Yarrow, Stewart Copeland (The Police), Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It has gone on to win multiple awards globally. Prime Minister Modi launched my album at the UN Climate COP21 in Paris. presenting it as a gift to then-president of France Francois Hollande on the main stage.
One of the world leaders who caught my attention at the historic conference was the three-term president of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, Anote Tong. During his speech, he urged the other leaders to support a proposition that could guarantee the future where the nation of Kiribati would remain above water. This powerful speech affected me deeply and I began a journey to understand the severe effects of global warming by visiting Kiribati and interviewing the president. I spent a week in Kiribati absorbing their culture and taking in the sheer beauty of this magnificent group of islands that have played no role in contributing to large scale greenhouse emissions and is are facing the brunt of rising sea levels due to climate change.
As our leaders gather to affirm their roles in combating climate change on the fifth anniversary of the COP21, I am reminded of what Anote Tong said during his interview with me – that Kiribati is already at the front lines of the climate battle, and when the front line falls, someone else will take their place and it won’t stop until it affects us all. There is no time to lose.
I hope that each of us will take these words to heart and support positive actions – on the political arena and in our daily lives – to create ripple effect and change the world for the better.