Can Mary Robinson as UN Climate Change Envoy persuade the world to save the planet for the children of today?

Our former President and founder of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, Mary Robinson has now been appointed to the role of UN Special Envoy for Climate Change. It’s a very important role in the run up to next year’s Climate Talks in Paris. She intends to focus on the severity and human rights implications of Climate Change. Mary Robinson has a big challenge ahead, as has all of humanity, but can she make a difference in her new role.   

Former Uachtarán na hÉireann, Mary Robinson, has been appointed UN Special Envoy for Climate Change.

Former Uachtarán na hÉireann, Mary Robinson, has been appointed UN Special Envoy for Climate Change.



Over the last number of years, Mary Robinson has been extremely vocal on the need for all of society to take urgent action on Climate Change. She is the president of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, based in Dublin, which focuses on highlighting the injustice of climate change and the disproportionate effect it is having on the world’s poorest.

In stark and committed language, she laid out her agenda on a number of morning radio programmes on Monday of last week, saying that climate change is a “huge existential threat to all of us.” She promised to focus her work and energy on reminding leaders that we can’t continue with “business as usual, nor is business as usual with a little bit of green on the side acceptable”. She acknowledged the role that business has to play in combatting climate change and that everyone, as consumers, has a level of responsibility.  She is aware of the huge challenges that exist in combatting climate change, in particular keeping warming below the critical threshold of 2 degrees Celsius. If we were to do this, we need to aim towards having a zero carbon economy before 2050. She said that while we only have two decades to act and that it is possible to do it.  Countries that act soonest will be rewarded. According to Mary Robinson we need a robust and fair pathway, and that a zero carbon future must be equitable, i.e. ‘less developed’ countries have to be treated fairly.   She claimed that the first countries that make moves towards renewable energy will be the ones where jobs will exist in the future and she claims that Ireland can give great global leadership in this area.

Global leaders have promised to construct an international agreement by 2015, that will provide a pathway for action on climate change. While time is running out to achieve meaningful action, there is a growing urgency and recognition that Climate Change is serious and requires a matched response. The signs are everywhere. Global CO2 levels have remained at an historic high of 400 parts per million for the last year, wind storms are on the increase, and this June saw global temperatures 0.7c above the average. We may not see the worst effects of climate change in Monaghan, or in Ireland in the short term but there is no doubt that we will be affected by the impact of climate change in other parts of the world. In many countries climate change is happening more quickly than in Ireland and they have fewer resources to help cope with the effects of extreme weather events and so food shortages and new refugees are the result.  It is literally a matter of life or death for many people in these countries who are essentially being affected by the burning of fossil fuels over many years by more developed countries in Europe, America and elsewhere.  Rising sea levels is another consequence of climate change and we could see many of the Pacific Islands ceasing  to exist this century, while hundreds of thousands of people in low lying areas such as Bangladesh will be displaced. It is estimated that up to 700 million people will be displaced by 2050 as a result of climate change.

Climate Change is real, it is accelerating and it will only get worse without radical action. Mary Robinson certainly has her work cut out, to bring about change in an antiquated system that is often slow to act and bows to pressure from vested interests. However, with her passion, commitment and vision we can be hopeful that she will have a positive impact in her new role and will be a strong voice for a stable future for the planet. We here in her home country need to campaign and give strong leadership in addressing climate change. We can give her our full support by ensuring that Ireland becomes a place that significantly reduces its CO2 emissions. We as consumers have to play our part by cutting our use of oil, gas and coal and also of course reducing our purchases of goods and services that during their production and transport have generated high CO2 emissions.    We wish our former President, Mary Robinson, well in her new role.

Issues of wind turbines, pylons, fracking, energy security and zero carbon generate energetic debate


Over 1,200 submissions have been received by the Government in response to its call for submissions on its Green Paper on Energy in Ireland. One of these submissions was compiled by Transition Ireland. The submission calls for a National Energy Transition Plan bringing together all sectors to create one shared vision for Ireland’s energy.


The large number of submissions received on the Energy Policy Green Paper reflects the fact that many groups and individuals realise that we are at what Minister for Energy, Alex White TD described as an “energy crossroads”.  It is generally accepted that we have to significantly reduce our reliance on imported coal, oil and gas, while becoming much more energy efficient and further increasing our output of renewable energy. Furthermore every country needs to move to a zero carbon or carbon neutral as soon as possible in order to meet our commitments to addressing climate change. Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, is about achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing the amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount of carbon that is sequestered or captured.

 As well at the issues of wind turbines and pylons the controversial issue of possible fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in the border counties has emerged. Fracking is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside.  The issue of energy security has also come to the fore with the recent political and military developments in Ukraine and Russia which have highlighted Europe’s over-dependence on natural gas that is being imported by pipeline from Russia.  

The Transition movement has evolved to build community resilience to better prepare our communities for the inevitable environmental, societal, political and economic shocks that climate change and resource depletion are causing and will continue to cause. The aim of any transition initiative is to foster and strengthen its communityʼs resilience in light of these challenges. In this context the Transition movement has, in various countries, been involved in policy work and practical projects. A recent example has been the publication of an Energy Descent Action Plan for Co Kerry by the Transition Kerry initiative. In it the target is set out to have 100% renewable energy in Co Kerry by 2030.


The Transition submission on the Green Paper outlines some key elements to its proposal for a National Energy Transition Plan for Ireland. These  include  raising awareness, creating a shared vision, designing pathways for that vision and some definite proposals. The submission was co-ordinated by Theresa Carter. Theresa is passionate about sustainability and has undertaken a range of transition initiatives at national level and locally in Co Laois. The following are some of the key points in the submission.


Raising awareness and creating a shared vision

It is paramount that everybody has an understanding of the basic factors underpinning our national energy plans: climate change and energy security for all. There must be informed debates, discussions and conversation about all considerations for this national policy. The Aarhus Convention states that we all have a right to information relevant to our environment. The Irish Government needs to play an active role in providing impartial, factual information on all aspects of energy plans, policies and projects to its citizens at the preplanning stage.


Transition Ireland is calling for facilitated conversations in every town so that all considerations for national energy policy can be explored. Climate change and our over dependence on imported energy must be presented and discussed so that the challenges are understood and the solutions can be nurtured. Transition calls on the Government to set up a national public participation working group on energy policy, that can ensure public participation is given the consideration it deserves and ensure compliance with the Aarhus convention.


Targets and proposals

Once a vision has been created, a timeline of targets must be agreed. These need to be in line with our targets as part of the EU. However locally the targets will probably be higher as communities engage with the shared vision for a more sustainable economy and


Energy security is a massive threat to western society but the greatest known threat to humanity and life on earth in general, is climate change. Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland want to see:

  • Remaining reserves of fossil fuel left in the ground
  • Greater emphasis and work on carbon sequestration
  • Radical acceleration of energy conservation and storage
  • Community energy addressed and supported in line with Friends of the Earth

Community Energy Policy Position Paper

  • No further discussions or intent to license fossil fuel exploration including fracking.


Next steps

According to the Department of Energy, the written public consultation will be followed by detailed analysis by officials in advance of further public engagement at various events commencing this October. Drafting of the White Paper will then begin with a view to publication in mid-2015. The Department says that the new Energy Policy Framework will be “timely, in that it will be guided by Ireland’s input to the EU’s 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy policies and the preparations for the UN’s COP21 in Paris (the 21st Conference of the Parties within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in November next year”. We await to see the extent to which the Government will take on board the suggestions put forward in submissions such as that of Transition Ireland.

Showtime for local and sustainable food

Community gardeners (from left) Máire Brehony, Deirde McGinn, Helen Mooney and Eileen Kerr checking their tomato crop at the community polytunnel at Eagle Ridge Gardens, Drumillard Castleblayney.

Community gardeners (from left) Máire Brehony, Deirde McGinn, Helen Mooney and Eileen Kerr checking their tomato crop at the community polytunnel at Eagle Ridge Gardens, Drumillard Castleblayney.

The local Shows such as the recent one in Castleblayney was an opportunity for locally produced food and craft to be exhibited. As well as the competitions for horticultural and food produce there was the new Food Village – ‘From Field to Fork’ with stalls where  producers of a wide range of  local foods,  ranging from jams to sausages, displayed and sold their produce.  Castleblayney Community Gardens had a stand there displaying their fruit and vegetable produce from their community gardens. Some of the vegetables and herbs at their stand were using in the cookery demonstration in the Food Village. Elsewhere at the Show there were a number of stands of interest.  One of these was that of the cross border chapter of the Irish Woodturners Guild. They had a wide range of locally sourced and crafted wood products ranging from a fruit bowls to a traditional spinning wheel. Local sustainable produce has always been a feature of these annual Shows and it is great to see this element being further expanded this year by the committee of the Castleblayney Show Society.  Tydavnet Show takes place this Saturday 15 August at the showgrounds at Drumshevra, Scotstown. Why not go along and see the range of local produce on display.  More details are available elsewhere in this newspaper and at