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.
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.