February 18th, 2019
Mary Robinson today called on Irish people to do their bit to live more sustainably and to “get angry” with political institutions not doing enough to tackle climate change.
Launching Trinity College Dublin’s Green Week this morning, the former President laid out the importance of individual action to address climate change.
Ms Robinson, who is currently TCD chancellor, urged the audience to adopt habits promoting sustainable living in their day-to-day lives.
Once individuals start to make changes in their personal lives, Ms Robinson said that it’s time to “get angry” with “governance at all levels” that are not acting on climate. “Get angry about the fact that those who have more responsibility aren’t doing enough.”
While she said that she was glad to see Dublin City Council and other local authorities beginning to take action in developing their own climate plans, she said that “they’re late”.
“They need to do more, and they need more pressure. Business needs more pressure. And agriculture and transport, all of these sectors,” Ms Robinson said.
Ms Robinson said that she supported the “significant” campaign on fossil fuel divestment that brought “both the students and the faculty together” as a community.
Fossil Free TCD led a successful divestment campaign that pushed the university to commit to divesting its investments in the industry in December 2016.
“The students are being very active. I love it,” Ms Robinson said, also addressing students on the themes and challenges of climate justice.
She called for renewable energy to be prioritized and for a just transition plan to be put in place to soften the blow of the transition for those in the fossil fuel sector in Ireland and abroad.
“We have to make sure that developing countries get access to clean energy, to investment, to technology. And we have to help the developed world to get out of the stuff that’s harming us,” Ms Robinson said.
“This means that a lot of people will have to change their jobs. We have to have a just transition,” she added.
Prisoners of hope
Ms Robinson emphasized the relationship between climate change and human rights and called for a leadership that is “increasingly intergenerational” in order to adequately address the issue.
“The most important thing is that we all have to start imagining the world we want to get to,” she stressed. “The world that would be so much better, it would be carbon-free and it would be much healthier. It has to be a more equal world.”
Mary Robinson also quoted South African peace activist and fellow Elders member Archbishop Desmond Tutu, urging students to be “prisoners of hope”.
“Hope is not only important in keeping morale up. It’s also important in stimulating action for change,” Ms Robinson found.
Trinity’s Green Week is the longest-running university event of its kind in the country and features the likes of panel discussions, film screenings and natural expeditions that aim to educate students on sustainable living.
Ms Robinson also addressed the controversial decision to travel to Dubai last December to meet Sheikha Latifa, the daughter of the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Al-Maktoum. The princess had previously tried to flee the UAE.
Ms Robinson defended her decision, saying that she “went to help a friend” and did not regret the decision. “I have spoken out before on human rights in the UAE. I haven’t changed my spots. I will speak out again where appropriate. Nothing has changed,” she said.
By Kayle Crosson