Higgins warns climate failure will lead to ‘destruction of life’
President speaking at ‘Summit of Consciences for the Climate’ in Paris
President Higgins speaking to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan during the Paris Summit of Conscience for the Climate. Photograph: Etienne Laurentetienne/AFP/Pool/Getty.
A failure to respond to the “scientific reality of climate change” may lead to the “destruction of life on our planet”, President Michael D Higgins has told a climate change conference in Paris.
President Higgins is addressing the “Summit of Consciences for the Climate” organised by President François Hollande.
The purpose of the day-long conference is to raise consciousness of the threat posed by global warming, in the run-up to the COP 21 UN conference on climate change, which will be held in Paris next December.
Speakers at Tuesday’s conference are an eclectic and colourful mix ranging from an astro-physicist to the former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger. They include religious leaders from all the world’s main faiths.
President Higgins said we must therefore “unequivocally reject the position of those who would obscure the scientific reality of climate change in their protection of any narrow and short-term self-interest. The first ethical test is in accepting that there can be no compromise with truth”.
“ Ours may be the final generation with the opportunity to effectively respond to the now urgent effects of climate change,” President Higgins said. “This year thus marks a defining moment for the future of humanity. In this year 2015 we will decide on what must be a shared universal response to climate change - and on a practical agenda for action. We will also this year decide on what should be sought as ‘development’ in the wake of the Millennium Development Goals, in response to global poverty and increasing global inequality.”
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight targets introduced in 2000 aimed at halving extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, and halting the spread of HIV-Aids by 2015 - will be replaced by Sustainable Development Goals.
“The political and technical decisions that are to be made over the coming months may be complex, but ultimately the great challenges of our time are ethical and intellectual in their nature.”
The President said humans “must acknowledge that the human causes behind climate change have identifiable historical contexts, grounded in forms of development and industrialisation that were based on the exploitation of fossil fuels, with an assumption of infinite growth.
“Would it not be the greatest of all human achievements if we were to succeed in delivering the benefits of science, the shared wisdom, instinct and intuition of diverse cultures, and the products of reason and faith; and in delivering all of these through new, balanced models of development, ecology and society?”