Mary Robinson optimistic for deal at climate change summit

Ex-president very struck at COP21 focus on impact of climate change on vulnerable societies

 From left are Indonesian president Joko Widodo, Norway’s prime minister Erna Solbergof, UN special envoy on climate change  and former Irish president Mary Robinson, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, Gabonese president Ali Bongo and an unidentified aide   at the COP21 world climate change conference, Le Bourget,  France,  November 30th,  2015. Photograph: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

From left are Indonesian president Joko Widodo, Norway’s prime minister Erna Solbergof, UN special envoy on climate change and former Irish president Mary Robinson, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, Gabonese president Ali Bongo and an unidentified aide at the COP21 world climate change conference, Le Bourget, France, November 30th, 2015. Photograph: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

 

UN special envoy on climate change Mary Robinson has said she is optimistic an agreement can be reached at the global summit on climate change in Paris.

Ms Robinson, former president of Ireland, said on Monday she was very struck at the marked focus on the impact of climate change on people and vulnerable societies in addresses delivered on the opening day of COP21.

Speaking to The Irish Times, she said she hoped such a people-centred focus would carry through to the negotiations.

“I have been very struck by the emphasis on it being people-centred. President [Francois] Hollande used climate justice, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile used climate justice, a concern for the most vulnerable.

“The problem is that unless those heads of state say it expressly to the delegations [from their countries], it may not carry down.

“We may be back to the same not so people-centred approach of the past.”

A lot of preparation

Ms Robinson said her optimism was founded on a lot of preparation being done before this summit.

She pointed to 180 countries having made commitments in addition to additional commitments to climate finance.

She backed participation in the event of businesses, cities, civil society and faith-based groups.

“This is creating momentum that is pushing the process,” she said.

Asked about Ireland, she said she did not like to talk specifically on a political matter. “I always want every country including Ireland to be more ambitious.

“There is room for improvement and I do hope this conference will help,” she added.

On the wider commitment by the EU to deliver a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030, she said it showed leadership but said the EU still had to think about doing more.

“That is extremely important. We have damaged the Earth and made it more difficult for developing countries.

‘Our responsibility ’

“Therefore, we have to be very clear on our responsibility and I believe we can do more and bring it into schools and bring it into communities and get people involved in a very active way.

“Some of the children are more aware than their parents, and so they should be because it is their future. Every child born today will live through the best and worst of the future that we leave them.

“Every child, because they will live to 90 or 100 years, then we will know if we have got to the stage of coping well with the situation,” she said.

Ms Robinson was speaking after an event at which major world leaders endorsed forests as a key climate solution.

The initiative supports rural economic development which does not lead to deforestation and massively increases forest restoration.