Mary Robinson warns that under-60s likely to inherit ‘less livable world’

‘Terrible fires, terrible floods, terrible droughts’ if temperature target not met

People under 60 will inherit "a less livable" world with more floods, droughts and people having to leave their homes because of climate change, former president Mary Robinson has warned.

Some progress had been made at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, which she attended, she said, but a number of delegates had gone home "in despair" at the prospect of not meeting the target of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

“When the climate action tracker announced during the Cop that, having added up where we were, we were heading for a 2.4 degree [increase] world, that’s when I had my emotional moment because I know that that means.

“It means that anybody under 60 in our world is likely to have a world that is less livable in which is facing terrible fires, terrible floods, terrible droughts and millions of people having to leave their homes.


"And anybody under 30 is sure to live in that world. That's what we're talking about," she told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

Agreements had been made on the phasing out of oil and gas, she said, with the Irish Government agreeing to such a phasing out, while there had also been a "big shift" in the financial sector.

It was important that the voices of the most vulnerable had been heard by “those at the top”. But the world was now in “crisis mode”, she added.

Ballina pride

What happens locally from now on would make a difference, Ms Robinson said, and she spoke of her pride in her hometown of Ballina, Co Mayo, which organised a climate event last week to coincide with Cop26.

She called on the Government to invest so that it would be more affordable for people to “go green”.

On Sunday, almost 200 countries agreed a Cop26 pact but last-minute negotiations with China and India watered down the language on ending the use of coal. The pact targets a reduction in fossil fuel use and increased funding for developing countries, but refers to a "phasing down" of coal power, rather than phasing out.

Ms Robinson, who is also chairwoman of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights, confirmed that the fossil fuel lobby had been present at Cop26.

She said Saudi Arabia "always plays a very bad game at Cop".

There had been attempts at Cop26 to remove wording in relation to youth, human rights and just transition, she said.

Ms Robinson said some tax exemptions were “killing us” and that reducing subsidies could have huge consequences for some people and needed to be carefully thought through.

Chinese post

Separately, in a post on Twitter, the Chinese embassy in Ireland shared data from 2019 showing the fossil fuel consumption per capita from 2019.

The data, from Our World in Data, showed China had the fourth lowest consumption per capita out of 13 selected countries, at 23.373kWh.

However, the data does not take into consideration the size of the country’s population, which is the largest in the world, currently standing at almost 1.4 billion.

Irish climate NGOs have also expressed disappointment about the outcome of Cop26.

Oisín Coghlan of Friends of the Earth Ireland said the summit in Glasgow was a “staging post, not a finishing line”.

“The ‘two steps forward, one step back’ nature of the annual climate talks is deeply frustrating but we must pocket any modest gains from Glasgow,” he added.