Robinson highlights climate change challenge


CLIMATE CHANGE is one of the greatest human rights challenges of this century, former president Mary Robinson said in Dublin last night.

In the annual lecture sponsored by the independent think-tank Tasc, she said climate developments were undermining the livelihoods of people in poor developing countries.

This was what had prompted the establishment of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice ( “We may be going through tough times in Ireland, but some of the world’s poorest will suffer even greater deprivation because of the carbon-based development we benefit from.”

The former UN high commissioner for human rights added: “If we believe in the right to develop (as recognised by the UN in 1986) and the right to a better life, we need to improve access to energy.

“In the past, this would have meant rolling out diesel generators to rural settlements and building new oil and coal-fired power stations to supply large centres of population, but in a world of rising oil prices, energy insecurity, anthropogenic climate change and dwindling resources, an alternative is needed.”

On access to water, she said: “Without adequate water, the development opportunities of a country or community are severely diminished. We know from pilot projects around the world the value of water resource management in maximising the development and ecological potential of water.

“Watershed management projects in Ethiopia have transformed barren valleys suffering from soil erosion, declining yields and outward migration into vibrant, productive and green communities.”

Mrs Robinson added: “Feeding a world population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050 will be a real challenge, and climate change adds another dimension to this challenge.”

The former president also said that if the principles of social protection were applied at a global scale – protecting the most vulnerable to build a more equitable society – “we are once again in the field of climate justice”.

“We have many reasons to protect the most vulnerable from the impacts of climate change – because we caused the problem and they are most affected, because we are part of a global society and are highly interdependent, and because we are morally bound to help those less well off than we are.

“These are all good reasons to act, to make hard decisions and hopefully the right decisions.”