Mary Robinson calls for transformative leaders to step up on climate justice

Mary Robinson reiterated her opening ceremony speech and called for transformative leadership in regards to climate justice.

Speaking before more than 1,250 One Young World delegates, Robinson warned of the crippling effects that can be caused from climate change and declared that clean technology can have a major impact on climate justice in the developing world.

“3 billion out of the world’s 7 billion population are energy poor. 1.3 billion people have no access to electricity while 2.6 billion still cook on open fires across the world,” Robinson explained.

“4 million people, mainly women and children, die from the effects of inhaling smoke every year. They are energy poor and we owe it to them in justice,” said Robinson.

According to Robinson, it is vital that countries reduce their carbon emissions below the temperature of 2 degrees celsius in the hope to prevent dangerous climate changes. However she gave a stark warning, claiming that global emission levels are nearly exceeding four degrees.

She also warned that accountability is key if sustainable energy and climate justice is to be achieved on a global stage, with some of the larger countries not contributing enough at the UN Climate Summit in New York, last month.

“Samoa, Costa Rica and a number of the smaller countries are planning to have zero carbon emissions by 2025, while some of the bigger countries came and talked but they didn’t say anything. They have to say something by March, however,” she said.

Robinson believes that the most important component for change in climate sustainability is transformative, young, ambitious and brave leadership, taking time in particular, to praise One Young World Ambassador, Marielle Fillit.

Marielle has developed sustainable energy systems in rural Kenya, was used as an example by Robinson to the crowd of delegates.

“She is certainly a transformative leader,” said Robinson.

Robinson fielded questions from delegates ‘how do we spread the wealth needed, to the poorest people?’ and ‘can we sustain growth without damaging our resources more than we have already?’

Regarding these questions, Robinson was adamant that the implementation of social policy and the creation of clean energy was vital for sustainable climate growth..

"Why not look at the social protection systems within countries?”, Robinson questioned.“Social policies look after certain health issues, yet energy hasn't been proficiently in that mix.  If energy is available within poor countries, it can free up the time for women, children can do homework in the evening, they can charge their phones and can earn an income.”

"Just as a mobile phone has changed lives of the poor around the world, clean technology will transform their lives - it is absolutely doable", she added.

Robinson also emphasised that people can no longer be in denial of the consequences of climate change, as there is clear evidence galvanising her points.

“95% of  scientists are absolutely sure that climate change is affected by human actions. The 5th assessment report, and accumulation of this year’s reports will be released soon, and the fact is that we are in a frightening situation,” she said.

“You cannot take away from the scientific evidence, the strong, strong evidence that we are bad stewards.Yet If we do not obtain this level, more small islands will go under, big cities will be flooded and more people will suffer.” ” said Robinson

Prior to Robinson’s introduction, Dame Ellen McArthur, founder of the Ellen McArthur Foundation which supports and drives the idea of circular economy through education, business models and data, and was also the fastest solo sailor to circumnavigate the world.

It took McArthur 71 days to sail the world and her experience of needing to avail of finite sources inspired her to transfer that knowledge and interest to the world's finite resources.

The belief is that in a circular economy, everything should be designed to recover and remaufacture the material, because the linear economy in which we live in is unsustainable.

“I went to the world coal association to find out from the experts how much coal we have left, and they say its 118 years. That is nothing in time,” said McArthur.

It’s not just coal, it’s oil and materials that produce energy, it’s metals and plastics. We’re using them all at a fast rate. The speed at which we use resources has increased rapidly,” she continued.

“This is not the thing of the future, it is happening, and it is hurting,” Robinson concluded.

By Ryan Nugent and Niamh Geoghegan