Chancellor puts climate change on agenda

Mary Robinson, Chancellor of the College, former President of Ireland and Honorary President of Oxfam International, visited Trinity College Dublin on Wednesday evening to speak at the Oxfam Ireland seminar on climate change, less than two weeks before the global climate talks are due to begin in Copenhagen

. The Chancellor’s address posited climate change as a human rights and justice issue, and one that is “already causing real devastation, huge damage and loss. Climate change undermines the enjoyment of Human Rights and threatens progress across the world.”

The Chancellor  called on the public to hold political leaders accountable for a fair and binding deal in Copenhagen, reinstating that “it is a political issue” and “it is disheartening to see discussions taking place as if they were world trade organisation negotiations, like a poker game. But if we don’t get proper agreements and leadership in Copenhagen, it really will be the end of a liveable world.”

The Chancellor concluded that it is the poorest people in the world who are suffering most as a direct result of climate change, a situation they didn’t contribute to. The Chancellor reminded the audience that we all have a “responsibility to address this great global injustice. We can’t think in terms of ‘they and us’ anymore but need to think ‘we’ if we are to tackle what is a global issue. People have a right to development but if poorer countries were to develop in a carbon-based way such as we did, it would have a catastrophic impact. We need developing countries to help us stay under the 2ºC outer limit. We need to start thinking of the possibilities, technologies and opportunities we have in Ireland to help the poorer countries of the world to develop in low-carbon ways.”

Also speaking at the Oxfam Ireland seminar was Patrick Lameck of the Tanzanian NGO INADES Formation that works to empower small scale farmers. Patrick told the audience that poor people- who are least responsible for the climate crisis and least able to cope with its effects- are already being hit hard by multiple climate change impacts. Speaking from his experience of working with small farmers in Tanzania, Patrick told of the effects that climate change is having on poor communities and the efforts they are already making to adapt to these changes. He cited the recent landslide in Tanzania, which killed 21 people, as a reminder that climate change is “taking place now” and called on governments around the world to “act immediately if we are to save our planet”.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, reiterated that it is not a “distant threat” and cited the recent flooding in the West of Ireland as an example of how disastrous climate disruptions can be, asking the audience to imagine then the situation in countries without any structures of support or coping mechanisms. Mr. Clarken championed the cause of separating climate finance from overseas aid, stating “the climate problem is not caused by those who are suffering most from it”. Mr. Clarken called for the public to send the government a strong message not to use overseas aid to pay climate debt. Instead Oxfam is calling for governments gathering in Copenhagen in December to deliver a deal that sets greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets in line with keeping global temperature rises as far below 2ºC as possible.

They are also calling on rich countries to reduce their emissions by at least 40% of 1990 levels by 2020, among other objectives.