It enshrined Robinson as a progressive talisman. But it turns out to be surprisingly upbeat. To order a … There’s no doubt that Maeve is drawing me to the dark side. And, of course, in vulnerable countries, it’s women who bear the brunt of climate change.”, The former barrister karate-chops the air for emphasis. And women change behaviour. It was an astonishing result that prefigured Ireland’s social liberalisation. They are examples of positive change that Robinson thinks can help turn the tide. Closer to home, the Irish government is flunking its climate policy goals. The award seeks to: Identify three young leaders at the forefront of impactful climate justice … “There’s a nurturing quality, a concern for children, that’s very deep in women. Now, climate scientists warn that the clock ticks ever closer to midnight. One Young World will assess candidates based on their: *Most delegates are between the age of 18 and 30. Her response is to tell the stories of people such as Sharon Hanshaw, a hairdresser in Mississippi who led community recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina; Constance Okollet, a Ugandan farmer who taught neighbours to plant trees to stop topsoil erosion; and Natalie Isaacs, an Australian entrepreneur who launched an online initiative to help households curb their carbon footprints. “People listen through Maeve, through her questions. To order a copy for £12.49, go to guardianbookshop.com or call … [With] despair, all the energy to do something goes out of the room.”, Robinson says she is adapting her own behaviour: fewer flights and more teleconferencing; eating less meat as an “aspirant vegetarian”; using public transport, although she confesses to taking taxis frequently. I’ve seen what 1 degree is doing in more vulnerable countries ... villages are having to move, there’s slippage, there’s seawater incursion.”, Robinson sips a glass of water and sighs. When I go off-topic and ask about Brexit, or the Irish presidential election, there is a tight smile. She agreed. ‘Human rights has always been a struggle’ ... Mary Robinson in her office in Dublin. Britain and the EU are consumed by Brexit. Kofi Annan tapped her up to become the UN’s high commissioner for human rights in 1997, three months before her presidential term ended. This article was amended on 12 October 2018 to correct the caption accompanying the picture of Mary Robinson in East Jerusalem. A year later, Robinson found herself in a Dublin maternity ward holding her first grandchild, Rory. A person living in the US creates 118 times more carbon dioxide emissions than a person living in Nauru but this small Pacific island is one of the nations at risk of disappearing due to rising sea levels. She has anticipated the IPCC report by writing a book-cum-manifesto, Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future, published this week. “Being of my generation, I said: ‘What’s a podcast?’” she laughs. They banter while discussing climate change and interviewing guests. The impact of climate change is not a distant threat, its effects are being felt right now by millions around the world in the form of rising sea levels, extreme weather systems and devastating droughts. and a company limited by guarantee (Reg.No.06970067). Supporters and critics have long noted a personal stiffness matched by an unbending commitment to liberal principles. Registered Office: 10 Queen Street Place, London, EC4R 1BE. We need to have empathy now with those who are suffering ... because that’s where we’ll all be very shortly if we don’t change course.”. The gaze is direct, the sentences exact. A centre for thought leadership, education and advocacy on the struggle to secure global justice for those people vulnerable to the impacts of climate change who are usually forgotten – the poor, the disempowered and the marginalised across the world. Climate change is unfair. “I don’t think as a human race that we can be so stupid that we can’t face an existential threat together and find a common humanity and solidarity to respond to it. You could call it soft power, except Robinson does not do soft. “We have 11 years to change course and it has to be done with a seriousness of purpose, particularly by governments, because they determine the rules.”, Preparations for a conference in Poland in December to ensure implementation of the Paris agreement are not going well, she says: “There’s a lot of arguing around what needs to be done.” She hopes the IPCC report will focus minds. Donald Trump, rejecter of the Paris climate agreement, is riding high on the back of Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the US supreme court. Brazil is on course to elect a president who wants to open the Amazon to agribusiness. “It’s the one good emblem that the United Nations has produced, so I like to wear it.”. This could be the start of a depressing interview that concludes we should hitch a ride on Virgin Galactic’s first trip to space and try to stay there. She has expressed regret for letting the then secretary general “sort of bully” her into leaving the presidency early to head to Geneva. Despite the headlines, Robinson, who served as the UN secretary general’s special envoy on climate change after serving as the president of Ireland and the UN high commissioner for human rights, is hopeful. “In that moment, my sense of time altered and I began to think in a time span of a hundred years. This is the climate justice movement and One Young World is proud to be a part of it through the Mary Robinson Climate Justice Award. To opt-out click for more information. To order a copy for £12.49, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. It’s women who decide what the diet will be. No longer a high-powered global bureaucrat with a big budget and staff, no longer a head of state trailed by pomp, she instead relies on a formidable intellect, her brand name and her social and political network. I get them to message for me. You get the prisoner-of-hope mentality and you fight harder.”. It tells stories of farmers and activists, mostly women, who tackle climate change in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Nominated by the Labour party as a long-shot candidate for the presidency in 1990, she won. “This report is extraordinarily important, because it’s telling us that 2 degrees is not safe. Robinson seems unabashed. In the future, we will have these tipping points – the Arctic will be gone, the coral reefs will be gone, the permafrost will be dissolving ... all these things will just spin us out of control.”, Governments need to end fossil fuel subsidies and increase tax on carbon, she says. When Irish civil society marches these days, it is for housing, not climate change. If governments are not capable of being more serious, then they lack moral leadership, which is what we really need now.”, Leaving aside the rest of the world, the country outside Robinson’s door challenges her optimism. “I try to illustrate the hope and the fightback,” says Robinson. The former president co-hosts the podcast Mothers of Invention with Maeve Higgins, an Irish comedian based in New York. How else would a GP’s daughter from Ballina, County Mayo, emerge in the 1970s as a law professor and outspoken advocate for women’s rights and contraception while other politicians genuflected before the might of the country’s Roman Catholic church? I knew instinctively that I would now view Rory’s life through the prism of our planet’s precarious future ... the abstract data on climate change that I had skirted around for so long became deeply personal.”, Robinson was struck by the injustice that those least responsible, such as islanders in Kiribati or herders in Kenya, suffered most from climate change, and by the fact that much of the world ignored scientists’ warnings. “Laughter in a very serious discussion is much more persuasive than if we were all the time serious, serious, serious.” I consider asking her to tell a joke, but my nerve fails; back to business. “Governments are not responding at all adequately to the stark reality that the IPCC is pointing to: that we have about 11 years to make really significant change,” says Robinson, sitting ramrod straight, all business. 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