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Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Lusha Chen interviews MARY ROBINSON
- Climate justice – the nexus between human rights and climate change – must be a pillar of the post-2015 development agenda, says former Irish president Mary Robinson.
As global temperatures rise, low-income communities suffer disproportionately from health problems, financial burdens, and social and cultural disruptions.
Founder of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, the former U.N. high commissioner for human rights spoke with IPS correspondent Lusha Chen about the challenges and opportunities facing developing countries, especially small island states, when it comes to their survival or extinction in coming decades.
Excerpts from the interview follow.
Q: In 2009, when you attended the Copenhagen Climate Summit, you said you didn’t see journalists or some ministers from developed countries show urgency to deal with climate change issues. Do you think this year’s U.N. General Assembly offered any changes?
A: I am surprised that more heads of state and senior ministers of developing countries don’t actually speak about their reality: that they are suffering more and more from climate shocks.
They talk about it privately, but they somehow don’t want to project vulnerability. It’s a contrast to the heads of state of small island states that maybe are going to go under. They have no choice, so they speak out and they want climate justice.
We know the reality, and we also understand that communities that haven’t contributed [to the problem] have to benefit from the low-carbon economy that we must move to. And particularly access to affordable, renewable energy.
Q: Many developing countries are facing a conflict between economic development and paying the cost to protect the environment. What’s your take on this?
A: I recognise that there are costs, I think unfair costs if you like, on poor developing countries, and we need much more support for adaptation for climate resilience, whether it’s rural areas or in cities.
I was talking to [Liberian] President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She may have to move part of her population from her capital Monrovia – she hasn’t budgeted for that – because of the climate. So we need much more support for adaptation, and also for the technologies that will help poor countries to benefit from no-carbon growth.
And there are a lot of examples of south-south cooperation now, which I very much welcome: south-south engagement in projects for access to energy, even at the local level, and I’m very keen that we promote as much as possible of that.
But we have to recognise that we are coming to a very difficult period, and if we don’t do the right thing in 2015, and have a fair, robust, equitable agreement that keeps us below two degrees Celsius [of warming], it will get much more difficult for countries that are seeing a big expansion in their populations… to cope with food security, to adapt.
So this is a very precious time, it’s a very important time, and that’s why climate justice links to a good sustainable development agenda post-2015 for all countries, which countries must take more responsibility to cut their emissions, and also a fair climate agreement.
Q: Are you still plugged into what’s going on in Ireland?
A: Yes, I would also look to Ireland to take responsibility. As a former president, I don’t engage politically in Ireland, and that’s understood. But Ireland is a good country to work on food security from, because we have a very good reputation for tackling hunger… and I’m proud of that.