Former Irish president Mary Robinson spoke on a panel about climate change this weekend at the COP16 climate conference in Cancún, Mexico. Robinson talked about the need for a global climate fund that will help poor people protect themselves from the growing threats of global warming.
Robinson recently launched the Mary Robinson Foundation–Climate Justice.
MARY ROBINSON: I believe that this is the biggest human rights issue of the 21st century, and I believe that it’s a way of addressing issues of development and issues of tackling poverty. It’s not just an issue of the impact of the lifestyles in the richer parts of the world, the profligate carbon-based lifestyles that are undermining the lifestyles in Constance’ world. It’s also an opportunity for new values and a change in our lifestyles and a whole approach that I hope we can really bring home as being a better way to live with the earth that should nourish us and our children and our children’s children.
I could talk for a long time about the need to understand the human rights dimension, but also the fact that the justice that we’re talking about is in essence a justice of ensuring that the poor, the poorest and the poor, have a right to development. We have marked the 25th anniversary of the Declaration on Right to Development, and that development must increasingly be access to affordable, renewable energy for the poorest. Solar, batteries, lighting, clean cooking, clean water—all of these exist, and they exist for 100,000 people here, a hundred villages there. Social entrepreneurs have provided many responses to these possibilities. And yet, Constance cooks by moonlight. The mobile phone is the technology that has transformed many lives in developing countries. We have to ensure that it’s not just the mobile phone. It is, in fact, affordable, renewable energy, so that the poor can be better at adapting to the negative effects of climate, but also bringing themselves out of poverty. So, the challenge is a human rights and development one, but it’s also a justice one. And that’s what we have to get across here at COP16 and beyond.
Editor's Note: You might also be interested in other superb commentary from Democracy Now, broadcasting directly from the COP16 climate change conference in Cancún, Mexico. Particularly intriguing is this report about secret U.S. manipulation of climate talks revealed in the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables exposé. Also interesting to note is the report that the media has been particularly quiet about this particular climate change conference, in stark contrast to the coverage of the Copenhagen COP15 conference a year ago.