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Robinson says continued investment in oil and gas is ‘stupid’
Mary Robinson at the Law Society Pic: Susan Kennedy

11 Jul 2019 / environment Print

Robinson tells IWLA oil and gas investment is ‘stupid’

Former president Mary Robinson has pointed the finger at the Trump administration for its failures on climate change and its continued backing of traditional fuel sources.

Mrs Robinson was speaking last night as a guest of the Irish Women Lawyers’ Association, at the Law Society in Blackhall Place.

Trump administration

“We have a big divide of those who are deliberate climate deniers who, unfortunately, are in very strong positions in certain governments, in particular the Trump administration.”

Deliberate climate denial by those who are supporting fossil fuel in order to make money, is both “malign and evil”, she said.

She commented that this was worse than the behaviour of the tobacco industry, which had destroyed the health of significant numbers of people.

“We have to take the science seriously – you can’t negotiate with science,” she said.

The top investors in oil and gas were also lambasted by the former president for their weak positions on climate risk.

“The profits from oil and gas are so much greater than the profits from clean energy,” she pointed out.

Litigation must disrupt the oil and gas industries, she added, describing investing in these industries as “increasingly a stupid thing to do”.

Stranded asset

She pointed to the example of asbestos as a “stranded asset”.

Mrs Robinson said that the Trump administration had fought “tooth and nail” to prevent the Our Children’s Trust case in Oregon from coming to hearing.

She stated that those who continued to take profits from the carbon fuel industries were “evil and malign”.

She also observed that the US Supreme Court “may not be too reliable on these issues”.

The world's climate was now in an emergency situation, she said but there was a great deal that lawyers could do to help. 'Public interest' climate litigation could effect change in these matters.

She commented that the International Bar Association (IBA) had, on her urging, issued a task force report on how the legal profession could move from being ‘behind the curve’ on climate action.

“I do think the legal profession can do more, but there is a lot of climate litigation going on now.”

Mrs Robinson said that she herself engaged in a lot of air travel because she was in the “persuading business”. She always asked her hosts to offset her carbon when she is flying abroad.

“It really is important to think about these things,” she said.

She praised French President Macron’s recent taxation measures on flying, but said the tax “still seems quite low”.

Crisis mode

“We actually need to get into a crisis mode in this country and in every country,” she said.

“We are not on course for a safe world.” She added saying that global warming of two degrees annually would destroy the coral reefs, arctic ice and permafrost and “very bad things” would happen.

Reducing carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 could be done with sufficient political will, she said.

However, she accepted that France’s recent fuel-tax increases had been applied with no regard for rural communities or those who drive for a living.

“Many of the ‘gilet jaunes’ [who vigorously protested the tax] were on the right side of the environment,” she said, but they felt this tax was completely unfair.

Ireland must proceed carefully with fuel taxes, she said, with a dividend to compensate those most affected by increases.

Clean energy

“There is no doubt we must have a carbon tax to hurry up the move towards renewable energy,” she said.

Questioned on whether humans could actually grapple with the concept of a global society, and actually “think as one”, she said that binding treaties could be effective as was shown when dealing with the ozone layer.

She praised Costa Rica for moving to 100% clean energy, and Denmark for its extensive use of wind energy. However, at least one billion people in the world never switched on electricity, clean or otherwise.

Dirty fuels

A further 2.3 billion use dirty cooking fuels, such as charcoal, animal dung or peat, and ingest the resulting dangerous fumes.

Mrs Robinson said that the problem of climate change also involved women and she called for a 'feminist' solution.

“Make climate change personal in your life, and do something you haven’t done before,” she advised the assembled women lawyers, urging them to “get angry and get active”.

She herself has become a pescatarian, she said.

“We must give up the throwaway society, which hasn’t made us very happy,” she said, recalling that she learnt to sew buttons and darn as a child, and her four brothers wore hand-me-down clothes.

Slow fashion

“There’s nothing wrong with that. I like slow fashion and I like slow food. This is about relationships … and the circular economy.”

She concluded by quoting Green teen activist Greta Thurnberg who said in her Davos speech: “Our house is burning and all you care about is money.”

The paperback edition of Mrs Robinson book Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future is now available.


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