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Robinson calls for climate change action, says current system is 'underpinned by rampant capitalism'

The former president said Ireland needs to introduce a carbon tax, but must do so in the right way.

Former Irish President Mary Robinson at Trinity College Dublin last month.
Former Irish President Mary Robinson at Trinity College Dublin last month.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

MARY ROBINSON HAS hit out at inaction on climate change, saying the current system is “underpinned by rampant capitalism”.

Robinson, who leads the Mary Robinson – Climate Justice Foundation, said Ireland and the world needs to do more to tackle the situation.

“The system we have at the moment is underpinned by rampant capitalism. The social contract with people is kind of broken.

“The unions are being trod upon, especially in the United States but also globally to a certain extent,” Robinson told UCC podcast Plain Speaking.

The former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Ireland needs to become a leader on climate change, stating: “We were a leader in the world and still are perceived to be on hunger.

“Now you cannot be a leader on tackling hunger if you are a laggard on climate change, the two don’t fit.”

Ireland has missed targets in the past and our performance in taking action against climate change was ranked the worst in Europe in a report published in December.

The Climate Change Performance Index ranked Ireland 48th out of 56 countries, with a score of 40.84, far below the EU average of 60.65.

Carbon tax 

Many people view failing to introduce a carbon tax in the most recent Budget as a missed opportunity. In the interview, Robinson reaffirmed that Ireland needs a carbon tax, but stated that lessons from other countries should be learned.

We do need a carbon tax, but it must be fair. We need to pay attention to what happened in Paris, in France, when the carbon tax was the right thing to do but it was done in the wrong way.

“It was done when the wealth tax had been removed and people perceived a real unfairness and inequity,” she said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar previously said Ireland is “laggard” when it comes to tackling climate change, adding that he is “not proud” of this.

Referring to his comments, Robinson said: “It is not good for our profile or even I think for our morale that as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said in the European Parliament that we’re laggard on climate change.”

She also spoke about the role agriculture and other sectors in the Irish economy can play.

“What we’ve done as a country is we’ve decided to put a big bet on beef and milk, and these are not the best from a climate point of view…

We still have to feed people, we still have to have farming, but we need to be more diverse, more conservation agriculture, more thoughtful.

“It’s not just agriculture, it is transport. We need to go electric as quickly as possible and so on. It’s not an excuse to say we’re a small country, not an excuse,” Robinson stated. 

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Órla Ryan

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