Monday 5 December 2016

'We are living like we've another planet to go to'

We are the last generation capable of saving the world ... it's time for change, warns President

Published 22/07/2015 | 02:30

President Michael D Higgins at a meeting of the Conseil Economique, Social et Environmental with Kofi Annan and Prince Albert of Monaco. Photo: Shane O'Neill
President Michael D Higgins at a meeting of the Conseil Economique, Social et Environmental with Kofi Annan and Prince Albert of Monaco. Photo: Shane O'Neill
Earth photographed from one million kilometres away by a Nasa camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite

President Michael D Higgins has warned there must be a total end to denying the existence of climate change.

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The President said this was the last generation which had the chance to save the planet from self-destruction. And a series of international conferences in 2015 would decide in large measure whether the huge human challenge can be met.

Mr Higgins quoted the American environmental campaigner Terri Swearinger, who has pointed to the folly of so much dependence on fossil fuels and the assumptions of limitless economic growth.

"We are living on this planet as if we have another one to go to," the President quoted the campaigner as saying.

"Ours may be the final generation with the opportunity to effectively respond to the urgent, uncontested effects of climate," the President said.

President Higgins said that developed and rich countries had a big obligation to come to the aid of smaller and poorer nations already feeling the damage done by climate change.

He said the developed nations had contributed more than their share to the damage done.

President Higgins was addressing a climate change policy conference in Paris. He was invited to make his landmark speech by French President Francois Hollande, as France tries to take a lead role on the issue this year.

The French president had invited a large group of religious and civic leaders to discuss ideas for action on climate change. The gathering is part of a series of preparations for a conference in Paris next November which will seek to frame a new international accord on addressing the issue.

Other keynote speakers include the former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan and Prince Albert of Monaco. Mr Higgins told the conference that the challenges ahead were daunting as they called for an end to fundamental errors of thinking in our relationship with the planet.

He stressed the need to confront individualism, and insatiable consumption. On the actions needed to tackle climate change, the President said there was a need for candour about the capacity for change and the obstacles that were in its path.

He said it would take moral courage to swim against the tide to change our models of economics and development.

President Higgins called for an inclusive, humane, non-judgmental engagement with the voices of those most affected by climate change, and said that we needed to place those people at the centre of proposed solutions.

But he also struck an optimistic note, saying that at various times in history, mankind had risen to the challenge of new thinking to deal with big problems. The developments in 1945, which came out of the ruins of war, and built a renewed commitment to ethics and human rights, were a clear example.

President Hollande said the world had an abundance of science but lacked the conscience and the ethics needed.

Irish Independent

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