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Michael D Higgins outlines efforts to cut carbon footprint after he's challenged on use of government jet

 

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President Michael D Higgins Photo: Damien Eagers

President Michael D Higgins Photo: Damien Eagers

President Michael D Higgins Photo: Damien Eagers

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has outlined his efforts to cut his carbon footprint after being challenged on using the government jet for internal flights in Ireland.

He insisted his preferred choice is train travel, but said he'd he happy to use an electric State car, and he has asked about the possibility of going on trips abroad by sea.  

Mr Higgins is in New York ahead of his major speech to the United Nations General Assembly tomorrow.

He will highlight the need for climate action and also press Ireland's case for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Records show that Mr Higgins has used the government jet to fly to destinations such as Belfast and Derry.

The Learjet 45 – which is more heavily used by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other ministers - has higher carbon emissions per passenger than commercial flights.

Mr Higgins confirmed that he flew business class to New York – which also has higher emissions per passenger.

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FLYING HIGH: The Learjet 45 operates seven days a week

FLYING HIGH: The Learjet 45 operates seven days a week

FLYING HIGH: The Learjet 45 operates seven days a week

But he said it was an arrangement made for him by the Department of Foreign Affairs and it allowed him to work on speeches he is delivering this week.

On his business class travel to New York he said: “To be quite frank with you, I'm not really fulfilling this task as president of Ireland for my personal enjoyment. 

“There are many things I could be doing with my life, but I'm deeply committed to it.”

He said his most recent visits to Belfast have been by train, which he described as “very comfortable”.

Mr Higgins also said Áras an Uachtaráin was participating in energy and biodiversity studies.

He said he has ensured that the UN speech is not his only engagement in New York and it includes meetings with other world leaders, speeches to the academic community and visits to the Irish disapora.

Mr Higgins said that in the coming weeks he is to visit Irish troops in Lebanon as well as deliver a speech in Athens and make a State visit to Cyprus.

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President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina outside Aras an Uachtarain.
Photo: David Conachy

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina outside Aras an Uachtarain. Photo: David Conachy

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina outside Aras an Uachtarain. Photo: David Conachy

He asked if he could travel from Greece to Cyprus by sea, but this wasn't possible due to the scheduling of ferries.

Mr Higgins said he'd be “totally open” to the prospect of being driven in an electric car if such a decision is taken by the Department of Justice. 

He will make Ireland's address to the UN General Assembly tomorrow and will speak of how he believes there are three crises “affecting our very existence, occurring at the same time”.

Mr Higgins listed these as climate change; inequality and global poverty; and a social crisis where people believe they are not connected to society.

He spoke of how direct democracy led to the “wonderful” contribution of Swedish climate activist, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, to the UN Climate Summit.

 

He also warned that there are other forms of direct democracy that are “threatening democracy itself”.

Mr Higgins this evening delivered a speech to New York University.

He received applause when he urged US President Donald Trump's administration to reconsider its departure from the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change.

He said: "It would be remiss of me not to state my profound disappointment at the United States’ decision to exit the Paris Agreement...

"I do urge the United States Government to revisit and reconsider this decision".

Mr Higgins added warned that "failure to take radical, urgent action in relation to climate change" will effectively subject future generations to the threat of an "ever more bleak and volatile planet" and the forced displacement of millions of people.

Online Editors