“Restoring our Road to Nature” – President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, on Ireland’s Response to Climate Change

On May 5th 2022, the inaugural conference for the new DCU Centre for Climate and Society was held at DCU St. Patricks campus, Ireland. The DCU Centre for Climate and Society was established in 2021 and is the first centre in Ireland devoted to leading the societal response to climate change. The Centre for Climate and Society’s aim is to add insights and findings from social sciences and humanities to our understanding of how societies can better respond to climate change.

Michael D. Higgins was invited to give the keynote address on climate change at the inaugural conference for the DCU Centre for Climate and Society. His impassioned speech focused on the current climate crisis and stressed the importance of the citizens in Ireland “returning a relationship to nature.”

At the conference, held at the RINNO partner’s St. Patrick’s Campus, the president highlighted that there is a need for all of society to come together to enable a sustainable way of life. Climate change requires people of all ages to participate in order to see real transformation; to achieve this, a key driver in reaching and improving the environmental discourse will be local media across Ireland.

In July 2021, the President of Ireland signed into law the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2021 that made Ireland’s green targets legally binding. This was a landmark day in Ireland’s fight against the climate crisis and our journey towards becoming net zero. Michael D. reflected on the signing of this bill, stating that citizens underestimate what it will take for Ireland to truly become net zero by 2050 and that change in how Ireland’s day-to-day society currently functions is direly needed 

Whole-of-Society Approach

To reach these ambitious net zero goals, Michael D. argued for the expanded and enhanced roles in the state in tackling climate change and highlighted how political leadership will be crucial in this change. The government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that the government indeed has the capacity to deliver universal basic services during crises and that similar and substantial investments, regulatory changes, and planning will be required on the state’s behalf in combating climate change. 

However, he also stated that the climate is not just the responsibility of the state. Everyone within society will be crucial to positive change:

“We need to engage with all possibilities to tackle climate change.” 

The conference was held on the backdrop of the IPCC 2022 Climate Change Report, highlighting that action was needed yesterday, but taking action now can and will help.

DCU President Daire Keogh expressed how climate action requires us all to play our part to mitigate it and acknowledged that climate change is no longer a problem for the physical sciences alone, but a challenge for every area of society. For more information on DCU’s green initiatives, take a look at the RINNO case study on our partner’s achievement in winning the 2021 Green Business & Sustainability Award for sustainable water management. 

RINNO is a Horizon 2020 project that aims to considerably accelerate the rate of deep renovation in the EU by reducing the time, efforts, and costs involved. We strive to deliver a set of efficient, environmentally friendly, multi-functional, and easily applicable construction-related innovations that are geared in favour of a more sustainable future.

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