Mary Robinson: People need to become 'aspiring vegetarians' to combat climate change

Former President and ex-UN envoy on climate change, Mary Robinson, has said that Ireland is a "laggard" on climate change and needs to become a leader.

It comes after a UN-backed study said that countries must take “unprecedented” action to slash carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

The report also said that the impacts of climate change, from droughts to rising seas, will be less extreme if temperature rises are curbed at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels than if they climb to 2C.

The founder of the Mary Robinson Foundation, Climate Justice, said today's report speaks to the urgency of action, adding that future generations will not thank us if we do not take urgent action now.

Ms Robinson told Today with Sean O'Rourke this morning that huge political will and international co-operation will be needed in order to cap temperature rises at 1.5 degrees.

She said: "We need to become a leader on climate change," before adding that Irish people will have to change their behaviour which will require them to become at least "aspiring vegetarians".

She told Sean O'Rourke that people will have to start eating less meat, saying: "I mean it, we have to be serious in this country and other countries.

"It is not against the farming community because I'm all for diversity of what farms produce. We have to have a big debate now in this country and all countries.

"I think the most important thing is that actions that are taken respect peoples' rights and livelihoods, so we need a just transition to the future."

She said that she was doing her best to do the same, but admitted that she was very tempted by "lamb from the West of Ireland".

"I'm someone who talks all the time about climate justice, so I have to change my own behaviour.

"I'm very tempted by lamb from the West of Ireland, to be honest, that's the only red meat I'd consider.

"But I know that by taking actions myself and reminding myself how important it is, that this is for my children and grandchildren.

Carbon dioxide emissions need to fall about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and to “net zero” – so no more is being put into the atmosphere than is being removed by measures such as planting trees – by 2050, while other greenhouse gases will also need to decline steeply.

"I have six grandchildren who will be in there 30s and 40s in 2050. The warning is that we have to do it by 2030."

"It really is a very short window, but it's the only window humanity has, and our children and grandchildren will not thank us if we don't take every step we can take."

Ms Robinson said that other efforts, such as moving towards electric cars, will have to be made saying that she has a hybrid at the moment, but her next one will be electric.

In addition, she said, the report makes it clear that we will need to "re-forest rapidly" in order to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Governments must, she said, commit to moving countries out of fossil fuel by removing fossil fuel subsidies and instead support renewable energies.

She said that Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement was "very unhelpful" and it was clear that the US President was "in the pocket of fossil fuel".

However, she said that his views do not reflect the United States as a whole and that states and cities are working to meet the emissions target laid down under the Paris Agreement.

Ms Robinson said she believed that young people and women would drive the changes.

You can listen to her interview on this morning's "Today with Sean O'Rourke" show below.

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