Mary Robinson: 'We do need a carbon tax but it must be fair'

Mary Robinson: 'We do need a carbon tax but it must be fair'

Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson has criticised Ireland's action on climate change.

Mrs Robinson, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, was speaking on a new UCC podcast to discuss the subject of climate change and the role Ireland should play.

She said that Ireland needs to take a leadership role in battling climate change and that this should include carbon taxes and incentives to move away from fossil fuels.

"We need to remove all subsidies on fossil fuel. We do need a carbon tax, but it must be fair," she said.

"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.”

Mrs Robinson, who leads the Mary Robinson - Climate Justice Foundation, said that it is important to incentivise the move to clean energy but that it is also crucial to help to retrain workers in coal, oil, gas and peat, who could suffer as a result.

She said that Ireland, as a small nation, can lead the way on implementing green policies but that it is essential to do so as a matter of urgency.

"We don't have a huge industrial base, but we have to play our part. Even smaller islands now are ambitiously trying to go clean energy as fast as possible, it's really remarkable.

"Indeed, some of the small islands and the least developed countries are the most ambitious because they're going to be the most affected by what happens elsewhere," she 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. He knows I've quoted him quite often since then.

"But we need to become a leader on climate change because 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."

Mary Robinson was speaking on 'Plain Speaking', the new podcast from UCC. It will feature national and international guests and is available on Spotify.

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