What prompted your early interest in the environment?
My interest in the environment developed from a human rights perspective. During my visits to various developing countries over the years, especially in Africa, I saw again and again how people’s dignity and human rights were undermined - rights to water, food, healthcare, education and shelter. These experiences motivated me to take action. I also chaired the board of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) for four years, which gave me a good understanding of the issues around environment and development.
Favourite quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” (Gandhi)
How did you get to the role you are in today and what advice would you give aspiring climate champions?
In my previous work with Realising Rights, the need to address the issue of climate change became increasingly clear. This led me to return to Ireland in 2010 and establish the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice.
I am very encouraged that young people understand the issues of climate change much more than the older generation. Youth have more access to information. They are able to link and connect together and hopefully campaign for urgent decisions on climate.
What do you believe should be achieved at COP17?
• A package that includes the second commitment period to Kyoto Protocol and a commitment to urgent work on a future legally binding agreement, coming into effect in 2015, not 2020
• Progress on the Green Climate Fund and on the funding sources for $100bn per year by 2020
• A work programme on agriculture and food security
•Strengthening of gender language and representation of women in all the key areas
What do you think the priorities for action should be emerging from COP 17?
The main priorities are to secure financing for the Green Climate Fund, commence negotiations for a legally binding agreement under the LCA track; agree a work programme on agriculture; address the gender dimension of Rio+20 and access to sustainable energy for all.
What is your aim within your role for 2012?
In 2012, the Foundation will continue the work of the Troika+ of women leaders, ensuring gender balance is achieved in relation to access to energy in the context of Rio + 20. It is also important to promote food security and energy security in the context of both Rio +20 and COP18 in 2012.