2023 Alumni Voices_Michael D. Higgins

State must lead by example on climate change action, President tells DCU conference

A keynote address on climate change was delivered by President Michael D. Higgins at the DCU Centre for Climate and Society inaugural conference last May.

The President’s speech focused on the role of education, finance, and other sectors in Ireland’s transition to a more sustainable way of life. In particular, he called on the State to reassert itself, and to play a leading role in this transition, building on the wide social support it received during the Covid pandemic.

“I see a role for the State that is one of leading in climate action, championing climate mitigation, resilience and adaptation,” the President told the conference held at the DCU St Patrick’s Campus. “The Irish State must lead by example if it is to have any credibility, any realistic hope of bringing its citizens with it on the challenging journey to a net-zero carbon future.

“Government Departments and State Agencies must become exemplars in climate mitigation given the wholeof-Government approach needed to curb our carbon emissions, as well as in climate adaptation given the State’s pivotal role as owners of land and infrastructure which is likely to be impacted by climate change.”

President Higgins thanked and welcomed the efforts of all involved with the Centre for their role in delivering the necessary research to inform action.

“The DCU Centre for Climate and Society has an opportunity to play a key role, working across civil society, policymakers, local authorities, communities, and educators, in fostering public engagement with the great existential issue of our era — climate change,” he said.

“Through the provision of research and advice that assists in crafting better policies, better communications, better educational resources, better strategies for tackling climate change, the Centre has a unique opportunity to help with the great task of bringing people together and building a consensus as to what needs to be done — a big responsibility to which I am sure it will rise.”

Established last year with philanthropic and advisory support from founding partner Deloitte, the Centre is Ireland’s first academic research centre to apply perspectives and analysis from the social sciences and humanities to the climate crisis.

The Centre’s work reflects DCU’s commitment to sustainability in its research, teaching, and operations.

“The creation of the DCU Centre for Climate and Society is a recognition that Climate Change is no longer a problem for the physical sciences alone,” Professor Dáire Keogh, DCU President, told the conference.

“It is a policy problem, it is a communications problem, it is a media problem, an ethics problem, an education problem, a corporate problem. In fact, it is a challenge that every area of society will have to respond to. With that in mind, the centre’s research agenda will be critically important as we seek to be more effective in addressing key questions around Climate Change.”