DCU Centre For Climate & Society Inaugural Conference OPened By President Higgins

Inaugural Conference

St Patrick's Campus
Target Audience
All Welcome
Is registration required?

Climate Action: Ireland’s Role in a Changing World

The inaugural DCU Centre for Climate and Society conference took place on May 5, 2022 on the DCU St. Patrick’s Campus, with a keynote address by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins. The conference programme can be seen here

Director, DCU Centre for Climate and Society

Dr David Robbins, Director of the DCU Centre for Climate and Society

Dr David Robbins, Director of the DCU Centre for Climate and Society, welcomed the audience of 400 attendees. He said the impetus for the Centre came from a conviction that “more facts” from the physical sciences had not led to concerted action on climate change. “Politics, the media, policy, human systems such as finance and governance, these were now the places where the blocks to climate action were to be found,” he said. The Centre’s mission was to understand how these societal arenas have responded to climate change, and how these responses could be strengthened.

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Professor Derek Hand, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Professor Derek Hand, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, noted the importance of the Centre for bringing diverse disciplines and perspectives together. 

The recording of the opening remarks can be viewed here.  

CEO of Deloitte Ireland

Harry Goddard, CEO of Deloitte Ireland

Harry Goddard, CEO of Deloitte Ireland, founding partner of the Centre, highlighted the role of corporations such as Deloitte in supporting other organisations through change, noting how hard change often is in practice. As an example, Goddard referenced Ireland’s smoking ban that was introduced against a backdrop of widespread smoking in public places. However, after all the measures there are still large numbers of smokers. “Kicking the habit is not easy. It is your role as business leaders, educators, and communicators to empower people to take action," he said. The recording of the address by Harry Goddard can be viewed here

Panel 1 – How can the media respond to the climate crisis?

The recording of Panel 1 can be viewed here

President of DCU

Professor Daire Keogh, President of DCU

Professor Daire Keogh, President of DCU, said that the creation of the DCU Centre for Climate and Society was “a recognition that climate change is no longer a problem for the physical sciences alone. 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.” The recording of Professor Keogh's remarks can be viewed here

Keynote Address - President Michael D. Higgins

The recording of the keynote address by President Higgins can be viewed here

Michael D. Higgins
President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins

President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, stressed the need for climate and the environment to become the unspoken, understood, taken-for-granted context for social discourse in the way that jobs and the economy are now. The Centre’s four pillars of research, education, engagement and journalism are areas that all require attention if we are to succeed in the climate challenge.

The President gave a wide-ranging address, connecting ecological responsibility with struggles for social justice, noting that uncritiqued individualism and modernisation is driven by a “myth of progress”.

He called for a return to anthropology as a means of understanding the climate crisis, and the inclusion of philosophy among the Centre’s multi-disciplinary approach.

The President also called for a greater role for the State in initiating climate action, suggesting that the State needed to reassert its authority after decades of “small government” discourses. The State had shown during the Covid-19 pandemic that it has wide social permission to take radical action.

President Higgins referenced the work of Zigmund Bauman and other social theorists of modernity and consumerism and noted the ways that modernity "consumes" the individual along the paths to "liquid modernity". The President warned that we are challenged to bring into being a world where, citing Tim Jackson, relationships and meaning take precedence over profits and power, where fulfilment is not driven by wealth accumulation.

Panel 2 – What does corporate climate leadership look like?

The recording of Panel 2 can be viewed here

Panel 3 - Climate policy-making in a turbulent world

The recording of Panel 3 can be viewed here

Director of Losing Alaska Tom Burke in conversation with Professor Pat Brereton

The final part of the conference was a discussion between Professor Pat Brereton and filmmaker Tom Burke of Broadstone Films on his film Losing Alaska, about residents of Newtok, Alaska are living on a fragile layer of melting permafrost and are essentially climate refugees. Tom Burke spoke about how it took three separate trips over 18 months to Alaska for the local communities to open up and tell their experiences. Pat Brereton remarked that the film is an example of what President Higgins recommended - taking an anthropological approach to documentary film-making that situates the immediate story in the context of the wider and deeper story of colonialism and resource extraction but without judgment or commentary.

The recording of the conversation can be viewed here

Closing Remarks

Audience at Climate and Society Conference

Dr. Diarmuid Torney, Co-Director of the Centre and Associate Professor at the School of Law and Government at DCU, said that the launch of the Centre is a milestone and chance to reflect on growth in research activity around climate change across disciplines at DCU. So many of the milestones relate to students who have undertaken the MSc in Climate Change. Dr Torney remarked that it was great to see all the work that students/graduates are doing in the climate field. “But the clock is ticking,” he said. “Since 2014, we've had the IPCC reports, climate strikes, a climate action plan, revision of the climate law in 2021 and the most recent assessment reports of the IPCC. Accountability, the importance of communications and climate justice came through as an issue in all the panel discussions during the conference. We hope the Centre will provide the space for those challenging conversations to encourage each other to go further.” The recording of the closing remarks can be viewed here