Panel 1

Centre for Climate and Society Annual Conference

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

Rewild & Renew: How can Ireland turn the tide on climate change and biodiversity loss?

The third annual DCU Centre for Climate and Society conference took place on April 26, 2023 on the DCU St. Patrick’s Campus, and featured keynote speakers Eamon Ryan T.D., Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, and Minister for Transport, and Eoghan Daltun, rewilder, farmer, and author of An Irish Atlantic Rainforest: A Personal Journey into the Magic of Rewilding



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

Dr David Robbins, Director of the DCU Centre for Climate and Society and Associate Professor in the School of Communications, welcomed the audience to the third annual Centre conference. He said the conference was an opportunity to support each other in caring about the climate and biodiversity, that “everyone is needed and welcomed”. He said that the media, policy-makers and businesses often treat climate and biodiversity separately, even though they are intrinsically linked. “Climate change leads to biodiversity loss and biodiversity loss increases climate impacts.” The recording of Dr Robbins’ remarks can be viewed here.


Professor Daire Keogh, President of DCU

Professor Daire Keogh, President of DCU, expressed his thanks to the diverse group of participants attending the conference. He said this “broad church of guests” demonstrates the importance of the work of the university. “Universities like ours have a huge part to play, but the impact of universities is not just what happens in our lecture rooms or labs, but it is through friends, through engaged partners, through yourselves. All of us have a huge role to play in preparing society for the future.” The recording of Prof Keogh's remarks can be viewed here.

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David Kinsella, Head of Risk Advisory, Deloitte Ireland

David Kinsella, Head of Risk Advisory at Deloitte Ireland, founding partner of the Centre, noted the importance of collaboration amongst different sectors of society to engage effectively in climate action. “Progress towards solutions requires collaboration across the entire ecosystem of private and public sector, as well as institutions and government organisations, across industries and across sectors, bringing together a community of people like the people we have in this room today.” He said that business leaders need to educate not just themselves on these issues, but also employees and clients. Business leaders have the possibility to set and deliver ambitious goals in order to make “nature positivity” a core business benchmark, he said. The recording of the address by David Kinsella can be viewed here.


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, introduced keynote speaker Eoghan Daltun. "What is important about Eoghan’s work and way of living is that it is about doing,” he said. He noted that Eoghan Daltun, with his work, was able to bring together activism and care, as well as the idea of re-making. In particular, he pointed out the importance of “rewilding”, a concept which asks us to rediscover the world through a new lens away from created aesthetic theories. The recording of Prof Hand’s introduction can be viewed here.  

Keynote Address - Eoghan Daltun

The recording of the keynote address by Eoghan Daltun can be viewed here

Eoghan Daltun

Eoghan Daltun, rewilder, farmer, sculpture conservator, and author started his keynote address by saying, “it’s hard to think of anything in this time in which we find ourselves more important than rewilding.” When he moved to his farm in the Beara Peninsula in West Cork in 2009 the land was “essentially in ecological meltdown”. As he began the process of rewilding, the woodland floor erupted with wildflowers, trees started to spring up everywhere, and insects, pollinators, birds and rare mammals returned. 

“There’s been this incredible renaissance within the wood. And the thing about it is that it really didn’t take much. It wasn’t complicated. The ecology was very, very straightforward. You just prevent the overgrazing and you get rid of the non-native invasive plant species and then nature will do the rest.”

Eoghan said that the rebirth he witnessed on his farm had a downside, in that he became aware of just how bad things are practically everywhere else. He said that Killarney National Park - “Ireland’s most important remaining fragment of native forest” - is in a terrible state, similar to how his farm was. But while his farm has come “roaring back with life” the State managed park has continued to die away. And it’s not a unique situation, with wild nature nearly impossible to find in Ireland. He said that we need to make space for nature to return, which rewilding is about. 

Rewilding has many benefits, including carbon sequestration and bringing life back to rural areas through tourism and jobs. But the greatest benefit, he concluded, was that “we could end up living far more enriched, fulfilled lives that are full of diversity and wonder and beauty, rather than the boring, domesticated, banal landscape that is Ireland today”.   

Panel 1 – Covering climate and biodiversity: challenges and opportunities

The recording of Panel 1 can be viewed here. The panel was chaired by Dr Dawn Wheatley, Centre member and Assistant Professor in the School of Communications. 

Panel 2 – Policy-making in the dual climate and biodiversity crises

The recording of Panel 2 can be viewed here. The panel was chaired by Dr Diarmuid Torney, Centre Co-Director and Associate Professor in the School of Law and Government. 

John D

Professor John Doyle, Vice President for Research at DCU

Professor John Doyle, Vice President for Research at DCU, introduced Eamon Ryan, T.D., Minister for Environment, Climate and Communication, and Minister for Transport. He noted the Minister’s lifelong environmental activism and his profile in green politics, emphasising the significance of this in tackling the challenges Ireland is facing. The recording of Prof Doyle’s introduction can be viewed here.  

Keynote Address - Minister Eamon Ryan

The recording of the keynote address by Minister Eamon Ryan can be viewed here.  

Minister Eamon Ryan

Eamon Ryan, T.D., Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, and Minister for Transport, gave a wide-ranging and at times personal address. He spoke of studying ecology as a secondary school student and how it raised his awareness of interconnection - to each other, with nature, and of the natural systems within the natural world. 

He called the ongoing Land Use Review “the most important project within our Programme for Government” and said that it needs to advance four things in particular: rural development, reducing carbon emissions, stopping the destruction of nature and restoring biodiversity, and stopping and reducing the amount of water and air pollution. 

“To make this leap we need to make, to restore nature and to stop runaway climate change, every place matters, every person matters, and the scale of the change we need means it won’t work if we leave any section of society behind. It does have to be a just transition.”

Minister Ryan spoke at length about both forestry and farming. He said that he expects to see forestry in Ireland expand to 30% of land use, restoring biodiversity in the process, and that payments for farmers for nature-based solutions will offer a guarantee of their livelihoods and an alternative to relying on international commodity markets. He said that “if you want to be a climate hero, if you want to be part of the environmental movement which is determining solutions” forestry and farming programmes were the ones to pursue.   

He concluded his talk by saying that “more than anything else, we need to get the framing of this right… What’s going on in your School of Communications is as important as what’s going on in any school of science or technology or industrial development. It’s how we tell the story that’s going to determine whether we can make the leap.”

Panel 3 – Corporate responses to climate change and biodiversity loss

The recording of Panel 3 can be viewed here. The panel was chaired by Dr Aideen O’Dochartaigh, Centre member and Assistant Professor in the Business School.

Closing Remarks

Professor Pat Brereton, Centre Co-Director

Professor Pat Brereton, Co-Director of the Centre and Professor in the School of Communications at DCU, used the closing remarks to start a reflection on the environmental challenges discussed during the conference. He encouraged dialogue, highlighting the importance of gathering and exchanging ideas, to try to connect across all the different sectors of society and disciplines. Conversation, and not preaching, he said, is itself a way to make a positive change for climate and biodiversity. The recording of the closing remarks can be viewed here