Ground-breaking Mary Robinson Climate Conference in Ballina to highlight power of communities creating change
Delivered in partnership with Ballina 2023, Mayo County Council and the University of Galway, supported by IPB and Eirgrid
Chair of The Elders and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson will formally open the Mary Robinson Climate Conference in Ballina, which will take place from Wednesday, July 5 to Friday, July 7 as part of the Ballina 2023 programme of events.
A packed programme will bring together voices from all sectors of society and academia to share their climate experiences, and to discuss pathways for a sustainable future by further empowering communities under the theme “Communities Creating Change”. The conference will also be attended by Minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport, Eamon Ryan TD.
Over the three days, delegates will also enjoy topical sessions, a bike buffet led by Ballina Chamber of Commerce, a climate-focused art exhibition in Ballina Civic Offices ‘What we Stand to Lose’, and a series of field trips showcasing local climate action projects including the Enniscrone Dunes project, Oweninny Wind Farm, the Ox Mountains and the Ripple Ballina project, which explored how a community in Ballina transformed green space with the use of rainwater.
Susan Heffernan, Project Manager at The Mary Robinson Centre said: “This conference is a really important event for Ballina and The Mary Robinson Centre, gathering communities, activists, researchers and industry together to meet, engage and connect. This is a key step in creating a dynamic for community climate action and we’re excited to create this opportunity for Irish communities.”
Speakers at the event will include Chairs Dr Audrey Morley & Dr Gordon Bromley from the University of Galway, Dr Kevin Anderson – Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester, Adele Mealey of the Creative Ireland Programme, Dr Raymond Flynn – Senior Lecturer, School of Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University Belfast, Ms Saoirse Exton – Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, Dr Eimear Cotter, Director, Office of Evidence and Assessment at the EPA and Dr Cathy Burke of Irish Doctors for the Environment.
On Wednesday, July 5 a gathering of young people will meet with Mary Robinson, US Ambassador Claire Cronin and French Ambassador Vincent Guérend, facilitated by University of Galway, President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh to discuss youth leadership for sustainability from a global and local perspective.
John Caulfield, Director of Strategy Implementation at University of Galway said: “As the biggest challenge of our time, tackling climate change requires collaborative effort across disciplines, generations and society. University of Galway is delighted to partner with the Mary Robinson Centre to bring experts, activists and youth leaders from across Ireland and beyond to Ballina for this inaugural climate conference. Our university is ranked 34th in the world for sustainable development and this conference is a powerful example of how together, through partnership, we can make the biggest impact on our world’s most pressing challenges.”
Ballina 2023 Director and CEO of Moy Valley Resources IRD Annette Maughan, remarked: “It is a huge privilege to host an event of this significance in Ballina as part of the Ballina 2023 programme of events, and we in Moy Valley Resources IRD, a community development organisation are also proud to support an event that highlights the power of communities to lead out on climate action.”
Mayo County Council and Climate Action
Leaders in the climate action space, conference partners Mayo County Council were the first Local Authority in the country to employ a Climate Action Officer and are the lead authority and host for the Climate Action Regional Office (CARO) for the Atlantic Seaboard North. Conference sponsors IPB, the lead insurer to the Irish public sector, together with Mayo County Council and the Mary Robinson Centre have invited Local Authority Climate Action Staff from around Ireland to a national, face-to-face facilitated networking event on Wednesday, July 5, where Climate Action Officers can share their experiences and work together on developing new strategies to empower communities to address climate change.
Mayo County Council Climate Action Officer Laura Dixon said: “Mayo County Council is delighted to be partnering on this important event, continuing the important work of Mary Robinson in relation to climate action and climate justice, and raising awareness of the importance of climate action at a local level. In 2022, Mayo County Council was named as the winner of the first Climate Change Award in the Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government Awards for the Mayo Decarbonising Communities Network Project and we look forward to continuing our work in this area.”
Ballina Green Town
Ballina is also fast becoming a national leader on community climate action, with a number of community-led initiatives addressing climate action and sustainability, including the Ballina Green Town initiative, which has set an ambition for Ballina to become Ireland’s Greenest Town. Ripple Ballina recently became the first Irish winner of a New European Bauhaus Award in the Reconnecting with Nature category, and Ballina Chamber of Commerce has recently been recognised with the Sustainability & the Sustainable Development Goals Award in the National Chambers Ireland Awards.
In 2021, Ballina Community Cleanup Group with their ‘Beelieve in Ballina’ biodiversity initiative represented Ballina in the IPB Pride of Place Awards and took home the national award in the Population Category over 5,000.
The main sponsor of the event is IPB Insurance, and Head of Sustainability at IPB, Laura Smith said: “Insurance is about protecting your tomorrows, today. As a mutual insurer, IPB provides insurance to our Members, who, as Local Authorities, are dedicated to supporting their respective communities. Our commitment to supporting our Members during this transformative period, as they lead the way in climate transition, is important to us. Our commitment to sustainability is not just a box to check, but a commitment to creating a better world for generations to come.”
The conference is also sponsored by Eirgrid Group, who operate and develop the electricity system in Ireland, and their radical transformation of power provision for future generations through the secure transition of the electricity grid to low carbon, renewable energy, will also be highlighted during the event. EirGrid is responsible for a safe, secure and reliable supply of electricity – now and in the future – developing, managing and operating the electricity transmission grid so that everyone has power when and where they need it and ensuring that there is enough electricity for society to prosper and for employment to grow.
Speaking ahead of the conference, EirGrid CEO, Mark Foley said: “At EirGrid, we understand the importance of collaboration, as we work towards achieving our climate ambitions. The transition to a cleaner energy future will affect everyone in Ireland and will be truly transformative, for society and for our economy. It is critical for the whole of society, communities, local authorities and state bodies to work together to create this change. We must listen to all voices, and the Mary Robinson Climate Conference is an important forum for this.”
The Mary Robinson Climate Conference forms part of the Ballina 2023 programme of events and is a key component of the Ballina 2023 RISE Legacy Programme, which in keeping with the conference theme, aims to upskill, empower and build capacity within the community, creating a strong legacy that will keep delivering long after 2023 is over.
The Mary Robinson Climate Conference is open for registration, with limited spaces remaining. Tickets start from just €40 for two days and the event is open to the public.