"I came late to climate justice," said Mary Robinson, who spent seven years as President of Ireland, followed by five as High Commissioner for Human Rights. But when she was appointed UN Special Envoy for Climate Change, she saw the devastating effects of droughts and floods all over the world.
"Mozambique has suffered two devastating cyclones in quick succession, flattening the city of Beira, with a population of three million. Imagine how humiliated you feel when your means of feeding yourself are undermined."
Robinson's book, Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future, gathers together positive stories, mainly from women, who are making extraordinary progress in green initiatives. "Climate change is a man-made problem and requires a feminist solution," she said, to applause from the audience. "But politicians are the problem," she added to even more applause.
In order to affect change, she said we need to make three individual commitments:
1. "Take this personally." Her own action is giving up meat. She is a pescatarian.
2. "Get angry and get active." Put pressure on all forms of government that aren't doing enough.
3. "Imagine the world that we should be hurrying towards." It will be healthier and fairer.
Expanding on the third action, she said there is a misconception that a sustainable world will mean making sacrifices and leading a lower quality of life. In contrast, it will will healthier because in a zero-carbon world we will not be breathing in fumes, and we will be sharing super-efficient electric cars. We will no longer be a throwaway society and instead will invest in good quality products and re-use. Rather than being a threat, it is a wonderful opportunity.
Mary Robinson was interviewed by scientist Emily Shuckburgh.
Picture by Marsha Arnold
If you like watching Hay Festival events digitally please sign up to Hay Player for more from the world's greatest writers and thinkers.