No Time To Waste AIB Sustainability Conference

dr jane goodall at aib sustainability conference

Featuring a thought-provoking and inspiring interview with activist and UN Messenger of Peace Doctor Jane Goodall DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, a fireside chat with the UNHCR Global Goodwill Ambassador and award-winning actor Cate Blanchett, as well as two panel discussions with Irish businesses and a young climate campaigner, the No Time To Waste Conference covered topics such as climate change, renewable energy, activism, communities, sustainability and reducing carbon emission.

Panel Discussions

The Sustainability Conference hosted two group discussions:

  • first session with Annie Flahavan, Financial Controller and 7th generation member of the Flahavan family, producers of oats; Eoin Cluskey, owner of Bread41 bakery; David Forde, Group CEO of the C&C Group including Bulmers Cider;
  • second session with climate activist and marine environmentalist Flossie Donnelly; David Connolly, CTO of wind energy supplier Astatine; John Mullins, executive chairman, Amarenco.

Climate Discussion

The climate discussion featured real-life examples of sustainable business practices that can have a positive impact on the environment and reduce carbon emissions including:

  • Flahavans using a water mill since the 1780s and currently using a wind turbine and solar panels that provide 60% of their electricity needs, calculating a 70% reduction in carbon emission that also includes using oat hulls for their biomass boiler;
  • Bulmers working with the Irish Beekeepers’ Association and providing them with a venue as well as land for apiaries, installed solar panels in their Clonmel site, also replacing mechanical grass cutters with live sheep to maintain the lawns and wildflower fields as part of a major rewilding campaign, discontinuing plastic ringpulls in 2021 (the total volume was 250 million units) to use carboard packaging, and promoting returnables (bottles and kegs) which can be reused 20 to 25 times.

Responding to customer demands for more sustainable products has been a key driver for change among these Irish businesses. Climate campaigner Flossie Donnelly also said that she started her charity with her mother in response to people’s demand after seeing them cleaning local beaches.

Key Figures

These are some of the figures on climate and emission reduction relayed by the presenters at the conference during the panel discussion:

  • A 2008 study (mentioned by David Connolly of Astatine) predicted that Ireland would achieve a target of 40% renewable energy in the short term, however this happened in 2022 with wind energy thanks to stakeholders working together. The SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) had a target of at least 16% of energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020 (source) and this was a mandatory target under the EU Renewable Energy Directive. For context, in 2008 Ireland only achieved 3.6% of electricity from renewables (source) and 13.5% in 2020. Ireland is still lagging behind other countries with regards to heat, but by using existing technology in sectors such as transport and heating there is the potential to reduce carbon emissions considerably. At the moment only 6% of heat is renewable compared to 10 times as much in Sweden.
  • Already in the 1950s scientists realised the heating and energy-producing potential of solar power. Investing in solar power gives a constant return of 7-8% per year. It makes sense to look at solar power for heating households especially if we consider countries like Austria which rely heavily on the supply of Russian gas, with wholesale prices going up.
  • Hydrogen has the potential to become a backbone/pillar for energy production, but in the meantime heat pumps are underutilised and more investment in heat pumps can make a huge difference in emission reduction. In Sweden 25% of homes have heat pumps.

A Message of Hope from Dr Jane Goodall DBE

While the panel discussions were extremely informative, Dr Jane Goodall’s interview was the highlight of the conference.

The British primatologist appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 1965 (who was one of the first women to get this honour) after the journal published her first article on chimpanzees in 1963 (read more). The prestigious publication also supported Dr Goodall’s research in Africa observing chimpanzees in the wild.

Her life went full circle and consolidated her passion for the environment in 1986 after attending a conference about conservation, which ignited her passion and commitment as an activist working to protect chimps and the forests they inhabit together with African people. Dr Goodall shared that it all started at age 10 when she first read ‘Tarzan of the Apes’ after conscienciously putting pocket money away to afford to buy the book.

Dr Goodall in her interview summarised the insights she gained through decades of field research and observations: while we, humankind, are the most intellectual beings we are not necessarily the most intelligent as we are destroying our planet, which is our only home.

She encouraged everybody to get involved and to join local organisations to make a difference, ultimately to give people hope about what we can all do to tackle climate change.

Her key message to everybody attending the conference either in person or via livestream and addressing particularly young people, is to make a difference by choosing wisely, keep being committed to making positive changes and not giving up, and we’ll all find a way. We all depend on the ecosystem and we all have a role to play to maintain our planet.

She mentioned renewable energy, checking the origin of products (are they manufactured in a sustainable and ethical manner?) and what practices businesses follow as examples of how we can all make a tangible difference.