Lisa Quinn O’Flaherty: Lawyers can also help to solve our climate crisis



Lisa Quinn O'Flaherty
Lisa Quinn O’Flaherty

Lisa Quinn O’Flaherty, solicitor at Fitzsimons Redmond and a Climate Ambassador for Irish environmental charity An Taisce, writes for Irish Legal News on how lawyers can help to solve our climate crisis.

I’m a solicitor at Fitzsimons Redmond, with a passion for active citizenship and a deep concern about climate change. The science is clear; our climate has reached crisis point. If we do not act now, we will experience more extreme weather events, together with rising sea-levels and more species loss. Together this will cause a dramatic deterioration in the quality of our lives, including mass migration and food-shortages.

This is not a problem for the next generation. We will all suffer more of the effects of climate change in our own lifetimes.

I was recently given the opportunity by An Taisce to become a Climate Ambassador. Climate Ambassadors undergo training in climate science and communications, so that we can reach out to communities to educate and motivate climate action. We come from all walks of life, including teachers, community leaders and environmentalists, as well as students who are passionate about mitigating climate change.

I think I am the first lawyer involved in the programme. This is surprising. Lawyers are well placed to analyse the data, look for achievable solutions and to mobilise projects. I, like many others, chose a career in law because I enjoy solving problems, and my training has given me the skills to be able to do that effectively. I would recommend that more lawyers consider getting involved with An Taisce and other environmental organisations in order to use our skills to reduce the impact of the climate crisis.

My many conversations with many people on this topic have shown me that almost everyone worries about climate change, but most feel that there is very little that they can do to make a difference. A feeling of disempowerment is the biggest challenge to fighting the climate crisis. It is a huge problem, but as with all big problems, it can only be tackled by taking a first step.

I look at people like sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, and see that actually one person can make a difference. This young lady has mobilised young people all over the world to put pressure on governments to act on the Paris Agreement. On March 6th, members of the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action met some of our Irish student activists to hear their demands ahead of the global protest on March 15th where 11,000 Irish school-children marched on the Dáil. This started with one young Swedish girl.

Being a Climate Ambassador has given me the opportunity to speak at public events, and share my own ideas for sustainable living. I am currently working on a programme of education for young people in order to give them not only knowledge about climate change, but also the skills and confidence to be able to run their own projects. My aim is to empower young people to make positive change; the first step does not have to be big, it just has to be taken. For me, success would be seeing more people organising tree-planting events, arranging boycotts of over-packaged products, or getting a team of friends to commit to meatless Monday. Every person who takes such an action has the power to influence many more people, and that is how a movement will grow.

As lawyers, there are many things we can do reduce our own carbon footprints. We can consider paperless offices or cut down on the items that we print. We can ensure we are conscious about recycling, and turning off lights and computers when they are not in use. We can invest our pensions in ethical funds, and we can offset our carbon footprint. We can also go one step further and focus our corporate social responsibly on environmental actions, or dedicate our time and skills to climate change organisations in need of legal support.

I feel that although, we are in a dark place in relation to our future, there is hope. If we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, we will avert the worst of the crisis, and doing so is well within our power with a combination of state action and individual action. But the hope of a safe future is unfounded unless enough people take a first step.

  • Lisa Quinn O’Flaherty is a solicitor at Fitzsimons Redmond and Climate Ambassador for An Taisce. You can find out more about the Climate Ambassador programme here.