Can you tell us about your background and how you became involved in the sustainability industry?
In the early 2000’s, while sustainability wasn’t high on the agenda, sustainable energy was becoming quite a hot topic because of the challenges in energy supply that Ireland was facing. I had worked in government in terms of strategy, but I wanted to move towards a more sustainability-focused career. So, I joined Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), now SEAI, to help them develop their innovation, research and strategy in an area where energy policy hadn’t been updated in Ireland since the 1970s energy crisis. There was a huge gap to overcome in terms of sustainability at a policymaking level.
I spent 10 years in the agency, developing technology roadmaps and plans for energy efficiency and conservation. I gained an international perspective during this time, working closely on behalf of the Irish government with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the United Nations (UN). Afterwards, I was asked to be the lead negotiator for the Climate Agreement by the European Commission.
Can you talk about your work with the design engineering company, Arup?
Arup is a multinational company at the forefront of design engineering with 16,000 or more employees in Europe. The company has been in Ireland for 75 years. We put together engineering requirements to achieve the most efficient building or infrastructure design. The Sydney Opera House, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and Terminal Two at Dublin Airport are just a few of Arup’s high-profile designs. What attracted me to that firm was the fact that sustainability was always embedded within all of its offerings – ensuring that materials are low-carbon and promoting circularity in terms of how buildings are designed, broken down and repurposed. The firm applies a sustainability lens to services provided for clients across various sectors such as transport, aviation, and water, in collaboration with local authorities.
I lead climate and carbon services for our engagements across Europe. That involves helping public and private sector organisations to understand their carbon and climate impact. I help them to develop strategies and plans to reduce emissions, to understand where the opportunities lie for them, and advise them on what types of actions they need to take. Ultimately, you want to help an organistion to decarbonize or achieve a target of net zero or close to net zero.
There is a clear emissions gap between what we are doing now, and where we want the world to be in ten and 20 years’ time. We’re not on the right trajectory; my aim is to provide advisory services to these various organisations to help them to get closer to that trajectory in emissions reductions.