Burren Climate Gathering

60 people from 10 different countries gathered in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, in February 2013 to consider what are the political, social and cultural obstacles to action on climate change, and how can they be overcome?

The purpose of the Gathering was summed up neatly by one of its participants, John Ashton:

How can we more effectively reach the minds but also the hearts of a wider range of constituencies than we have so far been able to do, so that we can build a stronger political foundation for the action that we need to take.

We haven’t built that political foundation. This is not felt as an imperative in most societies, perhaps in any society in that sense. And that’s the challenge. How do you in other words construct political will, accepting that political will isn’t some sort of abstract thing that comes with the weather – it’s something we’re responsible for.

The initial gathering took place at the Burren College of Art, in Newtown Castle, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, embedded in the unique landscape of the Burren.

The Burren

The Burren is a geological phenomenon of remarkable beauty.  It comprises several hundreds of square miles of bare rock known as ‘karst’ limestone, a sedimentary rock that has split geometrically and then eroded into ‘clints’ and ‘grykes’ with many extensive cave systems.  This is a spectacular landscape that stands outside the conventions of pictorial landscape.  It seems full of its huge emptiness and it extends to include the Aran Islands a few miles from the shore.  This place has given inspiration to many artists and writers.

Burren Walk with Brendan Dunford


The following people took part in the Climate Gathering in Co. Clare in February 2013:

Nuala Ahern, Chair of Green Foundation Ireland and former Member of the European Parliament

Fergus Armstrong, trustee of the Tony Ryan Trust and former Chairman of McCann Fitzgerald law firm

John Ashton, Founding Director of E3G and former Special Representative for Climate Change to the UK Foreign Secretary

Craig Bennett, Director of Policy and Campaigns with Friends of the Earth UK

Colin Brown, Director of the Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research, National University of Ireland Galway. Climate Gathering Advisory Board member.

Martin Bursík, former Czech Environment Minister and Professor at New York University in Prague

Lydia Campbell-Kiernan, leadership coach with Conscious Consulting

Chris Chapman, A Burren Call, Climate Gathering Host

Edward C Chow, Senior Fellow on Energy and National Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington

Colin Cleary, Counselor in the U.S. Foreign Service, Department of State, currently pursuing independent projects including examining Ireland’s renewable energy policies

Yariv Cohen, former President of Camco, a leading investor in global clean energy solutions.  Leading investor now in African/Asian clean energy projects

Denis Connolly, award winning contemporary artist with an emphasis on innovative new technologies, and social and environmental questions.

Frank Convery, Professor at the Earth Institute, University College Dublin. Climate Gathering Advisory Board member.

Ciarán Cuffe, Former Sustainability Minister in the Irish government, lecturer in planning at Dublin Institute of Technology

Martin Curley, Vice President of Intel and Director of Intel Labs Europe

Brian Donnellan, Professor of Business in NUI Maynooth, specialising in Information System Innovation

Eva Dowling, Climate Gathering communications

Brendan Dunford, founder of Burrenbeo, Climate Gathering host

Sandy Dunlop, branding consultant, board member of Green Foundation Ireland. Climate Gathering advisory board member

Bas Eickhout, Member of the European Parliament and Vice President of Greens EFA group

Tania Ellis, Managing Director of The Social Business Company and author of The New Pioneers

Hanne Thornfeldt Fisker, Coach and founder of Art of eX’istence, A Burren Call team member.

Lizbeth Goodman, Professor of Inclusive Design for Education and Chair of Creative Technology Innovation at University College Dublin

Chris Grant, 14a Conversations, Climate Gathering facilitator

Chloë Gribbin, Student of photography with an emphasis on political and environmental issues as well as community-based art.

Regine Günther, Director of Climate and Energy with WWF Germany

Vinay Gupta, thinker on infrastructure/whole systems and resilience

Gina Hanrahan, Policy Analyst (Energy and Climate Change) at the Institute of International and European Affairs

Martin Hawkes, member of A Burren Call, Climate Gathering host

Martin Hayes, Internationally-renowned traditional Irish musician

Andy Hoffman, Director of the Erb Institute and Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan

Bob Inglis, former Republican member of the US House of Representatives and Executive director Energy and Enterprise Initiative

Roxana Kia, executive trainer in personal communication and leadership

Thomas Legge, Senior Programme Officer, German Marshall Fund of the United States, Climate Gathering advisory board member

Klaus Linsenmeier, Executive Director, Heinrich Böll Foundation North America

Naoimh Looney, social media consultant and artist

George Marshall, Founder of Climate Outreach and Information Network and author of the book ‘Carbon Detox’

Ryan Meade, Climate Gathering Director

Tracy Meisterheim, Program Director, Masters in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability at Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden

Jennifer Morgan, Director of the Climate and Energy Programme at the World Resources Institute

Stiofán Nutty, Climate Gathering host

Paul O’Brien, Vice President for Policy and Campaigns, Oxfam America

Rory O’Donnell, Director of the National Social and Economic Council of Ireland and lead author of recent report on climate policy commisioned by the Irish government

Turlough O’Donnell, Senior Counsel and former Chairman of the Bar Council of Ireland

Lia O’Flaherty, Student

Pavlína Pacáková, Secretary-General of the Czech Green Party, theatre critic and journalist

Abie Philbin-Bowman, comedian and journalist

Maeve Power, student of digital marketing with a background in tourism and communications

Henrike Rau, lecturer in Political Science and Sociology at NUI Galway, specialising in environmental sociology and sustainability research

Eamon Ryan, Leader of the Green Party, former Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Climate Gathering Convenor

Daniel Schrag, Director of Harvard Centre for the Environment and member of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

Tara Shine, Head of Research and Development at the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice

Kalin Stacey, youth activist and founder of Environmental Justice Ontario and Grand River Indigenous Solidarity

Mary Stacey, member of A Burren Call, Climate Gathering facilitator

Rod Stoneman, Director of the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at NUI Galway

Erin Taylor, Senior Project Manager Grassroots Solutions and former Political Director for Al Gore’s climate organisation, the Alliance for Climate Protection

Nelisha Wickremasinghe, The Dialogue Space, Climate Gathering Facilitator


Thursday 14th February

President Michael D Higgins meets participants for lunch in Áras an Uachtaráin before they travel to Ballyvaughan.

Participants arrive in Ballyvaughan – transfer provided from Shannon or Dublin airports. Evening welcoming reception in Newtown Castle, a 16th Century fortified tower house. Informal talk on the Burren and its history.

Newtown Castle Round Room emptyNewtown Castle Round Room

Friday 15th February

Conversation one: What are the political and cultural obstacles to making a transformational leap in our response to the climate challenge we face.

Evening: Informal dinner in Ballyvaughan followed by traditional music and dancing in Ballyvaughan Village Hall.

Saturday 16th February

Conversation two: What tools are available to us to create new narratives and pathways for change?

Evening: Feast in celebration with stories and song.

Sunday 17th February

Conversation three: How do we go forward to create a network of leaders with real capacity to address these challenges and deliver the necessary change?

Afternon/evening: “Scattering” meal in the Burren College of Art to mark the end of the gathering.