What's your name?
Dr. Cara Augustenborg
What’s your current job?
Fellow at University College Dublin in Environmental Policy and co-host of the Down To Earth slot with Ivan Yates on Newstalk
How long have you held the position?
Fellow at UCD for one year, Newstalk co-host for two years.
Can you describe your daily work routine?
The demand for public talks and media interviews about climate and environment at the moment is unprecedented, so on any given day, I could be taking calls from radio stations, rushing to a studio or traveling across the country (in my Renault Zoe EV) to speak at an event. The only “routine” in my life right now is the weekly M.Sc. course I teach at UCD in Environmental Risk and Behaviour and recording my weekly radio slot and podcast with Ivan Yates at Newstalk radio station. There was a lot of media interest in environmental issues just before the economic crash and that interest disappeared as soon as people were under financial pressure, so I am aware that this media interest could be a bubble and therefore trying to cover as much ground as I can while the interest is there.
What is your professional background?
I was trained as a scientist in biochemistry but didn’t want to spend my life in a lab and was attracted to the environmental profession as an opportunity to solve real-world, global issues. Over time, I became frustrated that people and leaders weren’t listening to the science, which pushed me more and more into political engagement and policy development. I think we need more people with scientific backgrounds designing a policy that aligns with science rather than popular opinion.
Tell me about yourself away from work?
I am a single mother to a highly amusing 9-year old girl. That doesn’t leave time for much else, but I do try and get to the gym 3-4 times and spend some time outdoors each week to keep my sanity. I’m lucky that I live right next to a beautiful Special Area of Conservation and the sea, so that’s where I go to decompress. My job is very public, so I am more of an introvert during my spare time. My work has become more of a vocation than a profession, so it can get quite all-consuming at times and making sure I have days off is always a challenge.
Tell us something very few people know about you?
My dad was a Colonel and fighter pilot in the US Air Force. As a result, I traveled a lot as a child. I used to be quite proud of the fact that I’ve been to 59 countries, but now that we know how bad flying is on climate change I’m trying not to fly anymore and my traveling days are mostly over aside from what I can do by land and sea.
You are speaking at the forthcoming 2019 National Electric Vehicle Summit in Croke Park. What is the focus of your talk?
I’ll be speaking on whether EVs are a solution to climate change. As an EV owner, I know electric vehicles are technologically superior to petrol/diesel vehicles. However, I question the over-emphasis on EVs as a solution to transport emissions in Ireland and the Government’s focus on subsidising EV purchases rather than developing adequate charging infrastructure. I’m looking forward to debating these issues with the other panelists.
What in your opinion will be the key challenges for industry and policymakers in achieving our target of 1 million electric vehicles on Irish roads by 2030?
The current approach to reaching the Government’s target of 1 million electric vehicles on Irish roads by 2030 is largely focused on subsidising new EV purchases and improving charging infrastructure to a lesser extent. I do not believe this approach will enable the uptake of 1 million EVs in the next decade because it relies primarily on individuals being able to afford the purchase of a new car. With EV technology changing so rapidly, second hand EVs will struggle on resale value and do not have the same subsidies as new EVs to encourage uptake. The key challenge for industry and policymakers will be to develop incentives and penalties (e.g. making petrol and diesel vehicles much more costly to align with their environmental impacts) to fully realise their target. Without new policies designed with real people’s transport and purchasing habits in mind, I believe their target is not achievable.
How do you think charging and infrastructure will advance over the next decade?
I would hope that with the introduction of fees use of the charging network, charging infrastructure will become more reliable and commonplace, but there will also need to be regulations put in place requiring all new developments, including apartments, homes, petrol stations, etc. to include EV charge points. I also see this transition as an opportunity for a wide range of other businesses located near charge points as they suddenly have a captive audience of drivers (and consumers) with time on their hands.
Cara will be speaking at the Electric Vehicle Summit in Croke Park, Dublin, on 24th October 2019.
For more details visit: www.evsummit.ie