Just World. the Blog.

November 24, 2015

Halting climate change is our duty as Christians

By Bishop William Crean, Bishop of Cloyne and Chair of Trócaire

bishop william crean trocaire
One of the hallmarks of Pope Francis’s Papacy has been his ability to cross religious boundaries. 

Whether commenting on inequality or meeting with groups often excluded from society, his words and actions have resonated meaningfully with believers and non-believers alike.
Pope Francis has focused much attention on issues that are universal to us all and has sought to inspire and offer leadership.
Environmental care is one such universal issue. His recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, which addressed environmental degradation and the dangers of climate change, was addressed “to every person living on this planet”. 

This was a very deliberate move to highlight the fact that the issues covered in the encyclical – in essence, how human greed threatens to destroy the planet on which we live – are fundamental to us all.
The Earth is our shared inheritance. Protecting the Earth is not the duty of any one group. Environmentalism is no longer an issue for environmentalists – it is the rallying cry for anybody who cares about justice, equality and the long-term prospects of life on this planet.
The Christian faith tells us that the Earth was created for the benefit of everyone and that our duty is to pass it to the next generation in good health. We are caretakers of the Earth.
Christian concern over environmental degradation is therefore twofold: firstly, it is evident that the Earth’s condition is worsening and that we are failing future generations; secondly, this degradation is benefitting a minority of people and punishing the great majority, thus the fruits of our planet are not being used equally.
How can we, as Christians, respond to this challenge?  Pope Francis challenges us, first and foremost, to examine our own lives, to live differently so that our planet is not harmed and to ensure that any ecological solution is based on social justice which takes into account the rights of the poor and underprivileged. He also urges us to engage politically with the decisions that affect us all to make our voices heard. 

Climate Change March Poster
On November 30th, political leaders from around the world will gather in Paris to debate a response to a climate crisis that is already impacting on tens of millions of people across Africa, Asia and Latin America who are suffering food shortages due to drought, with many more vulnerable to extreme weather in the form of typhoons, storms and flooding. Rising temperatures are playing havoc with our climate, affecting people all over the world.
Pope Francis draws our attention to the irreparable impact of unrestrained climate change in many developing countries, where people are both more vulnerable to weather extremes and less able to cope with them. There is now agreement amongst all but a tiny minority that this is real, man-made and urgent. We now need political will to take action that will limit global temperature increases.
We need a political breakthrough in Paris next week to begin addressing this injustice. It is essential that the negotiations result in an enforceable agreement that protects our common home and all its inhabitants. An agreement must put the common good ahead of narrow short-term national interests.  After all, in the end, the common good is in the interest of everyone.
Rooted in ethics and morals, this agreement should be based on a vision of the world that recognises the need to live in harmony with nature and human solidarity to guarantee the fulfillment of human rights for all.
We must decarbonise our society by mid-century in order to protect vulnerable people, including future generations whether they are at risk of flooding in Cork or hunger in Malawi. 

This is not an easy task but it is an urgent one. It will involve developing new models of development and lifestyles that are climate compatible. Central to this is putting to an end the fossil fuel era. We must phase out our reliance on oil and coal, and we must do this by the middle of this century. 
We have a moral obligation to rise to this challenge. We must ensure that future generations do not pay a terrible price for our failure to protect this planet.
Ireland must play its role in ensuring the Paris Summit produces a legally-binding global agreement, with ambitious mitigation commitments and actions from all countries recognising their common, but differentiated, responsibilities and respective capabilities, based on equity principles, historical responsibilities, and the right to sustainable development.
On Sunday, November 29th, on the eve of the Paris Summit, people will gather in Belfast, Cork and Dublin to make their voices – and the voices of those without a voice in this important debate - heard on this issue. 

They will come from a wide range of organisations, backgrounds and beliefs, but they will stand together to say that this is a rallying cry we all must answer.
We must reject the language of ‘us’ and ‘them’. We are one human family. This is our one shared home and we are all responsible for keeping it safe.

A shorter version of this article was published in the Rite and Reason column in the Irish Times on Tuesday 24 November 2015.

Further reading:

October 30, 2015

Join the People's Climate Change March on November 29

Be part of the biggest climate change event ever!

Climate Change March Poster


This December in Paris, world leaders will attempt once more to achieve an agreement on climate change.

And on Sunday November 29, people around the world will march on the streets to make sure they do.

The Stop Climate Chaos coalition will be out in force in Ireland.

Join us on Sunday 29 November at 2pm at:

  • Custom House Quay, Dublin
  • Grand Parade, Cork
  • Writer's Square, Belfast

Put the date in your diary and tell your friends, family, and colleagues.

We want to see you there!

Join the facebook events to get updates:

Dublin March: https://www.facebook.com/events/432542056954797/

Cork March: https://www.facebook.com/events/186029218398256/

Belfast Rally: https://www.facebook.com/events/1067121923313017/

Follow the conversation on twitter: #climatemarch

A Better, Greener Ireland and You

The world’s scientists warn us we are changing the climate in a way that will fundamentally alter life on Earth. We face an unliveable world of floods, rising sea levels, droughts and heat storms. 

So far we’ve responded with a bizarre mixture of denial and defeatism. But scientists also tell us we have the power to stop this madness (see what they say - www.ipcc.ch)

By addressing climate change we can also create:

  • stronger communities
  • cleaner, safer spaces to live in with less air pollution and traffic
  • homes with cheaper energy bills due to better insulation and renewable sources
  • a healthier nation eating more local produce
  • and safeguard the great natural beauty of our amazing country

There are concrete steps you can take to be part of a better, greener Ireland.

But what’s Ireland got to do with climate change?

Did you know that the average Irish person produces about 12.4 tonnes of greenhouse gases making us one of the highest emitters in Europe per person? And we are on course to increase our greenhouse emissions across the board - in agriculture, transport and energy (see epa.ie).

But isn’t Ireland just a small nation? If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change we all need to reduce our emissions. Ireland has always punched above its weight on the world stage in our contributions to literature, science, the arts and much more. As a role model, we could do the same on combating climate change.

But what can I do as an individual? We thought you’d never ask!

Climate Change March

Give politicians the green light

If we're going to get any political agreement to save our planet, our politicians need to know you’re giving them the green light to take action. Without politicians on board we will not get the major changes we need to our transport, agriculture and energy sectors. Ask for action in Paris.

Sign the Global Catholic Climate Change Movement Petition.

Let your politicians know that this is an issue you care about. Write to An Taoiseach Enda Kenny taoiseach@taoiseach.gov.ie asking him to do all he can to secure strong commitments for emissions reductions in Paris.

Contact your local representatives

Let your politicians know that their action or inaction on environmental issues will influence your vote in the next election. They keep telling us they’re not hearing about climate change as a concern from their constituents. Let them know about the green issues you feel strongly about.

Find your TDs here: oireachtas.ie/parliament/tdssenators
Find your MPs here: writetothem.com

Let us know how you get on contacting your politicians, send us an email at emmet.sheerin@trocaire.org (ROI) and mary.friel@trocaire.org (NI)

Join the fossil divestment movement

If we are to combat climate change we have to challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry, and the vast majority of untapped oil and gas must be left in the ground. Visit gofossilfree.org/europe and join up.

What you can do with your lifestyle

Eat less meat and/or dairy

To avoid climate chaos, all societies will need to embrace a less meat and dairy intensive diet. The beef and dairy we consume produce methane that’s playing a big part in overheating the planet. Meat production also uses unsustainable amounts of water. Try going meat free a few days a week. It’s easier than you might think! See vegetarian.ie for support.

Check out the Better Energy Homes scheme

The oil and gas we use to heat our homes produces a lot of the carbon that causes climate change. Have a look at seai.ie and see if the grants there will help you to afford better insulation in your home, ultimately saving you money on energy bills and reducing your fossil fuel consumption.

If you're looking for more sustainable living ideas, we have them here.

For more info see:


An Taisce: antaisce.org

Stop Climate Chaos: stopclimatechaos.ie

Friends of the Earth: foe.ie

The Environmental Pillar: environmentalpillar.ie

Grow It Yourself International giyinternational.org

October 09, 2015

Everything you wanted to know about the Climate Bill but were afraid to ask

Why is the Climate Bill back in the news?

The Bill – officially called the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill – is one step closer to being made law after the Dáil voted to approve it on Thursday. The Bill will now go to Seanad Éireann and, provided it is approved by Senators, will then be cleared to be signed into law. 

Why is this important?

The passing of this Bill into law is extremely important because it means that Ireland will, for the first time, have legislation relating to climate change. Once the Bill is passed, work can begin on developing Ireland’s National Low Carbon Transition & Mitigation Plan, which will plot a pathway to turn Ireland into a low carbon society. 

What is Trócaire’s involvement in this?

We have been campaigning for climate legislation for eight years. Much of Trócaire’s work is dealing with the impacts of climate change on communities in the developing world. Many people in the countries we work in are facing increasingly prolonged droughts and extreme weather, making it extremely difficult for them to grow food. 

While Ireland’s contribution to global climate change may be relatively small, we are one of the highest per capita polluters in the world so it is important that we take the steps necessary to play our part in tackling this global challenge. 

Campaigners calling for climate legislation

Campaigners calling for climate legislation outside Dáil Éireann in 2012.


So we should be really happy with this Bill?

Well, we’re very happy that the Bill is on the verge of being passed but we would have liked it to be stronger in some areas. Our main concern is that the transition and mitigation plan is not due to be revealed for 18 months after the Bill is passed – in other words, most likely the middle of 2017 - which we believe is too long of a gap. 

On the plus side, the Government has agreed to insert a commitment to climate justice into the Bill, which underlines the fact that Ireland’s responsibility in tackling climate change stems from the need to protect the most vulnerable. 

While we don’t think the Bill is perfect, the important thing is that Ireland will have a platform to begin to take action. 

What happens next?

The Bill goes to Seanad Éireann for debate and will hopefully pass smoothly, allowing it to be passed into law over the coming weeks. Any delay at Seanad stage could cause a problem if the general election is called for before Christmas – if the Dáil term ends before getting to debate Seanad amendments it would not be signed into law before the election. 

Provided it is signed into law, is that the end of Trócaire’s climate change campaign?

Absolutely not! Ireland still has so much work to do. We are not on track to meet our EU emission reduction commitments for 2030 so the National Low Carbon Transition & Mitigation Plan will be absolutely vital. 

Ireland’s commitment to provide new and additional climate finance to assist those in need is still unclear. In line with the principle of climate justice, Ireland must make a strong climate finance commitment to support vulnerable communities in the developing world who are already disproportionately impacted by climate change.

Internationally, the UN Climate Summit in Paris in December is incredibly important. We will be joining the millions of people around the world who are calling for global leaders to take decisive climate action.

What can we do to help?

You can take to the streets of Dublin on November 29th – along with the Stop Climate Chaos network, we are organising a public rally on the eve of the Paris summit to call on politicians to prioritise the future of our planet. Sign-up on the Dublin Climate March and stay informed of our work on climate justice

September 28, 2015

800 attend Dublin screening of This Changes Everything

Over 800 people gathered in Dublin’s Merrion Square last Saturday to watch the Irish premiere of ‘This Changes Everything’, the film by Avi Lewis based on Naomi Klein’s best-selling book about climate change. 

The event was one of a series taking place across Europe to mark the release of the film. Trócaire had teamed-up with Stop Climate Chaos and Happenings to bring the film to an Irish audience. 

As well as screening the film, the event also saw musicians Oliver Cole and Mundy kindly volunteer to entertain the crowd. 

The Dublin screening of This Changes Everything

Merrion Square hosted the Dublin screening of 'This Changes Everything', organised by Trócaire, Stop Climate Chaos and Happenings.


‘This Changes Everything’ is a powerful look at people’s attempts to resist the power of the fossil fuel lobby all over the world. 

The event brought together people with varying levels of interest and knowledge on the issue of climate change.

LISTEN: Our short audio vox pop captures the mood and the thoughts of some of the people who attended. 

We'd like to say a big thanks to everyone who came along, as well as to our partners Stop Climate Chaos, Happenings and Dublin City Council. 

The timing of the film’s release is very important: it’s now only two months until world leaders meet in Paris to try to agree a climate deal so there has never been a more important time to mobilise people power in support of clean energy and positive climate action. 

Trócaire and the Stop Climate Chaos network are organising a public rally on November 29th to show politicians in Ireland that the public here does care about the future of the planet. You can sign-up on the event Facebook page

As Naomi Klein says in ‘This Changes Everything’, “if you drink water or breathe air, climate change is about you.”

September 22, 2015

Take the Climate Change Challenge

Are you 15-17 years old? Do you want to know more about the causes of climate change and understand its effects? 

Then sign up for our ‘Climate Change Challenge Weekend’ taking place at the University of Maynooth on 26-29 November 2015.

This weekend is for young people who are concerned about the effect that our changing climate is having on people and communities around the world, and want to find out how to get involved in tackling climate injustice in the developing world.
Aims for the weekend:

  1. To increase your knowledge of climate change;
  2. To help you understand why climate change is an urgent social justice issue, what we call ‘climate justice’;
  3. To assist you in making connections with experienced activists and hear stories from around the world;
  4. To give you the knowledge and skills to become a climate justice activist.

Throughout the weekend you will examine the causes, effects and possible ways to mitigate climate change through a variety of activities, for example: activist workshops; Trócaire staff presentations; special guest speaker; a disaster simulation exercise; drama; and documentary viewing. The weekend will culminate in a trip into Dublin city centre to take part in the Global Climate Change March 
If you are aged between 15 and 17 years old (on the 26th November), then contact mary.boyce@trocaire.org for further information and an application form.

participants in trocaire's climate change challenge november 2014

Last year's Climate Change Challengers on the University of Maynooth campus

The cost for the weekend is £25/€30. If this amount is not feasible for you, please do not hesitate to contact Trócaire in confidence.
The closing date for applications is 16 October 2015.
Last year’s participants came from all over the country (Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Tipperary, Donegal and more), and some fantastic weather contributed to a great weekend!

In 2015, we can’t guarantee the weather, but we can guarantee a fun-filled weekend that will hopefully increase your knowledge of the causes and effects of climate change, and perhaps inspire you to take action!

July 27, 2015

Climate change and conflict out-pacing poverty reduction

By Éamonn Meehan

If recent events in Europe have highlighted anything it is the all-too-often slow response of political systems to structural crises. It is perhaps the nature of democracy that tough decisions are delayed and unpopular measures long-fingered until such a time as the elephant in the room has morphed into a stampeding herd.

Sadly, this approach has characterised the response of the global political system to the two dominant themes driving global poverty today: conflict and climate change. 

Efforts to tackle extreme poverty have made very significant headway since the turn of the century. A coordinated global aid effort, under the banner of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), has saved millions of lives and lifted many more out of extreme poverty. School enrolment rates have risen significantly, childhood and maternal mortality rates have halved, and progress has been made in reducing the threats from diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. There have been many success stories as a result of a focused aid effort. 

Unfortunately, however, while the top line statistics paint a positive picture, the canvas on which we are painting is tearing at the seams. 

The spread of conflict and the impact of severe weather patterns on food production are undoing many of the gains that have been made. Efforts to combat extreme poverty are being out-paced by these two dominant features of modern life.  

Around the world, 59.5 million people have fled their homes as a result of conflict, almost the combined population of 15 EU states. The global displacement figure has not been this high since the world was engulfed in the chaos of World War II.

War in Syria has contributed greatly to this stark statistic. International political structures failed to engage with the Syria war during the early years, leaving Syria now in its fifth year of killing and destruction. It has taken the arrival of tens of thousands of Syrians on our shores for Europe to engage with the issue, but even then the response has been dismal. The EU has failed to agree on how to offer new homes to just 60,000 asylum seekers, a tiny percentage of the number of Syrians who have fled their homes. Nobody can seriously claim the EU does not have the capacity to fulfil its legal obligation to offer security to such a small number of people relative to the EU’s 500 million population. 

As President Higgins rightly observed earlier this week, it is appalling to portray this as a challenge when taking the situation these people are fleeing into account. 

Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Syrian refugees Ahmad and Madallakh with their  grandsons Mohammed and Abdelrahman living in an unfinished apartment block in Lebanon's Bekka Valley. There are 59.5 million people around the world displaced as a result of conflict - the combined population of 15 EU states.


Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia are by some distance the world’s three largest sources of refugees. The ongoing conflicts that have dogged these countries, in some cases for over two decades, have plunged millions of people into extreme poverty. Without tackling the political factors behind those conflicts, there can be no improvements to the lives of people in those countries nor any stop to the flow of people attempting to seek security elsewhere. 

Migration is almost certain to rise over the coming years as climate change continues to erode people’s ability to live in their home environment. Globally, temperatures have risen by 0.85 degrees Celsius over the last 150 years. This has contributed significantly to migration by reducing people’s ability to grow food, not to mention the increased frequency and intensity of storms and floods as sea levels rise and weather systems alter. 

Climate change is picking up such pace that temperatures may rise by anything between a further one and five degrees over the coming decades. Just imagine the chaos this will cause as huge swaths of rural land become essentially uninhabitable and entire coastal regions are devoured by the seas.

Tharaka district in Kenya 

Rising temperatures are leading to droughts and prolonged spells of hunger as people in regions such as Tharaka in Kenya struggle to grow crops. 

There is a growing political consensus – with the notable exception of the American right – that climate change is the biggest threat to humanity and urgently needs addressed. That realisation, however, has not been matched by political moves to actually address the threat. 

World leaders meet in Paris in December at the UN Climate Summit but there is little to suggest that they are willing to commit to actions to match their rhetoric. 

Through his recent Encyclical, Pope Francis has pleaded with political leaders to take the steps necessary to safeguard the future of the planet. This powerful document clearly aligns the Catholic Church with calls for agreement on a legally-binding framework to decarbonise our societies as a matter of urgency.

The passionate words of President Higgins and former President Mary Robinson at this week’s Summit of the Consciences for the Climate in Paris gives the impression that Ireland is a world leader on this issue, yet Dáil Éireann has failed to match Áras an Uachtaráin’s desire to secure a safe planet for future generations. 

When I look at Trócaire’s work around the world, the spread of conflict and the growing reality of a changed natural environment are the two themes that stand out as major obstacles towards poverty reduction. 

Never before has a time been characterised on the one hand by such incredible progress and on the other by such enormous challenges. 

This article first appeared in The Irish Examiner on July 27th, 2015.

July 21, 2015

Climate change 'causing displacement and poverty'

Positive trends in poverty reduction are being out-paced by the growth of conflict and the worsening of climate change, Trócaire said today at the launch of the organisation’s Annual Report for the year 1 March 2014 - 28 February 2015.

While there have been many successes in the battle against extreme poverty, the spread of conflict and the impact of severe weather patterns on food production and displacement are undoing many of the gains that have been made, warned the agency. 

Trócaire today announced that its development and emergency programmes have benefited approximately 2.4 million people directly in 24 countries over the last 12 months.

Éamonn Meehan said that conflict and issues linked with climate change are the dominant drivers of Trócaire’s programmes:

“Over the last 12 months Trócaire has brought vital aid and support to approximately 2.4 million people in some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world. Many of our biggest programmes are responding to the needs of people forced to flee their homes as a result of conflict. Our programmes in countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Myanmar, South Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are providing vital supplies to people caught in the crossfire. 

“Climate change is also causing displacement and increasing poverty as droughts, storms and floods intensify around the world. Last February over 635,000 people were affected by flooding in Malawi, while prolonged periods without rainfall in countries such as Kenya, Zimbabwe and Rwanda are making it increasingly difficult for farmers to grow crops.”

Eliyeta Muyeye and her sister Fortune Kalolo at the family's crops in Dedza, Malawi.

Farmers in countries such as Malawi are increasingly struggling to grow crops due to the impacts of climate change. Pictured: Eliyeta Muyeye and her sister Fortune Kalolo at the family's crops in Dedza, Malawi. Photo: Jeannie O'Brien/Trócaire.

The Irish public donated €22 million to Trócaire’s non-emergency fundraising in 2014/15, the same amount as was donated during 2013/14.  A further €1 million was donated to specific humanitarian appeals, primarily appeals for the Ebola response in Sierra Leone and the response to the Gaza conflict. 

The Irish Government contributed €18.2 million to Trócaire’s work through Irish Aid. As in previous years, the Irish Government remains the single largest donor to Trócaire’s work contributing 31% of the organisation’s total income. 

Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan thanked the public in Ireland for supporting the organisation’s work:

“Throughout recent turbulent years at home, Irish people have never wavered in their commitment to supporting people living through injustice, conflict and poverty overseas. The €23 million donated to Trócaire by people in Ireland amounts to almost €4 for every man, woman and child on this island. That is an incredible testament to people’s commitment to the world’s poorest people.”

Examples of Trócaire’s impact during the 2014/15 period include:
•    110,000 people in Somalia supported with health, nutrition and education
•    47,050 people in Sierra Leone provided with support during the Ebola outbreak
•    288,811 people in Sudan benefited from medical care
•    37,000 people in Myanmar assisted with food and shelter
•    14,000 people in Iraq provided with emergency aid
•    785 human rights defenders in Guatemala provided with support

Trócaire’s two largest programme areas are livelihoods and emergency response. In 2014/15 the organisation’s emergency programmes benefited 1.1 million people directly and a further 3 million people indirectly, while the livelihoods programmes benefited approximately 795,000 people directly and 1.5 million people indirectly. Trócaire also operates programmes protecting human rights, supporting gender equality and working with people living with HIV. 

You can read the 2014/15 annual report online.

June 25, 2015

Major conference calls for immediate action on climate change

This week Trócaire, Maynooth University and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, co-hosted a major two-day conference titled: ‘Meeting the Challenge of Climate Justice: From Evidence to Action’.

2015 is a critical year in addressing the impending climate emergency and charting a path towards a more sustainable future, culminating in the UN Summit (COP21) in Paris in December. 

Climate change, and the injustice it represents, is one of the most serious challenges facing humanity. But while the evidence on human-made climate change is overwhelming, action to stem the rise in global temperatures lags far behind. It is hoped that a strong, binding, international agreement for action will be agreed at the UN Summit in December. But there is no room for complacency that this will be achieved. And strong campaigning is required in advance to ensure that politicians act for the global good. 

On that theme, this conference addressed a diverse audience including campaigners, political representatives, business leaders and grass-roots activists, and was livestreamed to an international audience. Speakers included climate justice luminaries and activists such as Mary Robinson and Bill McKibben of 350.org, as well as Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, the vice-president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Other leading voices at the conference were John Sweeney Emeritus Professor of Geography at Maynooth University, Fr Sean McDonagh, a Columban missionary and ecological activist, and Bishop Theotonius Gomes, Auxiliary Bishop of Dhaka, Bangladesh – a regular attendee and contributor at international climate negotiations.

Mary Robinson stated clearly that two-thirds of known fossil-fuel reserves must be left in the ground if global warming is to be kept at less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. She spoke of “the moral imperative to act” and the need for “global co-operation on an unprecedented scale – a whole new era of solidarity based on an understanding of our interconnectedness,” adding that climate change “confronts us with the reality of our interdependence”.

mary robinson, amy colgan, Dr David Mkwambisi

Photos: Mary Robinson delivering keynote speech, young climate campaigner Amy Colgan, Dr David Mkwambisi, Lilongwe University of Agriculture & Natural Resources

Advocating strongly for divestment strategies at an individual and institutional level, leading climate change campaigner Bill McKibben told the conference that the fossil fuel industry is threatening the safety and security of the planet. He described them as “the most irresponsible industry we have ever seen on the planet”. 

McKibben warned of the “planetary dislocation” that is taking place and said that the only way to halt a global temperature rise of more than two degrees Celsius is to “break the power of the fossil fuel industry”. 

“They are no longer normal companies,” he said. “We must turn them into the pariahs they must become. If we follow the business plan of the fossil fuel industry, we will go far beyond a two degree temperature rise. If they do what they have said they will do, the planet will break.”

Professor Jean Pascal van Ypersele, Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warned that levels of carbon in the atmosphere today are unprecedented. The Professor outlined how for 800,000 years the levels of carbon in the atmosphere varied between 180-280 parts per million (ppm) but now stands at 400ppm. 

Professor van Ypersele described the “hidden message” of the IPCC reports as being the complete lack of political will to tackle an issue that presents a threat to all forms of life on earth. Limiting global temperature rises to two degrees Celsius would be an enormous challenge given that two-thirds of the level of carbon compatible with restricting temperature rises to two degrees has already been emitted, he said.

Professor John Sweeney presented the Irish climate change context. He pointed out that last year was the warmest in Ireland since 1880 and that average temperatures had increased by 0.5 degrees since 1981.

At these current rates, temperatures will continue to rise by between one degree and 1.5 degrees over the next 30 years, he said. This would result in much more rainfall in the west of Ireland and a lot less in the east between 2021 and 2050 - with more frequent flooding and water shortages during summer. 

Referring to the 2013 fodder crisis – he said this may be indicative of what is to come. Similarly, we are likely to have more extreme storm events as in the winter of 2013/14.

“The cost of doing nothing is huge for Ireland,” he said.

The Pope’s Encyclical on ecology, which was released just last week (18 June) was hailed by all as a landmark call to action on climate change. 

"Laudato Si’ is an astonishing document - there is no longer any excuse for people not knowing about this issue” Bill McKibben said.

Many contributors also spoke of the lack of political will in Ireland – and a refrain from politicians that they are not hearing climate change concerns from constituents ‘on the doorsteps’. It is up to us, individually and collectively, to ensure that the climate message is now heard loud and clear.



FIND OUT MORE: Learn more about the Climate Justice conference at www.climatejustice2015.org

JOIN: Trócaire’s Climate Justice campaign, take action for a strong climate law for Ireland and help raise awareness of climate change with the Irish public and our political representatives

WATCH: Drop in the Ocean?: Ireland and Climate Change 

June 18, 2015

Key messages from the Pope’s Encyclical on ecology

Dr Lorna Gold, Trócaire's Head of Policy and Advocacy, writes about Pope Francis's Encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’ – released today

You can't read Pope Francis’s Encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’, and not be deeply moved. 

This is perhaps the most far reaching church document in a generation. It is certainly the most anticipated. It is both deeply political in its content and in its timing, as well as deeply contemplative and deeply practical.

Pope Francis presents a heart-breaking analysis of the various dramatic environmental situations facing the world today – from the terror of climate change, to biodiversity loss in every habitat, to the growing inequality in relation to finite resources, against a backdrop of overconsumption and waste - which results in many people being regarded as disposable.

He points to the deep ethical and spiritual roots of the current 'socio-environmental' crisis: a uni-dimensional paradigm founded on a blind faith in market-based technocratic solutions to resolve the world's problems. He warns of the folly of seeking technical fixes to complex problems, which involve matters of human consciousness. 

In fact, we know very little about the interconnectedness of life and often choose to ignore it. Overcoming this blindness requires an integral ecology, one that doesn’t try to solve problems in a piecemeal fashion, but sees the deep interconnections between the different crises and seeks to resolve them in a holistic, interdisciplinary way.

The Pope dispels the myths around the Judeo-Christian tradition as being about domination of nature. He throws this out as a false interpretation and goes to great lengths to dispel it. 

A phrase that appears several times in the document is "everything is interconnected." In terms of what we can do, the Encyclical points to some very practical pathways for action. In this respect, it really gives hope. 

First, we each need to believe that simple actions make a big difference. We need to start by re-evaluating our own understanding of our place in the environment. He reminds us that we are made from the elements of the natural world. We do not sit apart from it. We are earth and we need to rediscover that deep connection. Reconnecting with our place in nature and rediscovering that "affectionate" relationship is the starting point of an "ecological conversion." 
The Pope places a special focus on families and the role of parents in this regard. He makes a very simple call for all families to begin practicing grace before meals again, as a sign of our appreciation of nature and our dependence on God's creation. It is a custom that has perhaps gone out of fashion. He also asks us to consider Sunday as a day of rest, a restorative day for nature and ourselves. 

In our local communities, he affirms that integral ecology is central to the Christian message. He calls for an ecological spirituality and asks us all to consider how we consume. He says that each act of consumption is a "moral and political act". He reminds us of the power of boycott campaigns and the need to create a counterculture based on 'less is more' and a new mindful, contemplation of nature. It calls for a new educational and spiritual awareness to ensure this happens. 

It calls on NGOs, in particular, to continue to work for political change and to organise people to build political pressure for change.

At a political level, the Encyclical does not pull any punches. It highlights the way in which international finance has control over politics at a national and international level and how this is limiting and distorting our capacity to address common challenges. This is a failure of governance, which requires a new way of governing the “global commons". 

We need stronger, effective international agreements to combat environmental degradation, including climate change. In this respect, the need for a fair and binding agreement on climate change at the UN Summit this December is essential to change course. 

Importantly, the Encyclical stresses that poor countries should not have to bear the burden of this transition. They need to be supported both in terms of finance and technology transfers to make the transition to renewable energy.

At a national level, the Pope also has a timely message for Ireland, as we finalise our own climate legislation in the next few weeks. He points to the need for robust laws to protect the environment and the need to ensure that they are enacted. 

These laws should not be subject to the whim of political cycles, but take the long view, thinking of the impact of their enforcement on future generations. In this regard, the need for Ireland's climate legislation to be as robust as possible and to incorporate the principle of climate justice is very clear.

On the economic front, the Encyclical points to the need for macroeconomic strategies and business plans in particular to integrate environmental costs. It points to the fact that the economy currently does not account properly for the use of natural capital, utilising it as if it were an infinite resource. We know now that it is not and that true natural capital accounting is essential. 

Similarly, all businesses need to implement Environmental Impact Assessments, which take the full environmental impacts into account.

The Encyclical starts and ends with a very compelling but simple message: we need to look at nature and each other with new eyes. Before thinking about how we can use nature, we need to recover our capacity to contemplate it, and give praise to God for its and our existence.

June 18, 2015

Pope's Encyclical is ‘a wake-up call to a world sleep-walking into disaster’

Today Trócaire welcomed Pope Francis’s Encyclical on ecology, saying the Pope’s unprecedented intervention must have a positive impact on the vital climate negotiations this year. 
Pope Francis today published Laudato Si’, in which he calls for action at local, national and international levels to combat ecological destruction, and in particular the future threat and current reality of climate change. 

The Encyclical, which is addressed to "every person who lives on this planet," clearly aligns the Catholic Church with the growing movement calling for urgent changes to lifestyles and energy consumption in order to safeguard the future of the planet.
Speaking in the strongest terms yet in defence of the environment as "our common home," Pope Francis warns of the unprecedented destruction of ecosystems as a result of human activity, clearly outlining the threats to future generations as a result of our actions. 

Calling for an “integral ecology,” Pope Francis underscores the human roots of the current  ecological crisis in social, political and economic structures. He points to the need for a radical shift in direction in political and economic priorities in order to meet the needs of the poorest, while also warning that our current lifestyles and consumption patterns are unsustainable.
Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan said that the Encyclical should mark a turning point in the global response to environmental justice, and particularly climate change:
“This Encyclical is one of the most significant Church documents in a generation.  It is a powerful wake-up call to a world sleep-walking into disaster. Pope Francis has clearly aligned the Catholic Church with calls for urgent political action to reduce carbon emissions and set the world on the path to a sustainable future.
“Trócaire is dealing with the consequences of climate change on a daily basis. Drought, flooding, storms and forced migration are all on the rise. Although we are insulated from the worst impacts in Ireland, we must not forget that hundreds of millions of people around the world are struggling to survive in great part due to the changing climate.
“In less than six months time, world leaders will meet in Paris at the UN Climate Summit. Pope Francis has added the voice of the global Catholic Church to the calls for agreement on a legally-binding framework to decarbonise our societies as a matter of urgency.
“The science on climate change is already clear. Pope Francis has now clearly outlined the moral and spiritual arguments for taking action. This Encyclical tackles the lethargy that is felt by many people when faced with this most pressing of crises. Pope Francis makes clear that everything is inter-connected. We are custodians of this planet and we have a clear moral obligation to ensure that everyone has access to its abundant resources, and that we hand it to future generations in a condition that is compatible with life.”

On Monday and Tuesday of next week (22-23 June), Trócaire is co-hosting a major international conference on Climate Justice at Maynooth University. Speakers include Mary Robinson, Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org and Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Places at the conference are now fully booked, however, the event will be livestreamed here: www.climatejustice2015.org.


Learn more about Trócaire's ongoing Climate Justice campaign

Additional Notes:

1. An Encyclical is a letter issued by the Pope to all Catholic Bishops around the world. Laudato Si' is Pope Francis’s second Encyclical. In June 2013 he released Lumen Fidei, which addressed issues such as faith and charity.

2. The environment has been a key theme of Francis’s papacy. In his inaugural address (March 2013), Pope Francis urged people to be “protectors of one another and of the environment,” reminding people that “everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it.”

3. In Evangelii Gaudium, an apostolic exhortation issued in November 2013, Pope Francis warned against an economic system which promotes exclusion, inequality and violence. He warned, “in this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increase profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.” An apostolic exhortation is a letter to all Bishops, clergy and lay faithful.

4. In 2014/15, Trócaire spent almost €58 million helping to improve the lives of an estimated 2.4 million people directly in some of the poorest places in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

5. Climate change is a priority issue for Trócaire. Our Livelihoods programmes offer support to people struggling to grow food in the face of erratic weather patterns, while our Humanitarian programmes respond to situations of crisis resulting from drought, storms and floods. In 2014/15, €13.3 million was spent supporting livelihoods programmes in 14 countries. These programmes are estimated to have benefitted 794,898 people directly. In 2014/15 Trócaire spent €26.8 million supporting humanitarian and disaster risk reduction work in 16 countries. This work is estimated to have supported over 1.1 million people directly.

6. In 2014, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued ‘The Cry of the Earth,’ a pastoral reflection on climate change which noted: “in addressing the challenge of climate change, everyone has a part to play. Every action taken in favour of a just and more sustainable environment, no matter how small, has an intrinsic value. Action at a global level, as well as every individual action which contributes to integral human development and global solidarity, helps to construct a more sustainable environment and, therefore, a better world.”

7. Trócaire issued ‘Glas’, a pastoral resource, to accompany ‘The Cry of the Earth’. This resource has been distributed to parishes throughout Ireland in order to give communities ideas of practical steps that can be taken to promote a healthy environment. Trócaire works with parishes, schools and communities across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to promote responses to climate change.


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