Just World. the Blog.

August 01, 2014

All change? New faces at home and abroad on climate change

In her new role as UN Special Envoy for Climate Change, Mary Robinson’s task is nothing short of convincing very reluctant world leaders to stop dithering and to respond with the urgency warranted by the threat of climate change, writes Niamh Garvey, Policy Officer
The role is fitting for the former High Commissioner for Human Rights, as there is no greater threat to human rights across the board than climate change. 
It threatens the right to food, the right to water, the right to shelter and the right to life.
This new role will be an immense challenge, but also an incredibly timely one. By the end of next year global leaders are due to agree an historic global deal to prevent runaway climate change, and as Special Envoy, Mary Robinson’s role will be to convince them to make the decisions and take the actions on climate change that they've so long evaded.
This will require Presidents and Prime Ministers to transcend their narrow national self-interests in order to take the really tough but vital decisions to protect people and the natural world on which we all depend.  
While there are some encouraging signs, including recently announced co-ordinated action on climate change by President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China, progress among all world leaders to negotiate an international treaty on climate change is moving at a glacial pace towards a deadline for agreement in Paris at the end of next year. 
As founder of the Mary Robinson Climate Justice Foundation, Mary Robinson’s approach will be much more than about getting any agreement. 
A ‘climate justice’ approach, which Trócaire has been calling for since 2007, means that we not only tackle the problem of climate change, but do so in such a way that ensures the most vulnerable people who are hit hardest whilst having done the least to cause the problem put at the centre of the response.  Mary Robinson is a powerful voice for such communities and we wish her every success with this role. 
mary robinson trocaire doha 2010
Mary Robinson pictured with Trócaire partners at the climate change negotiations in Durban in 2010
A first milestone will happen in September later this year when her boss, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon holds a Climate Summit in New York. He has invited global leaders, including our own Taoiseach Enda Kenny, to come and make announcements on what they are doing to advance progress on the response to climate change. He has set the bar high and it will be an important milestone for generating momentum towards a global deal.  
With an Irish woman in the high profile role of putting the case for climate action, will the Taoiseach announce enough of substance to make Ireland one of Mary Robinson’s ‘star’ or ‘problem’ countries?
This question will be to a large degree answered by the new face of climate policies at home. The recent Cabinet reshuffle has seen ‘Big Phil’ (Phil Hogan) head to Europe, and Alan Kelly take up the position of Minister for Environment and Local Government. 
Action in this Department, including delivering the long-standing commitment to bring in legislation on climate change, will set the tone for what the Taoiseach will be able to announce. The “Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill’ as it is known, is vital to putting Ireland on track for a low carbon future.  
Despite being in the programme for government since 2011 it has been an uphill struggle to get this piece of legislation past the post. An apparent u-turn by Minister Hogan back in November 2011 nearly took the Bill off the table altogether, but with lots of support from our campaigners, over 7,600 of who have taken action to call for the Bill, concerned citizens have managed to keep the issue alive.  
Minister Kelly has inherited a draft Heads of Bill that is yet to be formally published by the Government and still needs to go through the Oireachtas.  
To make his mark in this area, he should put the Climate Bill on the ‘A list’ for the new Dail term, and implement the recommendations of the cross-party Oireachtas Committee on the Environment report to address the current draft’s weaknesses.
It we want to do Mary Robinson proud, this Bill together with Ireland’s ‘fair share’ of climate finance to support developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change would provide the Taoiseach with the substance he needs to announce Ireland’s action at the Ban Ki Moon Summit in September in New York. 
It would be a strong signal that Ireland is prepared to play our part in getting world leaders collectively on track to delivering a global deal on climate change in 2015.
March 14, 2014

Volunteer report: Trócaire’s vital water projects in Ethiopia

by Rebecca Smyth, Trócaire Volunteer
In February 2014, Rebecca Smyth travelled to Ethiopia to visit Trócaire projects in the remote southern region of Boranaland. Here she shares her experiences.
Travelling to Ethiopia with Trócaire brought it home to me that small changes make a big difference and can transform lives for the better, as well as just how similar we human beings are around the world! This was so evident when I visited a water project funded by Trócaire. 
We travelled for four hours (of which two hours were off road) through the beautiful, red earthed and dusty landscape of Boranaland in the Southern most part of Ethiopia to visit the remote, rural community of Webb. 
Travelling to Webb I was very aware of how hostile the landscape and climate is in this region. With the area gripped by drought as recently as 2011 it reinforced just how vital Trócaire’s work really is here.
When we arrived in Webb the first thing we saw was the Ella, or ‘singing well’ which is traditional in this region. 
singing well ethiopia
Visiting the singing well in Webb, February 2014
The Ellas are deep, deep holes in the ground. Before the well was restored, it required a human chain of about thirty people on a rickety rope ladder to draw up water who sing in order to keep in rhythm (hence ‘singing wells’).  
This system was both inefficient and dangerous: it is time-consuming, it is laborious, and I heard tragic accounts from some of the women in Webb on members of the community who lost their lives falling from the ladder.  
With the help of Trócaire’s partner organisation, SOS Sahel, the local people made the well safer and more accessible. We could see with our own eyes how life has been transformed for the community.  
Now, rather than a precarious human chain of thirty or so people, there is a gentle slope down to an open space with troughs for the animals (cattle, goats, donkeys and camels) and separate reservoirs for the people.  
Only six men are needed to bring water up from the well to fill the troughs and reservoirs.  There is now less animal-human cross-contamination since the water sources are separated which has cut massively the rates of water-related diseases.
What also struck me is that water is time. By having a safe water supply, the people (mostly women and children) have been given their time back. 
trocaire water programme ethiopia
Teresa Hill (left), Barso Djirmo, the Abba Herega or 'Father of the well' (centre), and Rebecca Smyth (right)
They do not need to spend as much time fetching and carrying water and so can attend literacy classes or school, or take part in cooperatives. 
Not only does this reduce gender inequality, it also diversifies income.  
Rather than households being solely dependent on livestock – as is traditional with the Borana people, who face intense pressures due to climate change causing more frequent drought – they now have other forms of income, such as the incense and gum cooperatives.  
This in turn has facilitated the reinstatement of the traditional ‘social welfare’ system: the extra money earned goes into a collective fund used to support families in difficulty, to send children to school, to university. Their lives have been truly transformed! 
As we drove away from Webb in the midday heat, I was struck by the conversations I had with the women in the village. Just how similar our hopes and dreams are for good health, security and a better future for the next generation. Every human being deserves these things.
I suppose that’s what working for a just world is all about.

Get involved


Read more about Trócaire's water projects in Ethiopia

January 31, 2014

Green living

There are lots of easy changes we can all make in our daily lives to make them more sustainable and play a part in combating climate change.

Meet Lydia McCarthy, Education Officer, Trócaire.
“Why does the fruit and veg that we buy in the shops need to be wrapped in plastic? When I do my weekly food shop, I always reach for the fruit and vegetables that are loose and not wrapped in plastic. And, when I get home and cook the veg, all of the peelings go into my compost bin at the bottom of my garden. Is it worth it? Well I have only put a bin out for the rubbish lorry to collect once in the last five months. Better for the environment and better for the pocket! And I’ll also have compost to spread on my vegetable beds in the back garden.

I love my coffee! I am on the road a lot with my job and make frequent stops in petrol stations for a cuppa. I have my reusable cup and always put my coffee in this. I also know which petrol stations on the motorways sell fair trade coffee and will only buy from these. I have a reusable bottle for the road too so that I am not buying bottled water. Again it’s better for the environment and better for the pocket!”

Visit our Up to Us page for tips on the changes you can make in your day-to-day life to live more sustainably and play a part in combating climate change.

Lydia McCarthy

Captions (l to r): Reusable water bottle. Lydia McCarthy, Education Officer, Trócaire.

Student Tom Smith tells us about a committed new movement for a totally sustainable lifestyle in Galway.
“About seven months ago I finally made the move from a fairly conventional life as a city-based student, to helping some friends set up a sustainable, permaculture-based small-holding in rural Galway called An Teach Saor (The Free House).
For now I live with two friends, though this number will probably rise soon, including Mark Boyle, better known as the ‘Moneyless Man’, who lived without money for a couple of years to highlight the disconnect our financial system creates between us and the things we buy.

So far we've planted close to 1000 trees, established the start of a forest garden and a herb bed, reclaimed two polytunnels from their former overgrown state, set up natural beehives and planted a nut orchard. We've also done other things like setting up mushroom logs for producing oyster and shiitake mushrooms, constructed a rainwater catchment system, and made a wormery out of an old bathtub.”

Moneyless Man
Captions (l to r): Galway student, Tom Smith. Reclaimed polytunnel, and its former overgrown state.

“One of the more symbolically important things we've done is to replace our flush toilets with compost toilets, which stops the madness of purifying and chlorinating water just to flush it away, and instead allows us to close the nutrient loop on our own site. Sawdust from a local sawmill prevents there being any smells! Sustainable cultures have been doing this for millennia, and there's no reason why we can't follow suit.

Most of all though, we're creating a life which is our own, utterly fulfilling, fun and surrounded by friends and loved ones. We're now launching a crowdfunding campaign to convert an old pig shed into an eco-learning centre, free community space, home-brew pub and accommodation centre called 'The Happy Pig'.”

While Tom’s commitment to sustainable living is above and beyond what the vast majority of us might contemplate, there are still lots and lots of easy changes we can all make in your daily lives to make them that bit more sustainable.

Visit our Up to Us page for tips on the changes you can make in your day-to-day life.

December 16, 2013

Educating for sustainable development

by Claire O’Carroll, Development Education Officer
Trócaire’s Development Education team is taking part in an EU-funded project Millennium Development Goals '15 to promote justice, development and sustainability issues in post-primary schools. 
Project partners participate in yearly study exchange visits in which a member of each NGO travels to a partner country with a group of educators in order to share good practice and develop new skills and resources. This year Trócaire is privileged to be partnered with Belgian NGO, Studio Globo.
Last month, I joined a team of teachers and lecturers (of subjects including Art, Irish and Civic, Social and Political Education) in Brussels to learn about Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). This is a process which aims to equip students and teachers to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future.  It focuses on linking local attitudes to global solutions. 
The ESD delegation visited two schools in the Flanders region which are working closely with Studio Globo. We saw the dedication of both students and staff in their many campaigns on social justice issues. 
trocaire development education workshop
Students from Herk de Staad school demonstrating the MDG game they devised for primary school students
It was amazing to see how the quest for justice permeated throughout the schools’ ethos, not just as part of the citizenship education slot in the timetable. In these schools, active civic participation was integrated in a whole-school approach, led by democratic and transparent student councils. 
Both schools are running sustainability projects, looking at what they can do at a local level to conserve the environment. One school is focussing on the negative effects of meat production, the other on campaigning on climate change issues both abroad and in Flanders.
The trip provided a space for Belgian and Irish teachers to share good practice and visit sustainable projects. The Irish delegation returned with renewed energy to work on projects promoting a sustainable lifestyle within their schools.
Trócaire is also part of the Green-Schools initiative, an international environmental education programme, environmental management system and award scheme that promotes and acknowledges long-term, whole school action for the environment.
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November 22, 2013

Climate change is now

by Dr Lorna Gold, Head of Policy and Advocacy with Trócaire

The tragedy of super-Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines less than two weeks ago, put climate change firmly back on the global political agenda.
Suddenly, from talking in terms future predictions, there was a shift to talking in terms of the present – climate change is now, it is happening. The frightening reality has been captured on the countless social media clips of children clinging to roof tops and dead bodies strewn in the streets as floods recede. It is etched on the faces of people who have lost loved ones. It seems the terrifying reality is hitting home: this is for real. Or is it?
Bodies line the streets of Tacloban on Leyte island, The Philippines
Caption: Bodies line the streets of Tacloban on Leyte island. Rescue workers continue to search the rubble for people who perished in the typhoon. (Photo: Eoghan Rice - Trócaire / Caritas)
While people in the Philippines were picking through the ruins of their lives and communities across the world united in solidarity to support the aid operation, the UN climate negotiations in Warsaw were getting underway. The Head of the Philippines delegation, Nadarev Sano, overcome by grief, threw scientific caution to the wind and gave a powerful, moving speech linking the typhoon to climate change. He pleaded with the negotiators to do what is necessary. There was not a dry eye in the conference room.
A week on since his powerful speech and the talks are at a delicate stage. His passionate appeal has failed as 132 countries led by China pulled out of a key part of the negotiations on loss and damages. The same frustrations and delaying tactics that have dogged these negotiations for years re-emerged shortly after Sano's speech. Anger was palpable as it became evident that the financial pledges to assist developing countries with adaption have not materialised and emissions reductions are still woefully inadequate. The crunch point came when rich countries refused to even discuss the controversial issue of "loss and damages" or compensation until after 2015. The question now is whether the ministers present can turn the situation around and prevent a full collapse.
So what more will it take to make progress? Despite the clarion calls of science and the palpable sense of compassion with the Philippines, the negotiations are stuck in a loop as if tackling climate change is a “zero sum game” where success is about winners and losers, but failure has no impact on anyone. They are trapped in a kind of 19th century tit-for-tat international relations which is incapable of seeing that the global common good is far greater than individual countries and blocks.  
The problem lies in the fact that addressing climate change requires a paradigm shift in human society, which cannot be reached through UN negotiations alone. The negotiations almost presuppose that a shift has occurred at a national level, or at least that it is top of the national political agendas of the countries represented. Ireland's climate bill is about to go to the Daíl for debate, but is hardly top of the agenda. It is critical that we widen the public debate to recognise the scale of the climate challenge and our duty to respond for the sake of all our grandchildren and the right of all people to live in dignity and security.  
According to the science, if we are to stay within “safe climate limits” within five years, we need to stop taking fossil fuels out of the ground, requiring a radical shift to a fossil-free economy and society. But the move to a fossil free world could not currently be further from the lifestyle so many people aspire to. Those aspirations are undoubtedly shaped by many factors. The power of advertising promotes an economy based on created need, where waste is key. Waste and created need satisfies a lifestyle, generates growth and keeps people in jobs. It keeps politicians in power. But the huge environmental cost of this, is completely ignored.  
There are some positive signs that change may be on the horizon. Despite the collapse in Warsaw, climate change is now top of the agenda of the financial and economic institutions like the World Bank and IMF, which recognise the mounting economic cost of inaction. It is also being discussed in the boards of investment companies, which are looking for ways to kick start a greener economy or "green growth". 
Yet even moving to green growth is not enough. The kind of change needed would mean aspiring to different lifestyles, which place greater value on community, locality and sustainability. These aspirations, once translated into behaviour, can lead to ambitious political action. We can benefit from climate change solutions. Imagine, less pollution, strong local economies and better public transport. We owe it to our children, and to the millions of people like those in the Philippines, who are already suffering due to climate change. 
October 21, 2013

It’s Up to Us: Working together for environmental justice

by John Smith, Campaigns Coordinator
The challenges of environmental degradation, dwindling resources and climate change can often seem insurmountable – leaving us feeling helpless to make any impact upon them.
But if we lead by example in how we choose to act, live, treat others and our natural world – we can bring about real and sustainable change, and inspire others to do the same.
Please join the team at Trócaire in making small but crucial lifestyle changes that can have a positive impact on the environment we live in, as well as setting a strong example for our friends, families, and communities.
To this end, we’ve created a great new online resource, with useful information on how we can all live more sustainably. 
On our new Up to Us page you’ll find tips on recycling, reducing food waste, cutting your travel carbon footprint, sustainable fashion, conserving energy and water and much more. 


We’d love to hear about the changes you’re making. So please share your stories with us on Facebook or Twitter – and find out what we at Trócaire are doing to live more sustainably too.



You can also help us to hold our governments and the EU to account on critical environmental issues. 
Trócaire has been campaigning tirelessly to get the Irish government to deliver a strong Climate Bill, to ensure that the country plays its part in addressing global warming. These effects hit the poorest hardest, and this is why Trócaire is committed to seeing this issue through. 
Also, the EU parliament has recently voted to put a cap on the use of farmland to grow biofuels, which have not proved to be the environmental solution many hoped for. 
Trócaire has seen firsthand the devastating effects that the demand for biofuels is causing in developing countries, where farmland is being use to grow fuel instead of food. Small farmers are often forced off their land and food prices driven up due to the decrease in supply, causing hunger and increasing poverty. 
By a vote of 356 to 327 the European Parliament approved a 6% cap on the original target of 10% on food-based biofuels for use in transport. 
Resolving this issue still has a long way to go, but the cap is a signal that the Parliament recognises that the social and environmental concerns  around biofuels cannot be ignored. 


Next steps


  • Visit our Up to Us page to see what actions you can take to live more sustainably.
Please join our campaign. It’s up to us to make a difference.
September 12, 2013

Climate change hitting Zimbabwe's farmers hard

By Nelly Maonde, Zimbabwe Livelihoods & Humanitarian Programme Officer.
Every year, life gets more difficult for Matthew Sibanda. This 66-year-old farmer has lived all his life in the Matobo region of southern Zimbabwe, but he says he has never experienced a climate as difficult as in recent years.  “As far as I remember, I have never experienced such hot temperatures,” he says. “For a long time, my piece of land was considered a fertile wetland which always gave me good yield to feed my family but this is now history.”
Rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall are making life an uphill battle for farmers in Matobo.  Most rivers and wetlands have dried up, leaving dry sand behind. Without water, animals are dying in their thousands.  “I had 40 cattle, 150 goats, 30 sheep but now I have only two cattle 27 goats and no sheep,” says Matthew. “Sheep can't survive in these high temperatures and there was not enough grazing land for the cattle. The goats were my only livelihoods left and I sold them to take the children to school.”
Caption: Matthew Sibanda is feeling the effects of clmate change on his crop in Matobo
Trocaire recently commissioned a study on climate change and how it has affected rural communities in Matobo, a southern region of Zimbabwe. Farmers interviewed shared Matthew’s view that the climate is changing.  To validate this, Trocaire obtained data from the Meteorological Services Department going back to 1970. This data shows that temperatures have increased by 1.12 °Celcius over the last 40 years, compared to a global average of 0.91ºC. Faced with these worsening conditions, many young men from rural areas in Zimbabwe are moving to the cities in search of work, leaving the elderly, women and children behind to face climate change’s trail of destruction. Many of these men end up destitute in Zimbabwe’s cities and unable to support their families back in the rural areas.
Farmers are trying to adapt to their changing situation. In the wetlands where they used to plant rice, they now plant maze and are now beginning to plant okra which has better yields due to the lack of rainfall. Small holder farmers now plant vegetables and legumes from staple maize they used to plant.
However, changing rainfall patterns and rising temperatures make it difficult for farmers to plan. Farmers in Matobo told us that erratic rains, starting late and ending early, are leading to crop failure.  One farmer lamented, “if we want to plant, it is now very dificult to know how to do it because it’s now unpredictable.”

September 02, 2013

Food Not Fuel – make your voice heard ahead of critical MEP vote

By Joanne McGarry, Trócaire Campaigns Officer
People are going hungry because crops are being used to fill our petrol tanks instead of feeding families. 
Biofuels are crops like wheat, corn and sugar cane that are mixed with petrol and diesel to fuel our cars. The EU has set a target of 10% of European transport fuel to be derived from biofuels. 
A policy which initially was seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels is having a disastrous effect on people in the developing world. In many cases harmful green house gas emissions from biofuels are worse than those from fossil fuels.  
Communities are being forced off their land to make way for biofuels. In March 2011, over 800 indigenous families were evicted off land in the Polochic Valley region of Guatemala. 
These are Mayan families who for centuries have experienced discrimination and violence by the elite families who run Guatemala as if it is their private enterprise. 
Watch our documentary presented by Aidan Gillen on the experiences of the Mayans of Polochic Valley

In July of this year, a survey of the evicted families revealed the horrendous conditions they live in two years after that eviction. 

Among the main findings were:
  • 94% of families said they have had food shortages on occasions. Less than half of households consume three basic meals a day.
  • 54% of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. 
  • Less than one third of the families have land for food cultivation. 
  • Even those who do have access to land are producing less than half the amount of food the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) say is needed for a family.
  • Families are suffering restrictions, often imposed by private companies, on access to water.
In June, almost 1,000 Trócaire supporters asked Pat Rabbitte TD, Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, to call for a ban on the use of all food based biofuels. He went on to formally raise our concerns at the Council of Ministers meeting he attended in Luxembourg.
The European Commission has recognised that their biofuel policy is flawed and is proposing to reduce the biofuels target from food crops from 10 to 5%. Unfortunately, Committees in the European Parliament have been voting to weaken the EC’s 5% proposal.
On 10 September MEPs will vote to establish the Parliament's position on the Commission’s proposal.  It’s going to be a close battle so we must let our MEPs know that this already weak proposal cannot be weakened further.
Tell your MEP that these crops should be grown to feed people not burned in our cars!

August 26, 2013

Salvadorans demand their right to water

By Michael Solis, Trócaire’s Institutional Funding Officer in El Salvador  
Last week, an estimated 10,000 people marched from El Salvador del Mundo (the Savior of the World) to the Legislative Assembly to demand the approval of the General Water Law. 
The demonstrators took a stand against the prolonged delay to the law and to counter the government’s proposed privatization of water.
“There is an absolute insensibility of right-wing fractions of the government, who are ignoring a law that deals with a problematic issue that El Salvador faces,” said Ángel Ibarra, director of the Salvadoran Ecological Unit (UNES), a Trócaire partner. 
el salvador water protests august 2013
An estimated 10,000 Salvadorans took to the streets to demand the approval of the General Water Law. Photos: Michael Solis
Ibarra explained that a law is necessary to promote the human right to water. He says that transnational companies should not be allowed to rob Salvadorans of water and that “water should remain a public good.”
El Salvador ranks amongst the top five countries that have been affected by climate change. Access to water is a critical factor to help El Salvador adapt to the impacts of climate change. 
Approximately 90% of all superficial water sources in El Salvador are contaminated, and El Salvador ranks as the second most water-stressed country in Latin America. 
The availability of water has already declined by 35% in the last 30 years in El Salvador, and it is forecasted that all but one of its rivers will become semi-permanent in the future.
The General Water Law has been under discussion since 2010 and seeks to manage the resource of water in an integrated way that addresses the issues of health, risk, potable water, and sanitation. 
Trócaire’s Big Lottery Funded (BLF) project involves eight local partners, most of which participated in the march. The partners rallied people from rural communities who have been educated about the law and their right to water. 
With support from Trócaire, Salvadoran organizations and communities have been spearheading an intensive public campaign to address the deficit in access to water, which is a key contributor to poverty, ill health, and women’s workload.

August 20, 2013

Empowering Bolivians to tackle climate change

By Tom Crowley, Programme Leader: Sustainable Livelihoods and Environmental Justice      
Last week saw 30 Bolivian professionals earn a Diploma in Risk Management and Adaptation to Climate Change.  
This important initiative between Trócaire, Practical Action, the University of San Andres and the Bolivian Civil Defense is part of critical capacity-building work to help the country cope with the enormous challenge that climate change poses.  There are already plans to roll out programmes in three other universities there.
Graduating class, Diploma in Risk Management and Adaptation to Climate Change. Photo: Practical Action Bolivia
Bolivia is one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters and climate change in the world.  
The combination of Bolivia’s physical geography and its socio-economic profile, with a third of the population living in extreme poverty, leaves the country and its people particularly vulnerable. Bolivia’s receding tropical glaciers are symbolic of the increasing challenge of water availability across many regions of the country as climate change advances.  
Yet, it only contributes to 0.01% of world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
To reduce its vulnerability it’s necessary for both the private and public sector to increase their technical capacity to incorporate risk management and climate change adaptation into their work and development plans.  
In Bolivia there is a still a shortage of professionals with the necessary knowledge and skills required. This education programme goes some way to addressing that – empowering people within the country and within communities. 


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