Back in 2008, Trócaire used its annual Lenten campaign to raise awareness of climate change and how it is impacting communities in developing countries.
In 2009 Trócaire staff and campaigners marched alongside thousands of others in Copenhagen for the historic and much–anticipated meeting of world leaders on climate change.
Sadly our leaders did not deliver what was needed at that time, and so our campaign continued.
In 2010 we redoubled our focus on Ireland – and what we needed to do at home to address climate change. With our colleagues in the Stop Climate Chaos coalition we held a mass lobby event in Dublin. Campaigners lobbied then Taoiseach (Brian Cowen), the Minister for the Environment (John Gormley) and 100-plus other TDs to get their commitment to strong climate legislation for Ireland.
Within months of this event, the Fianna Fail/Green government fell and the Climate Bill fell with it.
In 2011, East African countries including Kenya, were struck by a devastating drought leading Trócaire to launch to major campaign which made clear the connection between that humanitarian crisis and climate change.
The need for action from and within Ireland was also made clear. We pursued the new government to ensure that the Climate Bill remained on the agenda.
In 2012, hundreds of campaigners converged on Dáil Eireann blowing vuvuzelas to highlight that Ireland was going to climate talks in Durban without its own climate change legislation in place.
In a further stunt, campaigners highlighted the fact the Government were ‘still not getting it on climate change’, borrowing Homer Simpson’s famous ‘D’oh’ catchphrase to highlight our leaders’ ineptitude on this critical issue. Increasingly the media were paying attention to these actions, with the Homer Simpson stunt making the front page of The Irish Times.
Also in 2012, a group of Trócaire campaigners travelled to El Salvador to see first-hand the impact of climate change on communities there. The activists came home raring to go in the fight for a strong climate bill for Ireland.
Throughout 2013 we continued to campaign for the Bill – through media and email campaigns. As the ‘Climate and Low Carbon Development Bill’ progressed, slowly, through the Dáil, with our colleagues in Stop Climate Chaos, we drew attention to the fact that it lacked the most essential element – targets.
In March 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a damning report stating that we will all be more vulnerable to extreme weather, but that it is the poorest and most marginalised who will suffer most. Left unchecked, climate change has the potential to reverse many of the gains made in reducing poverty over the last decades.
Undeterred by our government’s laggard approach to climate legislation, we organised a petition hand over event with students from St Dominic's Secondary School in Ballyfermot. They submitted 7,313 signatures calling for a strong Climate Bill for Ireland to Taoiseach Enda Kenny outside the Dáil in May 2014.
The IPCC released a second report in November 2014 which was even more damning, showing that there is now certainty - more than ever before in the history of climate science - that human-made climate change is happening and could potentially destroy the vital ecosystems which make life on our planet possible if action is not taken.
Coinciding with the IPCC report, Trócaire launched its own landmark research report ‘Feeling the Heat: How Climate change is driving extreme weather in the developing world’ in November 2014.
The report, which was launched in Dublin by Alan Kelly, Minister for the Environment and Local Government, looked in detail at the effects of climate change in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Honduras and the Phillippines, which had experienced the horrific Typhoon Haiyan the year before – a climate change-caused weather event that killed 6,300 people.
The report reviewed over 150 publications on recent research, to provide an up-to-date overview of how climate change is likely to unfold in some of the most vulnerable countries in the world.
With the Climate Bill finally looking likely to be passed and the COP21 negotiations schedule for December, it was all hands on deck in 2015. Together with its partners, networks and volunteers, Trócaire mobilised large numbers of people in Ireland to take action on climate change.
Building on the momentum of the Feeling the Heat report, we organised another mass lobby event with our partners in the Stop Climate Chaos coalition in February 2015.
Campaigners joined us from Kerry, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Dublin and Leitrim to lobby their TDs on the climate bill, calling for the need for a 2050 target, a definition of low carbon, independence of the advisory council and the inclusion of climate justice (relating to those disproportionately affected by climate change in developing countries).
In the Dáil debate which followed the next day, many opposition TDs and government backbenchers mentioned the weaknesses in the bill their constituents had highlighted.
Also, in February 2015 we released our documentary Drop in the Ocean? which talks to some of Ireland’s leading environmental scientists, writers and activists to find out how climate change is affecting Ireland and where we fit in the global picture.
Then in June 2015, we held a major international climate justice conference in Maynooth. Among the speakers at the conference were former President Mary Robinson, 350.org founder Bill McKibben and Professor Jean Pascal van Ypersele, Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Mary Robinson's keynote speech:
We followed this with a ‘heads in the sand’ stunt on Sandymount Strand in Dublin in July 2015, where 150 brave supporters, young and old, gathered to send a message to the Government that they have their heads in the sand when it comes to climate change. As a result the Climate Bill was bumped up the Dáil agenda for debate.
Also in September, with our partners in the Stop Climate Chaos coalition and Happenings, we organised an exclusive screening of Naomi Klein’s film about climate change ‘This Changes Everything’ for 800 people in Merrion Square, Dublin.
In November Trócaire and its partners in the Stop Climate Chaos movement worked tirelessly to mobilise as many people as possible to demand a strong deal at COP21 - culminating in the hugely successful People's Climate March which was attended by some 5,000 people on Sunday, November 29 in Dublin, as well as well-attended events in Cork and Belfast.
And as part of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Trócaire presented a nearly 844,000-strong global petition to Environment Minister Alan Kelly calling for Ireland to play a strong role at the COP21.
Watch our People's Climate March video:
On Thursday 3 December 2015, Ireland’s Climate Bill (officially called the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill) was finally passed and became law.
While we don’t think the new Climate Law is perfect, the important thing is that Ireland will have a platform to begin to take action and start our journey to becoming a low carbon society.
We have been fighting for this, together with our supporters and partner organisations, for seven years. Since 2008, hundreds of thousands of emails have been sent to Taoisigh, Ministers, TDs and Senators imploring them to pass strong Irish legislation on climate change.
Also in December 2015, after years of failed or stalled negotiations, leaders and representatives from 196 countries met at the UN Summit (COP21) to develop the 'Paris Accord' - a global agreement on climate change.
The historic climate deal provides a road map for action on climate change as opposed to a definitive solution to protect people from its worst impacts.
The Accord states an ambition to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to end of the fossil fuel era by 2050.
However, while it’s important to have ambitious targets, what is even more important is the policy ambition to actually achieve them.
The deal contains significant weaknesses, such as the absence of human rights or placing people living in the world’s poorest regions at the heart of its proposed actions.
Much needs to be done at a local, national and global level to ensure that urgent action is taken to tackle worsening climate change, and to adapt to the effects already being felt in the world's most vulnerable regions.
In Spring 2016, we launched a campaign calling on the Irish Government to divest public money from the fossil fuels industry, specifically, the €72 million of the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) which is invested in some of the world’s most controversial companies.
On January 27th 2017, the private members 'Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill' introduced by independent TD Thomas Pringle received 90 - 53 votes to proceed to Committee Stage in the Dáil (the third of five stages a piece of legislation goes through to become law).
Trócaire’s Executive Director Éamonn Meehan said “The majority of TDs supporting divestment of public money from the fossil fuel industry is an incredibly important moment for the climate justice movement in Ireland. The political system is acknowledging what the overwhelming majority of people already know: that to halt climate change we must stop the growth of the industry that is driving the crisis.”
In June 2017 Trócaire staff spoke to the Finance Committee on how important it is that the Bill is passed to bring Ireland in line with its international climate commitments.
When the Bill goes to the Dáil later this year we will again be calling on our supporters to raise their voices and demand that Ireland becomes the first state to divest from fossil fuels.