Faith communities crucial to climate justice, Mary Robinson

Faith-based communities, which have been instrumental in global movements on poverty and debt relief, are a critically important part of tackling the problem of climate change. That is the view of former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, who was guest speaker at an ecumenical prayer service in Christ Church Cathedral on 11th December.
Over 300 people attended the service, which was organised by Eco Congregation Ireland, Christian Aid and Trocaire. Christians of all denominations joined together to pray for a fair and decisive outcome from the UN climate change negotiations that took place in Copenhagen from 7th to 18th December.
Stop Climate Chaos service Dec 09"Climate change is already causing suffering around the world due to the effects of weather changes and ‘rogue’ weather events on food and water availability, sea level rise, health, and the destruction of livelihoods and infrastructure," said Mrs Robinson.
"Climate change impacts significantly undermine the enjoyment of human rights, and these impacts will only increase. We must tackle the problem through a ‘climate justice’ approach that distributes the burdens of reducing emissions equitably, and prioritise the needs of those who are most vulnerable."
Mrs Robinson said that ‘climate justice’ was a really important concept "that can help us see our way forward as a world, as a community, as a family." The science was clear that the most vulnerable countries had done the least to contribute to greenhouse emissions. There needed to be "serious cutting back" by governments, but the poorest countries must be able to have low carbon development.
She spoke about a refugee camp in north Kenya where each family was going to be given three items – a solar cooking stove, the means to distil water efficiently and solar lighting. In this way, the refugees would be challenged to be part of the solution. Each person would also be given a small amount of money to plant some trees. "They will become agents of change," said Mrs Robinson. "They will be able to change their environment and they will be able to contribute."

She concluded with the Irish proverb, "I scaith a cheile a mhaireann na daoine" (People live in each other’s shadows). "It applies to our world from now on," she said. "We have to change from a ‘them and us’ … we need ‘them’ as much as they need ‘us’. It is a respectful move. We need a huge commitment to adaptation."

Mary Robinson & heads of aid agencies

Speaking before the service, Catherine Brennan SSL, chairperson of Eco Congregation Ireland (pictured far right with Margaret Boden of Christian Aid Ireland, Mary Robinson and Eamon Meehan of Trocaire), said "Our abundant and beautiful planet, God’s creation, is in peril today from climate change. This wounded earth, the peoples of the developing world and future generations are most at risk. We need to reflect on the need to live in more sustainable ways and for a renewed theology of creation. We earnestly pray, too, for wisdom, courage and compassion for our world leaders as they meet for the crucial summit in Copenhagen."

Margaret Boden, chief executive of Christian Aid Ireland, said "There are two key reasons why the crisis of global warming is first and foremost a justice issue. The first is that the people who are most vulnerable to its effects are those who have done the least to cause it. The second major reason is that it comes at a time when the world's richest nations have reached a peak of development. While it is well within the means of rich countries to maintain their current levels of economic activity while adapting to climate change, the picture is very different for poor countries. It is now time to establish a new social contract that leads down the path of poverty eradication and greater equality to sustainable development. That is why the talks at Copenhagen are important."

Eamonn Meehan, deputy director of Trocaire said "Rich nations cannot dodge our responsibilities if we are really serious about tackling climate change. While much of the focus on these UN climate change negotiations has been around reducing emissions targets, rich countries must recognise the damage we have already caused to developing countries that have been struggling to cope with the effects of climate change for almost a decade.

"Entire communities have been devastated by increasing drought and natural disasters and they need justice from Copenhagen. World leaders must commit to new financial support for developing countries to help them adapt and cope with this reality."

Mary Robinson & church leaders

The service was organised by Eco Congregation Ireland, Christian Aid and Trocaire on behalf of Stop Climate Chaos, a coalition of development, environmental and faith organisations campaigning to ensure Ireland plays its part in preventing further climate change.

Pictured above with Mary Robinson before the Ecumenical Prayer Service for the UN climate summit held in Christ Church Cathedral are (from left): Rev Donald Ker, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Alan Pim, Clerk of Ireland Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Rev Trevor Morrow, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Most Rev John Neill, Archbishop of Dublin, and Bishop John Kirby, chairman of Trocaire.