An Open Letter to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment

An initiative of the Justice Offices of the OLA Sisters and the SMA Fathers with the national endorsement of the congregational leaders of Irish Missionary and Religious Congregations, listed below.

Published as lead letter in the Irish times at the conclusion of COP24 – Katowice, Poland, Friday 14th December 2018

To view on-line Irish Times version, please click here.

Minister Richard Bruton TD,
Minister’s Office,
Department for Communications, Climate Action & Environment,
29-31 Adelaide Road,
Dublin,
D02 X285

Dear Minister Bruton,

You have said that we require a “revolution in how we live” in order to combat Climate Change; we welcome this acknowledgement and the recent steps you have taken. We hope that your resolve to take meaningful action will be strengthened as the COP 24 Climate conference comes to a close in Katowice, Poland.

We write to you from a faith perspective. Inspired by the leadership of Pope Francis expressed in his ecological encyclical Laudato Si’, which he addressed to all the peoples of the world, we believe that all are stewards of the earth with a duty of care. Many of our religious congregations are working in countries where climate change has already caused destruction through droughts, typhoons and rising seas. The situation will get worse if the average global temperature rises above 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels. At present we are hurtling towards 3 or 4 degrees warming. This will be catastrophic and Ireland, at present, is one of the worst contributors. Ireland emits the same amount of greenhouse gases as the 400 million poorest people on earth. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is fundamentally a moral issue.

Ireland is failing to meet its obligation to take action on climate change: according the Climate Change Performance Index, published on 10th December 2018, Ireland ranks worst in the EU, and without radical change we will fail to meet both our 2020 and 2030 targets. At the summit in Poland, renowned naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough called on leaders to take action: “The continuation of our civilisations, and the natural world upon which we depend, is in your hands.” We too believe that real political leadership is needed to get our country’s efforts back on track.

People will remember that over the past decade the Irish Government insisted on our obligation to repay irresponsible bank debts, no matter the level of austerity required. The responsibilities arising from Government commitments to safeguard and protect the earth, our common home, must be treated just as seriously. If we could do what was needed to protect the banking system, surely we can do what is needed to protect the environment and our eco-systems.

In signing the 2015 Paris Agreement, Ireland committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to specified levels by 2020 and 2030. Our target for 2020 is to achieve a 20% reduction of non-ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme) emissions. However, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions were actually 300 million tonnes over the limit in 2017. According to the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment itself, we will fall short of our targets unless we take decisive action: “It is clear that further policies and measures beyond those that are already in place will be necessary to address compliance with Ireland’s obligations”.

Irish people recognise the need for effective action on Climate Change, and we understand that the costs will be much higher if we delay. The Citizens’ Assembly expressed this concern, and laid out thirteen recommendations that would aid the State in achieving its targets. These recommendations stressed the need to place Climate Change considerations at the centre of policy-making, to address energy policy, transport policy, and agricultural and land use policy. We urge the Government to implement the recommendations immediately.

Paying for Climate Change is unavoidable: penalties and fines are inevitable. The cost to Ireland of missing our targets is estimated at €600 million per annum from 2021 to 2030, as stated by Mr. Joseph Curtin of UCC at an Oireachtas Committee Hearing on 16th May 2018. However, spending tax-money to pay fines instead of tackling the problem is totally unacceptable. We believe that, if necessary, green bonds, newly announced by the NTMA, should be used to borrow the funding required to implement the appropriate measures to meet our targets. This is infinitely preferable to the alternative of missing our agreed targets, facing the environmental consequences, and paying the penalties.

As you assume stewardship of your new Department, you have the opportunity to refocus the Government’s efforts; to constantly press Cabinet to put our common home front and centre of all Government policy; to make up for our short-falls; and to meet our national target to reduce our carbon emissions and achieve a carbon neutral economy by 2050. As the summit in Katowice come to a close, our work is only beginning. We sincerely wish you well Minister Bruton, and offer you our full support in the urgent work that needs to be done.

Yours sincerely,

Sr Kathleen McGarvey, Provincial Leader, Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles
Fr Michael McCabe, Provincial, Society of African Missions
Sr Tríona O’Driscoll, Leadership Team, Brigidine Sisters
Fr. Raymond Husband, Regional Director, Columban Missionaries
Fr Ruben Padilla, Community Superior, Comboni Missionaries
Sr Annette Byrne, Provincial, Congregation of Our Lady of the Cenacle
Fr Dan Baragry, Provincial, Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists)
Sr Kathleen Murphy, Regional Leader, Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood
Abbot Brendan Coffey, Glenstal Abbey (Order of St Benedict)
Fr Martin Kelly, Provincial, Holy Spirit Congregation (Spiritans)
Sr Ita Moynihan, Province Leader, Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto Sisters)
Sr Lena Deevey, Justice Coordinator, Little Sisters of the Assumption
Sr Kathleen Taylor, Mother Provincial, Little Sisters of the Poor
Br Nicholas Smith, Delegate for Ireland, Marist Brothers
Sr Vera Magee, Unit Leader, Marist Sisters
Sr Siobhán Corkery, Congregational Leader, Medical Missionaries of Mary
Fr Carl Tranter, Provincial Leader, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart
Fr Oliver Barry, Provincial, Oblates of Mary Immaculate
Fr Aidan McGrath, Minister Provincial, Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)
Sr Julie Watson, Congregational Leader, Presentation Sisters
Sr Mary Judge, Care of the Earth Committee, Religious Sisters of Charity
Sr Kathleen Taylor, Provincial, Salesian Sisters
Sr Rosaleen Cullen, Contact Person, Sisters of Charity of Nevers
Sr Ethna McDermott, Province Leader, Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd (Good Shepherd Sisters)
Sisters of Christian Instruction (Sisters of St Gildas)
Sr Stephanie Coughlan, Regional Superior, Sisters of Marie Reparatrice
Sr Joan Roddy, Regional Team Member, Sisters of Mary and Joseph
Sr Una Rutledge, Community Leader, Sisters of Notre Dame Des Missions
Sr Lucyna Wisniowska, Sister in Charge, Sisters of Saint Peter Claver
Sr Jospehine Harney, Sector Leadership Team, Sisters of the Holy Family de Rodat
Sr Kitty Ellard, Province Leader, Sisters of the Infant Jesus
Sr Margaret Dobbin, Sr Mary Simeon Pilkington, Sr Mary Brigid Finn, St Anne’s Convent, Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Fr Jeremiah Murphy, Provincial Rector, Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallottines)
Sr Elizabeth McGeown, Prioress, Star of the Sea Carmelite Monastery
Sr Bríd Ryan, Congregational Leader, St John of God Sisters
Fr Tom O’Connor, District Leader, St Patrick’s Missionary Society (Kiltegan Fathers)