Eco-Congregation Ireland welcomed the opportunity to make a submission to the Citizens’ Assembly consultation on ‘How the State Can Make Ireland a Leader in Tackling Climate Change’ which closed on Friday 11 August 2017.
Eco-Congregation Ireland submission is as follows:
Eco-Congregation Ireland is a voluntary group, which encourages churches of all denominations to take an eco approach to worship, lifestyle, property and finance management, community outreach and contact with the developing world. We are supported by the Roman Catholic Church, The Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church, The Methodist Church and the Society of Friends (Quakers). Our concern about climate change arises from our Christian conviction that human beings have a God-given responsibility to care for the earth on which we live. We believe we share this concern for the environment with those of all faiths and none, and that climate change is among the most urgent of all the issues faced by humanity on a global scale. There is no doubt that those who have done least to cause climate change – the poor – are those who will be, indeed already are being, hit hardest by its effects. We believe that everyone – individuals, community groups, corporations and the state itself has their part to play in helping to reduce carbon emissions. Many of the churches in Ireland have begun to take the threat of climate change seriously and to consider the issues, both theological and practical. Particular mention should be given to pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si. We offer these recommendations to the Citizens’ Assembly on the State’s role.
Targets and Goals
The government should set specific, measurable targets for the reduction of carbon emissions in various sectors. Vague promises and general aspirations are too easily evaded: we cannot expect other states to do the “heavy lifting” on our behalf. Community involvement The model of the Transition towns, started in Kinsale, offers a practical guide to involving local communities in taking carbon reduction initiatives in their local area. A competition, analogous to the successful Tidy Towns movement could be started, with a checklist of items that towns and villages could use as a template.
It is clear that transport is a vital sector for reducing carbon emissions and in particular reducing dependence on the private car. Good, reliable, regular public transport in both rural and urban areas is essential and should be subsidized where it is not commercially viable. Schemes to encourage bicycle use and car sharing should be much more prevalent. The move to electric vehicles should also be supported by the provision of many more charging points and perhaps by a subsidy or “scrappage” scheme to encourage people to change from petrol / diesel to electric vehicles. Electricity Generation It is clear that the State needs to move away from its reliance on imported fossil fuels to the further development of renewable energy sources. Offshore and onshore wind generation (while having regard to the issues raised by local residents), solar, biomass and small scale hydro electricity generation should be supported. In particular, encouragement should be given to households to install their own photovoltaic cells, and a guaranteed price set for “buying back” the excess electricity generated, into the National Grid. At the same time, it is crucial that energy saving schemes such as grants for home insulation are more readily available.
Farming and Food Production
We recognise that much of the farming community, particularly the beef and dairy sectors, is under pressure , and that the government wishes to increase the size of both of these areas to take advantage of demand overseas. However, it is hard to see how this can be achieved without greatly increasing the carbon emissions from agriculture. A strong argument can be made that Irish agriculture is among the most carbon efficient, due to its grass fed beef and dairy industry, However, for the sake of honesty and transparency, it must be recognised that there is increasing reliance on imported feed which is danger of making this claim rather threadbare. We would ask the state to consider support for diversification in Irish agriculture, reducing our dependence on imported food, by encouraging local organic food producers, ensuring that all local authorities provide space for farmers’ markets, including a stall where home producers can sell their excess produce. Diversification also includes reforestation, in particular with native Irish tree species, as a vital part of encouraging biodiversity in the Irish countryside. We offer the Citizens’ Assembly our good wishes and prayers in this most important undertaking.
For further information, see www.ecocongregationireland.com
Rev Andrew Orr
Chair and Church of Ireland representative
+353 (0) 87 419 6051
Catherine Brennan SSL
Roman Catholic representative
+353 (0) 87 259 9071
Rev John Corrie
+44 (0) 28 9209 1559
+44 (0) 28 9061 2311
Religious Society of Friends representative
+353 (0) 1 837 6464
+353 (0) 89 974 0744
Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI) is a project of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting. It has developed in conjunction with the Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches as well as the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Ireland. Since it was set up in 2005, ECI has presented awards to parishes and dioceses that have taken environmental steps in four areas – practical, spiritual, community and global