ECO Congragation: Lima – Quakers and Fracking (newsletter)

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“Climate is the prisoner of people” ~ Prof John Sweeney –
Responding to climate change ~ Fr Seán McDonagh –
The UN climate talks in Lima finally reached a conclusion in the early hours of yesterday morning with what can only be described as a weak outcome. The talks were hampered because of divisions between rich and poor countries over how to spread the burden of pledges to cut carbon emissions, with developing countries accusing rich nations of shirking their responsibilities to fight global warming and pay for its impacts. An agreement was reached, but many decisions were postponed, and the final agreement simply states that countries “may”, rather than “shall”, include quantifiable information showing how they intend to meet their emissions targets.

The fact that 194 nations assented to the document, however, means that there is still momentum for a deal at COP21 in Paris next December, but the reality is that a really tough road lies ahead to reach a meaningful and binding agreement. That means our prayers and our lobbying of politicians will be needed more than ever over the course of the next 12 months.

Leading Irish climate scientiest, Prof John Sweeney, who delivered a fascinating and thought-provoking talk at the event we co-hosted with Carrigaline Union of Parishes in Cork on 7th November, described next year’s talks in Paris as “crucial” in reaching a global agreement to avoid dangerous climate change. “There are approximately two decades left to achieve the large-scale decarbonisation necessary to avoid dangerous climate change,” he said, before going on to express the view that “For the first time in human history, climate is the prisoner of people.” To read more, click here.

We are grateful too to Columban eco-theologian, Fr Seán McDonagh SCC, for sending us reflections from Lima during the climate talks. You can see these in the news section of our website by clicking here.

In this newsletter:

  • Check out our new climate change resource!
  • Prof John Sweeney to speak at Eco-Congregation Ireland event in Letterkenny
  • Congratulations to Carrigaline Union!
  • South Belfast Quakers win Eco-Congregation award!
  • Quakers explore the environmental issues associated with fracking
  • Dates for your 2015 diary

Check out our new climate change resource!
Prof Sweeney launched our new climate change resource at our event in Carrigaline. As well as including a theological response to climate change and tips for cutting down carbon consumption, the resource includes quotes from Mary Robinson as well as environmentalists Gavin Harte and Éanna Ní Lamhna, BBC television presenter Rev Peter Owen-Jones, Alex Hill of the Met Office, Fr Seán McDonagh SCC, Monsignor Dermot Lane, President of the Mater Dei Institute, and Bishop David Atkinson, former Bishop of Thetford – all of whom have spoken at events we have organised over the past few years. The resource is available to download on our websitehere.

“The resource provides a valuable perspective on the nature and impacts of climate change in an Irish context,” said Prof Sweeney. “On a practical level it highlights the connection between local action and global consequences. It also demonstrates that the problem of climate change can only be tackled if ethical principles are coupled with scientific knowledge to inform and motivate policy makers.”

Prof John Sweeney to speak at Eco-Congregation Ireland event in Letterkenny
We are delighted that Prof Sweeney has kindly agreed to speak at our next event, which we will be co-hosting with the Raphoe Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Group in the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny on 13th February 2015 at 7.30pm. Prof Sweeney attended the recent talks in Lima and it will be interesting to hear his views of the talks.

Congratulations to Carrigaline Union!
We were hugely impressed to hear at our Cork event about the eco initiatives Carrigaline Union has undertaken in the past two years and our Chairman, the Ven Andrew Orr, was delighted to present members of the church with an ECI award. “We feel that this award is only the beginning,” said Carrigaline Rector, the Rev Elaine Murray. “We hope to continue to adjust our individual lives and the life of our congregation.” You can read more here.

It was also great to hear how Clonakilty Methodist Church is continuing on its eco journey since we presented them with a second award last year.

South Belfast Quakers win Eco-Congregation award!
We were delighted to present South Belfast Quaker Meeting with an award on 7th December in recognition of their environmental initiatives. Only days earlier they won a Green Initiative Award in Belfast City Council’s Brighter Belfast Awards! You can read here how they promote an environmental ethos both in the upkeep of their meeting house and in their everyday lives. “Receiving the award is a reminder to us to reflect on how all things are connected: the environmental, the social, the economic and the political,” said Tony Weekes, a member of the meeting’s eco group.

Quakers explore the environmental issues associated with fracking
Eco Quakers Ireland organised two information sessions on fracking recently – one in Belfast and one in Dublin. The over-riding concern expressed by the panel of speakers was that fracking could only be a short-term solution, serving merely to prolong Ireland’s emissions of CO2 and methane, and leaving damaged and contaminated farmland and lakes as a horrible legacy. “If the two governments agree to take this course of action, it will only deflect financial resources from the development of renewable sources of clean energy and delay Ireland’s progress towards a major reduction in carbon emissions,” said ECI Quaker rep, Gillian Armstrong, following the events. “To regard shale gas as a ‘transition fuel’ is to subscribe to an enormous ‘red-herring’ – of course we need energy, but not at any price!” To read Gillian’s report, click here.

Dates for your 2015 diary (click on each item for details):

Prof John Sweeney at Eco-Congregation Ireland event in Letterkenny ~ 13th February

‘Climate Change and the Well-Being of the Community’ ~ Dr Alastair McIntosh, Drumalis ~ 6th to 8th February

Eco-Network meeting, Belfast ~ 21st February

‘Ask the Beasts’ ~ Prof Sr Elizabeth Johnson, Maynooth ~ 12th March

‘Glimpses into the Mystery of the Unfolding Universe’ ~ Drumalis, 4th – 10th July

Eco tip ~ Have yourself a merry green Christmas! This time of year can be challenging for anyone seeking to tread lightly on the earth. However, there are ways to celebrate the festivities without creating mnountains of waste. Click here to see some of our tips for having yourself a merry, but eco-friendly, Christmas!

Eco prayer ~

Come Emmanuel, Jesus Christ,

Fan the flames of justice within our hearts and souls,

So that we might learn to pursue eco-friendly lifestyles

That allow everyone on earth – including all species –

To live together in harmony in a world where

Each and everyone enjoys food, shelter and love.


Wishing you all a holy and blessed Christmas season,


Fiona Murdoch, Communications Officer, Eco-Congregation Ireland

Rev Andrew Orr, Chairman and Church of Ireland representative

Catherine Brennan SSL, Roman Catholic representative 

Rev John Purdy, Methodist representative 

Joe Furphy, Presbyterian representative

Gillian Armstrong, Religious Society of Friends representative