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How meeting MEPs forced me to think clearly about what climate justice means

During Lima in Brussels, some participants reached out to and met with some of their MEPs in the European Parliament. Ciara Ryan-Gerhardt from Ireland reports…

Two things stopped me in my activist tracks at the European Parliament Building this week. I am here to learn about, campaign and build awareness for climate justice; today I was reminded what a complex and difficult to define topic, and more hopefully movement, it is. The first meeting was less serious: my friend Rob and I were about to pass through the security screening in the front lobby when he said quietly ‘I have an egg in my pocket.’ (At breakfast in our Hostel he’d taken one and forgotten to eat it.) I laughed and said I reckoned we’d be ok—the security check wasn’t as strict as airports. We moved on through and followed our Member of European Parliament (MEP’s) assistant whom we were going to speak to.

The second meeting with another MEP made me stop for a more serious reason.

As activists we are fighting for a cause with our words; we have to be clear and precise. I sometimes feel that as an activist I put on my ‘Activist Hat’ (or in the words of a podcast interview commentary on Jeffrey Sachs, my ‘Advocacy Hat’). I get idealistic, big and global on a highly complex, politicised issue…and, I hate to say it, but a little naïve. But here’s the thing (and this is where it gets very interesting and why some would say ‘idealistic’): no increase is safe.

The United Nations (IPCC) says a 2°C increase is safe, climate scientists say 1.5°C is safe, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and other environmental organisations and groups say no increase is safe. And current knowledge says that if business as usual continues we’re faced with a 5-6°C increase by the end of this century. Climate science is interwoven with a lot of uncertainty, But in the words of an atmospheric physicist in Thin Ice: I don’t worry that we are going to all get killed by this ‘thing’ [he refers to our adaptable and resilient nature]. I do worry [though] that our children are not going to thank us for giving them the headache we’re going to be giving them if we carry on the path were following… Because if we don’t get out of this, they will have to. He says that each decade we postpone action to combat climate change and global warming,is another billion of tons or so of CO2 released in to the atmosphere.He says that that is the sort of climate where we really can’t predict where the warming will stop.

So what is climate justice? I’m still not sure I have an answer to that question but for me it’s got something do with the following: the global North is historically responsible for our climate crisis so it’s really up to us to lead. We have the finances, we have the technology, and we definitely need it: whether people are aware or not it is a human rights issue too and affects marginalised groups and sectors of society. That means working directly on local, practical and community-invested ownership of resources and energy, and local and sustainable jobs. It also means at an EU and local level, binding targets that are more ambitious than our current one that meant once we’d reached it (on overall EU level), there’s no more action until post 2020 (Yes, that’s right!). Given that once a Climate Bill is passed it has already been through the Parliament, Commission and corporate/industry-lobby hands, and is watered down each time, this is particularly important. Accountability (for example ensuring the advisory body is independent in their duties) Intergenerational equity is important, this is an issue that will affect our generation and many more into the future – that is actually where the whole issue gets quite scary, because as of today it is very difficult to say what this looks like.

It was hard learning but thanks to my MEP for pointing out the loopholes in my argument and my attempting to get clear.

Resources: I highly recommend watching the film ‘Thin Ice,’ which gives an overview of climate science by the researchers that are at the forefront of this interdisciplinary science. Physicists, biologists and chemists combine to make this film interesting and informative. You’ll find it here: http://thiniceclimate.org/watch-the-film

Network Gathering 2014 County Carlow :)

An account of the 2014 Network Gathering from one participant, Ciara Ryan Gerhardt 

I am very grateful to Young Friends of the Earth(YFoE) and Friends of the Earth for their involvement too, for giving us the weekend oasis in such beautiful nature in Ireland that was the YFoE Network Gathering.

Even for the one day that I could join, I really wanted to and appreciated the networking opportunities that the YFoE Gathering offered. Simply being a part of the action and skill-sharing, meeting other people who are doing great work in other parts of Ireland that I do not know so well. It offered this chance to meet people that we may not otherwise in our daily work, whether we work in the environmental field or volunteer our time to different causes. This really strengthened the weekend I thought: there were people doing all kinds of different work from policy to practical, to advocacy and activism, to community development and art-work, to being a student in an environmental discipline. It meant that we learned even more and had a more holistic approach to what’s currently going on in Ireland, what are the issues and what can we possibly do about it.

Despite varied levels of understanding of the issues we face in Ireland today, there was a sense that we were equal and our input valued. People shared their knowledge and skills openly. There was a scope to what we discussed which cannot be found in all environmental work which is generally more focused on one particular issue, and so I enjoyed this.


There were speakers, however as I had arrived late due to another workshop the same day that I had to attendthat spoke on topics ranging from the Brehon laws in Ireland to how we live now, to fracking and forestry. Our host, Mary White, a former Green Party politician, also gave a foraging tour of the local area). The YFoE hosts gave us a sense of ‘the bigger picture’ – in Europe and beyond – and where we might fit into that, and also what’s happening in Brussels this December. We had a brief history session on climate change and what had led to the creation of the ongoing Conference of the Parties (COP) and learned that protestors, climate justice activists and environmentalists like ourselves would be joining in Brussels for one week, to stand in solidarity, to show that we are informed and will not stand back and let “important people” not bother to make important climate decisions that need to be made. Now.

We want to show that this is important to us, to the planet and to the future. By not doing anything and not coming up with workable targets for emission reductions for example, the problem becomes more difficult for future generations to deal with. We need climate justice, and it is an issue that requires international co-operation, agreement and clear action. It involves and affects everybody, and that, to me, is precisely why I want to go to Brussels: I am aware that it affects everybody and the planet, and unfortunately not everybody can have their voice heard as I can – and so also I feel a duty to go on behalf of those who cannot speak. To me climate justice is very interlinked with social justice.


YFoE had four funded places to give so that we also could come and learn about direct activism tactics, media interviews and get to know many other people and aspects of the current climate justice movement in Brussels. It seemed like the ultimate opportunity to show we care about what will be decided in Lima! I am not sure how many of us applied, but certainly many of us seemed to perk up our ears at this opportunity. To be part of something bigger than ourselves and learn from other countries and people is something that I would love to do! Who wouldn’t – the application is called “Climate Champions”! Who wants to be a Climate Champion anybody?

(P.S. The application deadline has just passed, so you shall have to wait till next year for next year’s application.)

Thanks again to everyone who made it happen and was part of the wonderful weekend that was the YFoE Network Gathering!


Climate Champions Competition 2014 Now Open!

Do you….

  • Want to join a movement of young activists in Europe?
  • Want to be creatively involved in the global movement for Climate Justice?
  • Make sure Ireland does its fair share to Stop Climate Chaos?


If so….

Young Friends of the Earth have an exciting opportunity to bring a group of young people to Brussels to join activists demanding fair action on climate change.  This week of action will take place as our leaders meet to decide on the future of our world at the UN Climate talks in December.

To be a part of the movement contact us for more information before the 10th October at:


01 6394652

Facebook YoungFriendsoftheEarthIreland

Twitter @YoungFOEIrl


We look forward to hearing from you!

Young Friends of the Earth Summer Camp in Bulgaria!

As the new intern with Friends of the Earth, I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend the Young Friends of the Earth Summer Camp in Bulgaria right at the beginning of my internship. Alongside another Irish participant, I travelled to Sofia where we met representatives from Young FoE groups across Europe including Finland, Norway, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Lithuania. After a 3 hour bus journey, we arrived at our camp-site in the beautiful Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria!

We eagerly set up our tents and were shown around the camp-site which included compost toilets and solar showers, before having a delicious vegetarian dinner cooked by the two Bulgarian chefs who looked after us for the whole camp.

The focus of the camp was Food and Agriculture so there were plenty of opportunities to learn new vegan and vegetarian recipes, learn about the medical properties of local plants and hear from experienced guest speakers on topics such as producing compost and creating an urban garden. There were also opportunities to hear about the wide range of current campaigns across the Young FoE groups. I found the “Protect the turtles” campaign in Cyprus and the “Green Canteen” campaign in Finland particularly interesting. There was of course time to share food and drink from our own countries and learn about each other’s cultures and local food traditions which was very entertaining!

The camp was also an excellent opportunity for the participants to develop practical skills through “Capacity Booster” workshops which focused on helping us develop creative campaigns, learn facilitation skills and how to communicate with the media. There were many ways to get involved in the running of the camp such as by writing a blog of the daily events for the YFoE Europe website, facilitating morning meetings and being a “Listening Ear” who were a group of participants who were available to address any issues relating to gender equality and multiculturalism to ensure that everyone felt comfortable and happy to participate in the activities at the camp.

Of course as well as great learning opportunities we had plenty of time to socialize and develop other skills including canoeing, mountain biking, yoga, swimming in the lake and I even had a go at the high ropes garden which included zip lining over Lake Beglika!

All in all I found the camp to be a great place to share experiences and ideas for environmental justice campaigns and to meet interesting, like-minded people from across Europe. I would definitely recommend the summer camp for anyone looking for inspiration and to make new friends, look out for it next year in France!

Shale gas exploration begins in Fermanagh

Sian Cowman writes a short account of the activities surrounding current shale gas exploration in Fermanagh, and the strong local resistance.

Since Australian company Tamboran moved their equipment onto a piece of land outside the village of Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh, there has been staunch local opposition. Tamboran are planning to take rock samples to test the viability of shale gas in the area. They have said there will be no fracking as part of this test phase – but this is the first step towards fracking. Furthermore, this is an all-island issue: water knows no borders, and the Irish Petroleum Affairs Division has said they will accept the results of these tests as part of Tamboran’s work programme under its Irish options licence. The test site is only a few kilometres from the border.

Locals had no notice of Tamboran’s plans. They simply moved onsite at 5am on the 21st of July, and later that day dropped some leaflets into locals’ postboxes. The land belongs to local quarry Acheson and Glover, who has been the target of criticism for leasing land to frackers. Locals immediately set up a 24-hour vigil outside the huge metal gates, which are surrounded by razor wire and watched over by security guards with dogs. Protectors have hung signs and flowers on the gates, organised rallies, public meetings, and a place for people to camp. Furthermore Fermanagh county council is unanimously opposed to the test well – this is an issue that crosses party lines.

There are frequent public meetings, a tractor run on Sunday 3rd, and an action camp next week. Keep in touch with Belcoo Frack Free on facebook for more information! If you can’t head up to join the Belcoo Community Protector’s Camp, join this e-action!