Trócaire and Goal 13: Climate Action.

This month’s blog comes from Emmet Sheerin from Trocaire – 05/05/2017

Climate change is one of (if not the most) critical issues of our time. Therefore the inclusion of Climate Action as Sustainable Development Goal 13 is very significant in the pursuit of a safer and more just world. The impacts of climate change are felt in every country including Ireland. However, it is the most vulnerable communities, in the poorest countries that are worst affected. From storms and flooding in Central America to drought and hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa, climate change is destroying the lives and livelihoods of those who have done least to cause the problem. The bottom line is that we can no longer continue to tackle extreme poverty without addressing climate change.

SD Goal 13 compels us to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. A crucial part of this task is the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement, which sets out to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (ideally 1.5 degrees). This universal agreement requires countries across the world to enact stronger policies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, while such ambition is very welcome, many governments and decision-makers are still failing to grasp the urgency of the need to reduce climate pollution.

The burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) is a major driver of climate change. In fact over 60 percent of global carbon emissions come from our use of fossil fuels, yet there is no reference made to fossil fuels in the Paris Climate Agreement. This is despite the reality that if the world is to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change, at least 80 percent of known remaining fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground. The business plans of the fossil fuel industry are very clear though – they intend to use all their existing reserves and will continue to explore for more.

It is against this backdrop that the growing fossil fuel divestment movement has taken hold. Fossil fuel divestment means the removal of financial investments from the fossil fuel industry. Divesting sends a clear message that fossil fuels have no future, and that investment in the industry is unethical. While divestment alone will not solve the climate crisis, it removes the legitimacy of the fossil fuel industry, and can help motivate further concrete political action. The movement not only calls for divestment from fossil fuels, but also for investment in clean renewable energy technology, which is essential in the fight against climate change. To date 688 institutions from around the world have committed to divest their investments worth over $5 trillion, from the fossil fuels industry.

In April 2016 Trócaire joined this movement by launching a campaign calling on the Irish Government to divest public money from fossil fuels, and to prohibit future such investment in the industry. The Irish Government via the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) has approximately €133 million invested in the fossil fuel industry. Since its launch, Trócaire volunteers and supporters have been at the forefront of our campaign – engaging with elected representatives, and raising awareness in universities, parishes and communities across the country. Over 11,000 people signed our petition calling on the Irish Government to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

In January 2017 a major milestone in our campaign was reached. A majority of politicians in the Dáil voted in favour of proposed legislation (The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill 2016) that would divest the ISIF from the fossil fuel industry. Although this is a huge step forward, the campaign has not yet been won. The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill will now move to the next stage of the legislative process, when once again public pressure will be needed to ensure it receives the necessary political support.

If you would like to get involved in Trócaire’s fossil fuel divestment campaign or hear about other opportunities for climate justice and human rights activism, then let us know here: or email emmet.sheerin (AT) trocaire (DOT) org