Report of FABC, 1st Climate Change Regional Seminar – South Asia, Mumbai, India, Mar. 3 & 4, 2015

groupThe Church in Asia is becoming increasingly aware and concerned regarding the ecological problem and its ethical implications. Local churches are collaborating with civil society to care for the integrity of creation. The local concerns of polluting the atmosphere, indiscriminate mining or use of pesticides, dumping of e-wastes now extends to the macro issue of global warming and climate change as well as the need for intergenerational justice. Though the impact of Climate Change (CC) has been felt in various countries in Asia the awareness seminars organized by Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC) in October 2011 and October 2013 in Bangkok served as an enlightenment and incentive to set up a Climate Change Desk and a Climate Change Committee to focus and follow up this crucial issue at the Asian level. One of the recommendations of the second FABC Climate Change seminar was to organize regional seminars throughout the FABC territory to create a greater awareness especially of the scientific findings related to Climate Change and the urgency for a Church response.

IMG_4580“The purpose of these regional seminars that will all take place in 2015 across Asia is to create a broader awareness as a lead up to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) in Paris in December 2015 where it is hoped that a global binding agreement can be reached to reduce green house gasses in order to keep global warming from increasing in excess of 2 degrees Celsius,” stated Fr Raymond O’Toole Secretary General FABC, in his welcome address.

In this context the FABC and the Climate Change Desk (FABC) hosted the first two day regional seminar on 3rd and 4th March 2015 titled ‘From Lima to Paris” – Church’s Response at the Janssen Hall in Holy Spirit Hospital in Mahakali, Andheri (E) Mumbai. Fr Raymond O’Toole, Secretary General, FABC presented a welcome address spelling out the purpose and unfolding the programme of the two day seminar. Fr Raymond invited Archbishop Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai to make the Inaugural Address and set the tone for the two-day reflection.

Delegates to this seminar included Archbishops, Bishops and other clergy invited individuals and experts from across Asia from countries representing Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, totaling approximately 40 participants. The seminar topics included –

Day 1

  1. IPCC (Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change) Report on the Physical Science Basis of the Climate System and Climate Change by Walter Mendoza from Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC).


Mendoza gave us an overview of the Climate Change issue balancing his presentation by moving from the very basics to very loaded scientific graphic data. He traced the origins of climate change concerns to as far back as 1962 by making a reference to Rachel Carson’s book titled Silent Springs. (FYI- This book documents the detrimental effects on the environment—particularly on birds—of the indiscriminate use of pesticides, which then brought environmental concerns to the American public. While Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it then spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, leading to a nationwide ban on DDT for agricultural uses, and inspired an environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). He shared briefly about the IPCC reports at various intervals on the state of knowledge on climate change. He disclosed information about groups formed with the IPCC like Working Group I (WGI) that assesses the physical scientific aspects of CC, details of recent changes: temperatures, rainfall, glaciers and ice sheets, greenhouse gases and aerosols; extent to which they affect climate etc and Working Group II (WGII) that assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change outlines options for adaptation and the assorted reports like Special Reports, Methodology Reports, Technical Papers, Supporting Material which are additionally brought out by IPCC.

Through various pictorial and graphic presentations he revealed the grave state of affairs related to CC impacted by the Green House Gases (GHGs) leading to rising temperatures, melting glaciers, rise in sea level, extreme weather including droughts, heavy precipitation, heat waves and the intensity of tropical cyclones, country wise carbon emissions and the impact of all these on forests, mountains, coastal regions, agricultural drop in production, health etc over a long term period.

He ascertained the role of politics both local and global in focusing on the key issue of climate change namely 2 degree Celsius and 350 parts per million (ppm) and issues of equity of resources among the developed and developing countries. His presentation thus set the foundation for further exploring and comprehending the CC debates to follow.

  1. A Panel Discussion presenting Position Papers on Climate Change from countries including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal and the response of the Church in those respective countries was next on the agenda and chaired by Bishop Ivon Ambroise.

IMG_4611The panelists included Bishop Vianney Fernando from Sri Lanka, Archbishop Couts from Pakistan, Bishop Gervas Rosario from Bangladesh and Fr Pius Perumana from Nepal. Each made a brief presentation of the country’s physical characteristics and how they have been eroded or affected by climate change, the adaptation/mitigation process and finally the role of the church in mitigation if any.

  1. Sri Lanka – Bp Vianney Fernando

Sri Lanka is an island blessed with 65,610 sq kilometers of scenic beauty, temperate climate and a biodiversity hotspot. Once endowed with 105 amphibian species 85% of which are endemic, 34% endangered species and 22%already extinct. Climate Change (CC) has impacted not just the earth’s surface but also its rich off shore diversity including the coral reefs over the past decade. Agriculture, fisheries, tourism and related industries have all been impacted by climate change including 70% of the population dependent on agriculture for livelihoods.

Landslides, floods, continuous heavy rains, rising ocean temperatures and changing weather patterns have resulted in loss of lives, livelihoods, housing and infrastructure and destroyed mangroves endangered tourism industry, shrimp farming industry and deeply affected the health care system. Increase in mosquito breeding has lead to the dreaded dengue fever coupled with rodent disease, food and water borne diseases, kidney disease and renal failure due to high incidence of pesticide use vigorously promoted by transnational companies.

In the face of the Climate Change issues the state has set up the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS)

The church identifies the need to minimize the factors and causes of climate change, eliminating corruption of politicians in the face of the environmental damages due to mega development projects, raising awareness on these issues through Climate Change Education from the school level to build an environment conscious nation and a prosperous Sri Lanka.

  1. Pakistan- Arch Bp. Couts

Pakistan is vulnerable to Climate Change. A large country 2000 kms in length with ice peaks and temperate forests to the North, fertile plains in the mid region, to the East is dessert region bordering Rajasthan and to the West semi arid region and sea shores namely a 990km coastline to the south Pakistan with its geographical diversity enjoys 11 climatic zones. With this condition comes a heightened vulnerability towards natural hazards exacerbated by low levels of development and weak systems of governance.

Global warming leads to flooding as the rivers are not deep so they easily change their course leaving the water stagnant in fields. 50% of the population engages in agriculture ensuring national food security and contributing to 21% of the GDP. However recent data reveals a 30% decline in major crop yields resulting in increased desertification of land, loss of soil fertility due to water logging, salinity and floods. Growing precipitation levels and prevalence of pests due to warmer climates contributes to crop decline. During the last big flood in 2010 many people from Sind came to the city of Karachi and did not want to go back. Dams built on the river further aggravate the situation. Pakistan is a big producer of wheat so rain at this time of the year will affect the wheat production drastically.

Politics and violence across the borders makes issues of CC even deeper. The following key factors to Pakistan’s vulnerability to CC may be identified as –Ecological fragility, agriculture dependent, water scarcity and poor health profile.

Pakistan was one of the first signatories for the United Nation’s Framework on Climate Change ratifying it in 1994 and also a signatory for the Kyoto Protocol and Montreal Protocol and so at the policy level a National Conservation Strategy (NCS) a National Environmental Policy Action Plan (NEAP) and an Environment Protection Act have been formulated to safeguard the ecological interests of the country. The Government of Pakistan reports a low technical capacity to meaningfully engage in its CC obligations.

Apart from the national policy tools noted above, specialized agencies already exist with mandates to undertake CC research and modeling studies, develop innovative technology for renewable energy, study atmospheric data and provide requisite policy structure. Regional and International forums are also in place to undertake joint ventures and build global partnerships for greater action.

The Church is not involved in a big way in CC except for training programs in disaster risk management and getting involved in restoration of mangroves and forest cover versus the existing timber mafia. There is a need to grow a lot in awareness of CC.

  1. Bangladesh – Bp. Gervas Rosario


Introduction to Bangladesh – Three conditions are critical understand the impacts of climate change in Bangladesh namely –location, population and economy.

Location- It hosts the world’s largest delta a network of 230 rivers and coastline of 710 km with conical shape of the Bay of Bengal where the sea is funnel shape, making its susceptible to sea surge cyclones.

Population -The country is one of the most densely populated in the world with a total population of is 163,654,860. Population density per square km is 1,203.

Economy -In Bangladesh 43% of the population live below poverty line. Underweight children are 41% and human development rank is 142, thus making them vulnerable.

  1. Climate Change Scenario in Bangladesh

Increased temperature

Global Circulation Model (GCM) predicts an average temperature increase of 1.0ºC by 2030, 1.4ºC by 2050 and 2.4ºC by 2100. The results also revealed somewhat more warming during the winter months than during the summer.

Changed precipitation pattern and frequency

Providing Regional Environment Climates for Impact Studies (PRECIS) predicts that rainfall will increase about 4, 2.3 and 6.7 percent in 2030, 2050 and 2070 respectively in reference to the observed baseline period 1961-1990 (BUET, 2008).

Rise of sea level

It is predicted that for 45 cm rise of sea level may inundate 10-15% of the land by the year 2050 resulting over 35 million climate refugees from the coastal districts. The OECD and World Bank also estimated that 40% of the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to Bangladesh may be climate sensitive or at risk.

Changes in Flood Frequency

Similarly, floods, which inundates 60% area that supposedly occurs once in 50 years, however, in last 30 years such floods have occurred twice and in last 10 years has occurred once. So, it is quite evident that frequency and intensity of flood has increased significantly in last 30 years.

Changes in Cyclone and Storm Surges

Over the last 50 years, 15 severe cyclones with wind speed ranging from 140 to 225 km/hour have hit the coastal area of Bangladesh of which 7 hit in pre-monsoon and rest in the post-monsoon season.

Changes in Drought

During the last 50 years, Bangladesh suffered about 20 drought conditions. The drought condition in northwestern Bangladesh in recent decades had led to a shortfall of rice production of 3.5 million tons in the 1990s.

Impacts on Crop Agriculture

In Bangladesh 20% of the GDP comes from agriculture, while half of the nations labor force depends on this sector. Its crop is influenced by seasonal characteristics and different variables of climate such as temperature, rainfall, humidity, day-length etc. It is also often constrained by different disasters such as floods, droughts, soil and water salinity, cyclone and storm surges leading to reduction in crop yields and crop production.

Impacts on Livestock

The extreme temperature and climate change related natural disasters would affect livestock significantly leading to decreases in feed intake, altering nutrient metabolism leading to high loss of energy and the combined effects of discomfort and nutrient metabolism reduces their productivity, resulting in financial loss for the farmers. Deaths of livestock due to cyclone and storm surge are huge in the coastal area. It is also anticipated that livestock will face fodder crisis in the coastal and heat related stress in the north-west region of the country.

Impacts on Forestry

The supper cyclone SIDR 2007 destructed one-quarter of the Sunder bans and almost 100% afforested trees along its path. It means, 10-15 years of investments of individuals on homestead forestry as well as forestation have been simply diminished within a matter of a few hours. Salinity intrusion has also adverse effects on freshwater, forest, and ecosystem causing loss of biodiversity, mortality of flood susceptible trees and plants and destroying both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Impacts on Water Supply and Sanitation

Increase in summer temperature will increase water demand in the urban area for drinking and bathing as well as industrial water demand for cooling system. Shortage of safe drinking water is likely to become more pronounced, especially in the coastal belt and drought prone areas in the north-west of the country.

Impacts on Health

Cyclone, sea level rise and salinity intrusion cause outbreaks of diarrhoea, cholera and other water borne diseases, use of saline water causes hypertension, increase blood pressure, corrosive effects due to salt in air, scabies and other skin diseases. Drought, erratic rainfall and temperature variation increases vector borne diseases, heat stroke, malnutrition, fever etc. Cold wave creates respiratory problem, especially in children and the old.

Impacts on Education

There is a total disruption of education during flood / cyclones in the affected areas that hamper the continuation of education, and increases the rate of dropout. Children of the drought affected areas engage in income generating activities and suffer from malnutrition.

  1. Existing adaptation/coping interventions


Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) and Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA) have undertaken research strategies on development of risk tolerant variety (drought and salt tolerant & short duration pulses and oil seed crop varieties, including drought tolerant wheat). BARI is strengthening their research strategy to adopt rice cultivation with changing climatic situation. Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) develops new rice varieties on salt and drought tolerance and the research is ongoing. Farmers use ash in the field to keep the soil warm during winter. Farmers are adopting some innovative practices (viz. zero tillage, priming of seeds during sowing, mulching, relay cropping, dry seeding, rain water harvest, floating bed vegetable cultivation, sorjan raised pit system, etc.) The farmers undertake documentation, motivation, training and dissemination of new adoptive technologies. Development of linkage with GO/NGOs and private sectors.


Raising pond embankment, pond fencing by net, fish in pond harvested before drought and in commercial farming water is supplied, awareness and precaution, enhancement of fish production through rehabilitation of fish production and establishment of fish sanctuary increased aquaculture production and species, aquatic vegetation shelter in ponds, agitation of surface water, re-digging deeply, preparing water reservoir, digging canals and re-digging, changing species, introduction of salinity tolerant species.


Plantation in highlands, dyke plantation, introduction of drought resistant species, planting deep rooted species in cyclone prone areas, development of small scale coastal embankment, forestation along the coastal belt, germination programs.


Emergency response and post flood rehabilitation program, transfer of small ruminant and poultry from flood and cyclone affected areas to high land, shed for poultry/shed management during drought, emergency recovery, restoration & response with long term restoration, cold water spraying on the shed during high temperature, use of preventive medicine for disease prevention and curative measures, advance food preservation, preparing raised land, salinity tolerant grass cultivation

Water and Sanitation

Construction of cyclone shelter, coastal embankment, and coastal polder, development of drainage system, riverbank protection, construction of submergible embankment, river dredging, deep tube-well water supply for irrigation and rainwater harvesting for supplementary irrigation, abandonment and shifting to higher lands


Indigenous knowledge like using alum to prevent diseases under changing situation, adjust cooking and consumption pattern through remaining half-fed or sometimes unfed, provide special health services through special medical team, hygiene promotion, use of water purification tablet for providing safe water and sanitation facilities, emergency preparedness program, special diseases control program, maternal and child base program, promote use of rainwater, tube well water and pond water, nutrition program etc


During summer and during rapid onset disaster the educational institutions declare a vacation, flexible school calendar, use of a boat to go to educational institutions, shelter home cum school building built for displaced people during disaster.

Probable future intervention (coping strategy)

Reduction of exposure, reduction of sensitivity, improvement of adaptive capacity of community, institutional capacity building.

  1. Church’s Intervention

In 2012 Catholic Church in Bangladesh observed the year of environment and ecology when the Catholic Church made all efforts to conscientize all her people to be sensitive to the adverse climate changes due to the damages made to the natural environment, viz. deforestation, excessive mining, wasteful use of surface water, industrial exhausts, pollution of the nature, etc. Finally moving towards our responsibility to restitute and remand the problem by planting more trees


  1. Nepal – Fr Pius Perumana

In South Asia Nepal’s Bp’s Conference the CC and Agricultural Adaptation promoted by Caritas agencies in South Asia have come together to work on CC issues.

CC due to global warming has added many challenges. Nepal’s elevation starts from 50 mtrs and rises up to 8500mtrs.

The area covers 144000 sq kms that spread over high mountains mid hills terrain (agricultural belt engaging 70% of the population). It suffers from periodic earthquakes.

There is no constitution and no government of a proper form. Nepal has a total population of 28 million of which 7000 are Catholics

CC led to loss of life, property and low GDP. Hunger and malnourishment is made worse by CC and evident mostly in small farmer households.

CC leads to extreme climate events, local climate variation and pests and disease increase

CC concerns – increasing frequency of water borne disease – relief

Nepal is one of the countries with the highest per capita for water after Brazil but this is now decreasing.

These presentations were followed by a summary by the chair and a brief Q&A session.

  • ‘Major Issues related to Climate Change moving from Lima to Paris’ by Nafisa Goga D’souza of INECC

IMG_4641 Mrs. Nafisa D’Souza used a power point presentation to outline for us some of the issues of contention on the Climate Change negotiation process taken forward from Lima to Paris for example the differing North South perspectives on the historical versus future emissions or the country versus global interests or the changing country alliance scenarios. She pointed out that instead of moving forward the negotiation process has lagged behind and literally moved backwards.

She quickly ran us through the commitments made by the member countries at the various negotiation tables after signing the agreements at Kyoto with the First Commitment Period: 2008-2012 and Second Commitment Period 2013-2020, the Copenhagen agreement in 2009 and the actual outcomes which fell far below the agreed commitments and in some cases even exceeded the previous limits thus violating the targets set to be achieved.

Referring to the Lima meeting in 2014 she pointed out that it was merely two weeks of fruitless negotiations among countries on how to steer clear of irreversible damage from climate change, the parties lacked a sense of urgency and refused to step out of their comfort zones…At the same time “in communities across the globe momentum for change is growing.

Finally coming to the Paris negotiations slated for Dec 2015 she stressed the need to create a new International Climate Agreement by Paris- CoP 21. In order to adopt a new Protocol, a legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force for action post 2020 will be necessary, she reiterated. Some of the pressing concerns for Paris according to her presentation included issues of equity, more space for southern community voices and funds to be made available for adaptation and for low carbon transition.

  1. Church Response – Most Rev. Theotonius Gomes, CSC, Aux. Bp Emeritus of Dhaka

Questions and Answers IMG_4647

 Rev. Theotonius Gomes shared about the Church Response to Climate Change and his personal journey in participating in several CoP meetings at Poznan (2008), Copenhagen (2009) including one also at UN Headquarters in New York (2011) and at Rio+20 (2012), at Warsaw (2013) and at Lima (2014) In his own words he states, “I have noted a development in the understanding of the issue from its merely material adversities on the earth (such as pollution from Carbon Dioxide, rise of temperature and of sea level, excessive pollutions from residues of heavy industrial activities etc.) to its more ethical-moral and spiritual challenges for the earth and mankind, as an issue of the evangelical “option for the poor”, of Justice and Peace, to bring about a Gospel-like Civilization for the Planet Earth”.

“At Poznan I could note the interest of the State such as the EU delegation to converse sincerely with the Church on their difficult role in these matters; at Copenhagen I could very clearly note the perplexity of the States at their inability to take decisions they understood they must take, and yet the common peoples from the many countries manifested confidence of their effective participation for solutions at their private sectors; at Rio+20 the presence of large groups of indigenous peoples demonstrated the authentic elements of mankind’s development inherent in primal cultures of enormous numbers of common peoples on earth founded on God’s common “technology and industry” in creation over and above those founded on purely human technology and industry of artifacts in our times; this indicated to the prominence of agriculture and of the “daily bread” (food) and the demo-metric active participation of peoples in those sectors in the face of the over-emphasis for luxury goods and consequent wastage of food and other goods in the participation of merely an elite group in our modern technological culture; there was also the happy presence of the Church represented by the UNO Vatican delegation and from the local Church; at Warsaw there was a definite participation of faith-groups, thus of world religions, emphasizing a spiritual approach to the problem through fasting and prayer; at Lima there was a very definite and active presence of the Catholic Church, including the interest of the States towards reflections from the Church. A main point for the COP meeting at Paris in 2015 will be what religious and spiritual values world religions, the Christian Churches and specifically the Catholic Church can offer into the discussions and pending solution on Climate Change.

He also briefly highlighted about the historical perspective of Climate Change, the ethical and spiritual concerns in Climate Change issue, the Spiritual Destination of all Created Goods as “Food”, development role of the “developing nations” and   FABC’s role in CC. His final suggestion for FABC was the Church can play a very important and active role on the Climate Change issues as an Option for the Creational Order on the earth, which is still prevalent on the Asian scene: a simple culture based on land, water, vegetation and agriculture; a simple religiosity leading to harmony and communion with all and everything, and which happens under God’s grace through the life of its people living the Gospel “poverty”.

  1. Grassroots Experiences of Green Audit – Dr Priyadarshini Karve Director of Samuchit Enviro Tech Pvt Ltd, Pune and Deepika Singh of Institute for Community Organization Research (ICOR) Mumbai

IMG_4657 Dr Priyadarshini Karve, Director of Samuchit Envirotech exposed very scientifically how our urban unsustainable lifestyles are increasingly impacting our carbon footprints. She stated that we are in an unsustainability trap where we are consuming resources faster than we can generate them. Today the conventional development process requires 1.3 times the resources of the earth which means we will need more planets to feed us with resources if we continue to consume the finite resources of this planet. While on one hand we have persons with high consumption on the other we have high population density and the unsustainable ecological footprint and the crux of the problem is urbanization. There is an urgent need for lifestyle changes in urban areas as if per capita energy consumption is taken the urban versus rural per capita usage of energy in our country will equal that of developing nations.

She shared about devising a tool to measure the urban carbon footprint by focusing on key areas like –energy, water, consumables, waste, travel and transport, ecology, knowledge, disaster preparedness and pollution. This tool was then administered to conduct a green audit in an institution in Mumbai. The process utilized was a participatory one where Samuchit and ICOR partnered as consultants /green audit team but got the students and management involved in collecting the data. So that itself became a reflective learning experience for the institution while the Green Audit Team took up the other processes of data analysis. After the first green audit exercise the tool was further fine tuned and used in other institutions.

In the second half of the presentation Deepika Singh spoke of her experience in administering the tool, the entire process of involving the students and guidance provided to the institutions to implement the recommendations from the study leading to minimizing the carbon footprint in a phased manner.

  1. Gender and Climate Change – Dr Vibhuti Patel Professor and Head of P.G. Department of Economics, S.N. D. T. Women’s University, Mumbai

IMG_4663 This next discourse by Dr Vibhuti Patel traced the Climate Change movement in India beginning from the Chipko movement using the gender lens. From the Indian experiences where she traced the impacts of CC on women she moved to sharing information from various studies like UNFPA on Gender as a Factor of Vulnerability to Climate Change impacting on the following areas-

Climatic Threats to Life: Higher Risks During Disasters: Increased Workload/Household Burdens

Limited Ownership: Political Inequality: CC affecting their livelihoods: Missing out on opportunities for education, development, health, nutrition etc

She shared testimonies at a public hearing of CC impacts on women and also global success stories of mitigation and adaptation by women.

She propounded the need to respect collective wisdom of women and also to do a gender audit of micro and macro planning and program implementation. She deplored the male-dominated hierarchal structure that inhibited the participation of women in all key decision-making institutions related to climate change.

This particular quote from a report “Facing a Changing World: Women, Population and Climate” released on 19-11-2009 by the UN summed up her entire discourse very aptly.

“With the possibility of a climate catastrophe on the horizon, we cannot afford to relegate the world’s 3.4 billion women and girls to the role of victim,” United Nations Population Fund chief Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to have 3.4 billion agents for change?”

The last item on the agenda for Day 1 was Eucharist and Evening Prayer in Holy Spirit HospitalIMG_4700

 Day 2

  1. Climate Change Education – Mr Dominic D‘Souza, Associate Director, Laya Vishakhapatnam.

IMG_4673Mr Dominic D’Souza introduced his topic as Redefining Education in a Climate Changing World. He began with making some assumptions about the current CC scenario and presented a template to include key components of holistic education in a climate-changing world: namely science and wisdom, political economy, ethics and relevant action

In Relevant Action some key pointers were proposed to include-

Critical reflection, name and shame the culprits, pursue sustainable development, vulnerability assessments of communities in ecosystems, enquire into the kind of learning for change, learning from well articulated community based responses.

D’Souza also pointed out to some relevant action for a low carbon pathway namely a technological revolution at one level which at another level it also means a lifestyle change

He suggested a way forward in a lifestyle change. Some examples:

Self: Carbon footprint, Institution: Energy audit, Community: Building resilience

A final summary of his presentation looked at –

What is Climate Change? : the science, the impacts

What has caused – is causing – Climate Change? : the political and economic compulsions/choices

What are the ethical implications of Climate Change? : affects all, without exception, here and now and the future

What do we need to do about it? : self, institution, community, etc

In the above context: the need to redefine education as ‘life-long learning’ in a Climate Changing World: critical thinking, analysis for behavioral change.

He concluded by sharing with us the ‘Principles of Learning’

Four Pillars of Learning:

Learning to know

Learning to do

Leaning to be (human)

Learning to live (sustainably)

-Delors, et al. 1996. Learning: The Treasure Within. Paris, UNESCO

The Church’s Response – Allwyn D’Silva (Workshops, Reporting, Plan of Action)

 IMG_4676Fr Allwyn D’Silva, Secretary of Climate Change Desk (FABC) initiated the workshop on ‘Church’s Response’ by sharing various Church initiatives already happening or those in the process.

  • The New Encyclical -this new encyclical is the first one in which the environment will be the primary topic.       Pope Francis will bring together issues of social justice and economic inequity along with the environment and climate change.
  • The Pope is also slated to address the UN General Assembly in September and convene a summit of world religious leaders to address climate change
  • According to Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the pope hopes to influence next year’s crucial UN climate meeting in Paris, when countries will attempt to finalize two decades of troubled negotiations with a universal and binding commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • According to Yale religion and environment professor Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-founder of the Forum on Religion and Ecology, the forthcoming encyclical will be one of the “most important” documents dealing with the moral implications of climate change, and will explore environmental justice concerns, including how the poor and other vulnerable groups are deeply impacted by global “climate disruption”.
  • The reasons might be threefold: –

First, perhaps Pope Francis wishes to make clear that when it comes to matters of creation, the church should be a major player, not a marginal voice.

Second, perhaps Francis is underscoring that this is not just a question of policies and carbon emissions, critical as they are, but it is also one of persons, especially poor and vulnerable persons, who often contribute the least to carbon emissions but suffer the most from “climate chaos” in the form of floods, drought, typhoons, and wildly whipsawing weather patterns

Third, might Pope Francis be suggesting that climate change is not only a moral crisis, but a deeply spiritual crisis as well, one that cuts to the core of who we are and how we relate to all that is?IMG_4687

  • The topic of Climate Change in the Church began as early as 1990 when John Paul delivered high-profile remarks during a World Day of Peace message.
  • Benedict earned praise as “the green pope” from some quarters for a series of symbolic actions on climate change. He installed solar panels near St. Peter’s Basilica, used offset purchases to make Vatican City the world’s first carbon-neutral state and even purchased an electric “Pope mobile”
  • Joint Workshop of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, 2-6 May 2014
  • 2014 CAFOD lecture: Argentinian Bishop highlights urgency of tackling climate change –12 November 2014
  • “When we hear that people have meetings about how to preserve creation, we can say: ‘No, they are the greens!’” Francis said in his homily at morning Mass, using a common name for environmental activists. “No, they are not the greens! This is the Christian!” he said.
  • Will Catholic schools, seminaries, and universities be expected to teach this?
  • Green Building is Ethical Building. Theology can build support for Green Building. Green Building Theology Teaches Green Values to Members of Religious Institutions
  • Networking – Can we network with other groups, NGOs before Paris? Which groups? On what basis can we support the groups?

Questions for Group Discussion

  • Personal -What has touched you during the past one and half day?
  • Can you suggest what can the FABC and Bishops’ Conferences plan before December 2015
  • What type of advocacy can the Church adopt?
  • Any suggestions to improve on the next Regional Seminars?

Feedback from Groups

IMG_4719Group I.

  • Need to first make a personal contribution/change for Climate Change for example avoid using bottled water and use regular drinking water (even for seminars like this) Avoid use of air conditioner
  • Awareness during this workshop brought about a feeling of journeying together
  • How can Bp’s contribute? Bring out material to use at Diocese level, parish level, and catechism level. Want to work on social justice issue to work on Climate Change issue so create notes and disseminate at for a level and deanery level. Reduce the use of paper for pastoral letters etc. Reuse envelopes/paper as much as possible.
  • Media and communication should come together to stand up and speak the truth.
  • Promote environmental curricula in schools and seminaries
  • Suggestions for regional seminars – include field exposure visits if possible and have more time for reflection. Presentation should be strong and brief with more time for Q&A

IMG_4724Group II.

  • What touched the group was the presence of the resource persons throughout the seminar
  • Presentations were scholarly and scientific.
  • Solutions recommended to some problems like investing in youth was worthwhile
  • Begin with changes in oneself and then ask others to do
  • Linking the ten commandments to make our learning reflective was well appreciated
  • Suggestion – Articulate the concerns of Climate Change to be able to write Pastoral letters to the diocese. If possible FABC can prepare a template for all Bishops Conferences to use in their respective countries
  • Use the teachings of Pope Francis, St. Francis and relevant CST to work on this issue
  • Advocacy should include what we can do and what others can follow
  • Collect voices of marginalized community to become voice of the voiceless
  • Come up with ideas how to merge the Climate Change resources in parish activities

Group III. IMG_4726

  • Problems, challenges and responses should be limited to certainty
  • Process of dealing with climate change should be two way -top to down and down to top
  • Exposure visits must be included
  • FABC’s role – intercontinental meetings should be held and a representation for the Paris meeting


Group IV.

The group stated that the commitment of the Cardinal to attend the program for two full days shows the commitment of the Church to this cause

Need to have a representation at Paris

We should advocate sustainable living even at institutional level

We should set an example to others to be eco friendly

The next seminar should be a step forward

Share our personal experience to participants in the next seminar

Invite and involve lay people to speak on the issue

Fr Allwyn noted all the points. Some were responded to or clarified and others carried forward to formulate an action plan. The following comments, questions suggestions came up from the floor.

Fr Allwyn asked if FABC could come out with a statement.

Was it possible for Bishop’s Conference to start a Climate Change Desk and Cardinal responded that if there were an interest it would be encouraged.

Fr Allwyn also announced that there would be a National Climate Change seminar in India in Mumbai/Delhi/Bangalore. He proposed that Climate Change Desks can be set up in Bp’s Conferences so that it can further the objectives of CCD (FABC)

The importance of spirituality was appreciated in this seminar.

Eco- order and development of the poor should be taken up.

Education – Preparation of a Climate Change Kit

Lessons on Encyclical – The Archdiocesan Office for Environment Mumbai would take the initiative to work on this.

Suggestion- Environmental Science books of the CBSE Board can be used as a base to insert the encyclicals.

Fr Ray suggested that the FABC paper (140) could be popularized as the basic information on CC is there.

Basic Climate Change Asian Impacts: Response 2nd Climate Change Seminar is available on

Another FABC paper (141) titled Church’s Response is also ready and can be used and popularized

Suggestion from Fr Lancy – Colleges in Mumbai have a compulsory course- the Foundation Course on Environmental Science. Schools should start a curriculum on climate change from Standard/ Grade I onwards. Climate Change should also be introduced at catechetical level to conscientize students/ youth at confirmation level.

Asian countries can make a beginning with a methodology and show the way to proceed.

Dominic’s suggestion – INNEC has a working group in Climate Education however what is not clear is with whom we can do what.

Simple three-day workshops can be organized to keep sharing the learning’s we have had

TOT programs can be organized

Be open minded towards possible flexible groups

India is connected with INNEC, Bangladesh is connected with CAN star, Nepal is connected with two networks – Caritas and Christian networks. Use networks appropriately.

Energy audits of religious institutions

The suggestions to participate in the Paris meeting has to be in NGO capacity so this will need to be explored.

                                   OSWALD CARDINAL GRACIAS’ CONCLUDING MESSAGE

IMG_4730Climate Change was inevitable alongside the great scientific progress for the service of mankind. Until the 80’s and 90’s we could not even control the laws of nature. The whole world has moved towards desensitization with religion pushed at the periphery. Therefore individual/self is not open to the service of the people. Every nation should realize that what affects others affects us. Climate Change is only one of the effects of tweaking with nature. Hunger, disease, poverty are also many other fallouts.

He congratulated Fr Allwyn for his role in the seminar and for the appropriate choice of resource persons. The introductory concepts by Walter Mendoza on the long term effects of Climate Change and the other talks that developed from there was good. Position papers from countries, adaptation case from Sri Lanka and the active role of the church in Climate Change is to be acknowledged. Bangladesh is playing an active role in the rehabilitation of Climate Change migrants. Pakistan in itself has many challenges and yet has made their presence felt. Nepal even with a minority population of Catholics left their mark.

He was impressed by Dr. Priyadarshini’s talk on the unsustainability trap and the green audit program by Deepika. Dr. Vibhuti Patel’s talk on women’s perspective in climate change was very shocking. Nafisa’s expertise and involvement in Climate Change negotiations was strongly noted in her presentation. Dominic’s presentation was very informative and reflective.

He stated that he was personally very affected by marginalized communities. He shared that the Care for Creation theme chosen in our diocese a few years ago was very seriously taken. Then he went on to share an example of the children of Holy Name school children who put up an exhibition on Climate Change during the previous visit of President Obama and Michelle who went on to spend 40 minutes at the exhibition with the children and later danced with them.

He stressed that any Climate Change program through the FABC should be from a Christian perspective. FABC will try to have a presence in Paris and made a reference to Tonga Island being affected by Climate Change.

He thanked Fr Allwyn arranging to bring in all the resource persons and the sister’s of Holy Spirit Hospital for allowing the use of their Hall for this important seminar, for the pleasant atmosphere the arrangements for mass, hymnals, prayer books etc.

He thanked the following –

Rosline caterers for their excellent service,

Fr Nigel and his assistant to agree to come and do the documentation for FABC

The JPC staff for taking care of all the logistics for the meeting

Kenny Lobo for sound

CAFOD for coming and lending support with their presence

Misereor – Ulrich and Beatrice even if they were unable to be present due to unexpected illness and a special thanks to Benazir Bader (Misereor –India) for filling the gap.

Annexure 1   Untitled1


Climate Change and its repercussions on India and the response made by the Church in India

Climate Change and its repercussions on India:   Untitled2

India is endowed with a variety of soils, climate, biodiversity and ecological regions. India is one of the 12-mega biodiversity countries of the world. India occupies 2.4 % of the world’s geographical area, which supports about 16.7% of the world’s human population. It also supports 18% of the world’s cattle population in 0.5% of the world’s grazing area. About 69% of its geographical area fall within the dry land and about 68% of the net cultivated area in the country is rain fed. Agriculture is the major sector of growth of the Indian economy. A large percent of the population is still dependent on agriculture for its sustenance. About 40 % of rural people live below poverty line and in tribal regions it ranges from 60 – 85 % of population. Increasing population pressure demands additional resources to satisfy their basic requirements and hence has additional pressure on the already scarce resources in the country. The country is witnessing a high depletion of ground water resources, forest areas and other valuable resources.

Climate Change is a global scenario and it has impacted India in many ways. Recent history shows the increase in frequency of natural disasters, which is caused mainly due to variable climate condition prevailing in the country. Climate change has also potentially affected the availability of freshwater resources for agriculture and recreational purposes. Many parts of the country are unusually reeling under water stress condition and those already under stress have further deteriorated their condition. This has impacted the livelihood and food security of the poor and marginalized communities living in vulnerable conditions. Due to global warming many parts of the country is facing the change in rainfall pattern and extreme weather conditions. This has lead to distress among the agricultural community and significantly impacted the agriculture production. Unusual climate condition has resulted in flood and drought situation in many parts of the country. Sea level increase has threatened the existence of many villages in the coastal areas. Emergence of new vector borne diseases is on the rise. Due to this, communities already living under extreme conditions are further pushed towards dangerous living conditions.

Constant increase in green house gas emission and irresponsible behaviour of the nations are contributing to further deterioration of the situation. This has severely threatened the biodiversity and basic human rights in various parts of the country. Poor access water and sanitation, deteriorating health condition is nullifying the developments achieved by various developing countries. This condition seriously threatens the target of Millennium Development Goal.

Response made by the Church in India:

A host of initiatives under the Natural Resource Management (NRM) and Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) desks of Caritas India are geared to improve the adaptation capacities of the small farmers and communities living under difficult and varying climate conditions. Some of the major responses to address climate change are:

  • Environment Justice Policy
  • Regular consultations on the climate change theme is organized at Caritas India
  • International Campaigns in association with Caritas Internationalis during UNFCCC COP events – Management members and thematic experts contribution at the international advocacy efforts of the confederation
  • An year long National Campaign to generate awareness on Climate Change organized in 2008
  • Climate Change is adopted as a cross-cutting issue across all initiatives of Caritas India
  • Promoting climate resilient and sustainable agricultural practices in more than 600 villages covering roughly about 120,000ha area through Caritas India initiatives (initiatives of the DSSS are not included here)
  • Organized an International Conference on Climate Change to generate awareness among partners and staff members
  • Caritas India subject matter experts contributing to the international advocacy campaigns as a members of the Caritas Internationalis Reference Group on Climate Change and Food Security
  • A dedicated centre on environment in Central India “Centre for Environmental Studies in Social Sector (CESSS)” to work on the environmental issues
  • An Action research as part of the Golden Jubilee Year initiative to develop adaptation techniques to address climate change impacts on natural resource management and sustainable agriculture
  • In the Golden Jubilee National Workshop on Agrarian Crisis in India: Challenges and opportunities, a session was dedicated to discuss the climate change impacts on agriculture and cost of adaptation
  • Assessment of climate change impacts on the small-scale rain fed farming systems.
  • An action research programme on “building resilience to climate change through strengthening adaptive small scale farming systems in rain fed areas”. Caritas India is also coordinating this tri-nation initiative called Strengthening Adaptive Farming in Bangladesh, India & Nepal (SAFBIN) in Bangladesh, India & Nepal. (EU supported initiatives)
    • Smallholder Farmers Collective Led Approach and On-Farm Adaptive Research in tried out as part of this initiative.
  • A study on the impact of climate change in Suderbans: “The Sunder bans: Impact on climate change on peoples livelihood: Options for adaptation”
  • Initiatives for reducing the potential risk related to varying and changing climate and making livelihood resilient through integrated natural resource management in the drought affected areas of Rajasthan (CIDA supported initiatives)
  • Initiatives to improve the coping capacities of the community and to address the negative impacts of climate change through promotion and protection of natural resource management and sustainable agriculture as part of the Agrarian prosperity programme in Jharkhand (SCIAF supported)
  • Pan Asia Farmers Fest (PAFF) in March, 2014 and Conference on Smallholder farmers in March, 2015 to discuss various adaptation options for the smallholder farmers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s