From Kathryn Hayes - Irish Times Friday August 21st

Recession cannot shade climate crisis, event told

THE ENVIRONMENTAL crisis should not be overshadowed by the global downturn, delegates at the country’s first carbon neutral conference have been told.

More than 200 European delegates have gathered in Limerick for the four-day event focusing on the theme of “Christian Responsibility for the Environment and Investing Care in the Earth”. This is Ireland’s first carbon neutral conference and the largest ever gathering of Catholic theologians in the country.

In order to achieve carbon neutral status, an assessment of the level of carbon emissions produced as a result of the conference has been carried out.

The process quantifies the emissions produced through the combined aspects of the event, such as travel, food, water and energy.

A donation will be made by the European Society for Catholic Theology to Trócaire’s pilot climate change adaption and mitigation project in the Save River Valley in the Machanga District of Mozambique to offset the conference’s carbon footprint.

The Rev Prof Eamonn Conway said yesterday that when the conference theme was proposed in February 2008, it was to allow time to explore how Ireland’s apparently successful Celtic Tiger economy was affecting Christian values, and especially how people in Ireland were marrying economic prosperity with Christian faith. “The economic collapse provides an opportunity for renewed socio-economic development, which must be just and sustainable,” Prof Conway added.

“The crisis in our ecology, while less immediately experienced, is much more serious than the crisis in our economy, and of course the roots of both crises are inseparably linked.”

Conference speakers include Prof Seán Freyne of Trinity College, Dublin, Dr Stella Morra, Rome, Prof Hans Dieter Mutschler, Ignatius Institute, Krakow, Poland, and Dr Karl Golser, bishop of Bolzano-Bressanone, Italy. Cardinal Seán Brady tomorrow celebrates the main conference Eucharist in St John’s Cathedral, Limerick. He will also present four theological scholarships.

As he officially opened the conference last night, Bishop of Limerick Dr Donal Murray said the conference theme was important for very obvious reasons. “In many respects, it may already be too late to prevent the worst effects of climate change or to respond effectively to the long-term consequences of the squandering of natural resources which Europe and the United States have been engaged in for so long,” he said.

“One also fears that the resources that could in recent decades have brought some fairness into the relationship between the rich and poor world may now have been largely dissipated,” Dr Murray added. The conference continues until Sunday.