Westminster Justice and Peace deeply disappointed by US environment backtracking

The Westminster Justice and Peace Commission is deeply disappointed by the actions of President Trump regarding energy and climate change, which cuts across all the endeavours of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church towards a new way of caring for creation.

On 29 March 2017 Donald Trump signed legislation – an Energy Independence Executive Order – which has undermined all Barack Obama’s policies to combat climate change by reducing emissions from fossil fuels. Central to the changes is a review of Barack Obama’s clean power plan – a pledge to cut US emissions by 26-28% by 2025 – which paved the way for the Paris agreement on tackling climate change involving 195 countries

Through this action, he has swept away green legislation at a stroke of the pen, and has enforced his statement that global warming was a ‘hoax’ invented by the Chinese. Crucially, the Paris accord of 2015 has been seriously undermined on greenhouse emissions and his actions also threaten to derail the worldwide fight against global warming. His plan will therefore make it impossible for the US to meet its Paris obligations.

Yet the US is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases – behind China, and most of the world looks to the US for leadership and shared responsibility when it comes to saving our planet for future generations. When leaders of poorer nations see the lack of resolve on the part of the US they are likely to think twice about investing cash into schemes that will not produce immediate results in their political lifetime.

To be committed to climate change means that one has to be there for the long haul and work to pass on a sustainable world to future generations. There is NO ‘quick fix’ which is what many people would like in life. Environmental groups and all who are concerned with the care of our planet need to unite together in a sustained plan of action. We need to proclaim the message of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ letter on ‘the care of our common home’, as never before. We must not be diverted by those who either deny or are indifferent to the task in hand. Now is the hour for renewed efforts.

Fr Joe Ryan (Chair) and Barbara Kentish (Fieldworker)

On behalf of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission

For further information contact the Commission on 0208 888 4222


Caring for the Environment: Justice, Faith and You


There will be a panel event on interfaith Environmental Concerns at Fyvie Hall, Regent Street Campus on Thursday 23rd March 2017 between 6:30pm and 8:30pm. All are welcome.

To register for this event, please see: http://interfaith-and-environment.eventbrite.co.uk

The panel includes the following speakers:

Chair: Roland Dannreuther, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Westminster

Barbara Kentish, from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster Justice & Peace Commission

Maiya Rahman, Campaigns Coordinator of Islamic Relief UK

Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, Professor of Law & Theory at the University of Westminster

Don de Silva, Buddhist environmentalist, journalist, and CEO of Changeways International

Science, Justice, Faith and Care for the Earth – update

We still have tickets left for this event at the Cruciform Building, UCL on 6 February at 7 pm.

The event is free and open to the public, but please r.s.v.p. on Eventbrite.

We’re joining the Newman House University Chaplaincies for an evening panel discussion on the ramifications of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical on climate change.

Open discussion and reception will follow.

Speakers will be as follows:

Professor Clare Grey, Cambridge

Materials Chemist, Lithium Air Battery project leader


Rev. Dr. Martin Poulsom SDB, Heythrop

Creation Theologian


Professor Anne Power, LSE

Climate Change and Social Policy


See also www.twitter.com/LSEhousing

Richard Solly, London Mining Network

Head of an advocacy group for London Miners

See www.twitter.com/LondonMining

Quotes from Laudato Si’ for Homilies or Newsletters – January 2017

Creation quotes for newsletters from the Laudato Si  encyclical of Pope Francis

We suggest that parishes use these quotes  throughout the year.   We will send them in ‘batches’ rather than the whole year all at once, so they don’t get forgotten with the New Year resolution!   (LS  plus number =  the source paragraph of Laudato Si).

For a collection of all the quotes for the liturgical year, please see the Resources Page.

Period 2   Theme: Peace and Justice
(including Peace and Homelessness Sundays, New Year to Ash Wednesday)

Week beginning Sunday 1st January 2017 (perhaps a sentence to remind people, e.g. ‘Pope Francis says:’)

Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths. (But) the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. (LS 20, LS 23)

Week beginning Sunday 8th January

Very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.(LS 23)

Week beginning Sunday 15th January

A number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides …) released mainly as a result of human activity… The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system.     (LS 23)

Week beginning Sunday 22nd January

Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. (LS 25)

Week beginning Sunday 29th January

There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world.(LS 25)

Week beginning Sunday February 5th

Many professional(s) live far from the poor … This lack of physical contact and encounter, … can lead to a numbing of conscience … Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. (LS  49)

Week beginning Sunday February 12th

To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption. (LS  50)

Week beginning Sunday February 19th

People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more.  A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning.  (LS  55)

Week beginning Sunday February 26th

If we are truly concerned to develop an ecology capable of remedying the damage we have done, no branch of the sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it. The Catholic Church is open to dialogue with philosophical thought; this has enabled her to produce various syntheses between faith and reason. The development of the Church’s social teaching represents such a synthesis with regard to social issues; this teaching is called to be enriched by taking up new challenges. (LS 63)

Science, Justice, Faith and Care for the Earth

On 6 February, we’re joining the Newman House University Chaplaincies for an evening panel discussion on the ramifications of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical on climate change.

Open discussion and reception will follow.

The event is free and open to the public, but it is essential to r.s.v.p. on Eventbrite.

Speakers will be as follows:

Professor Clare Grey, Cambridge

Materials Chemist, Lithium Air Battery project leader

Rev. Dr. Martin Poulsom SDB, Heythrop

Creation Theologian

Professor Anne Power, LSE

Climate Change and Social Policy
See also www.twitter.com/LSEhousing

Richard Solly, London Mining Network

Head of an advocacy group for London Miners
See www.twitter.com/LondonMining

Laudato Si’ Toolkit

Following from our Laudato Si’ and Care of Creation – Where Next? workshops, we’ve put together this set of resources for parishes and groups wishing to review some of the content of those workshops, or maybe take things a bit further.

You can download the items individually below, or download the entire pack in an archive.

  • What Do We See? (PowerPoint) (CAFOD Westminster)
    The CAFOD “See” presentation from the workshops.
  • Judge: Climate and Faith (PowerPoint)
    The Westminster Justice and Peace “Judge” presentation from the workshops.
  • Act: How do we Respond? (pdf) (Caritas Westminster)
    The Caritas “Act” presentation from the workshops.
  • Reducing Your Environmental Footprint (pdf) (RCDOW)
    The Diocese of Westminster handbook for reducing parish waste and managing resources.
  • Followup Pointers (Word document) (CAFOD / ColumbansUK)
    If you would like your parish to take action to fight climate change, these eight simple tasks will put you on the right path.
  • The Universe Story – Cosmic Walk (pdf)
    Take a journey through the history of the universe and our planet, accompanied by prayer and contemplation; a fantastic way of promoting climate responsibility through liturgy.

Westminster Diocese is lowering carbon emissions

Conor Gearty, Lord Stern & Anne Power, 10th March 2016We have been working on climate for years.   Recently we helped to publicise  a meeting at LSE with Lord Nicholas Stern and Conor Gearty about the contribution of Laudato Si.   Now J&P, CAFOD and CARITAS are clubbing together to run some workshops around the diocese.  The diocesan property department has put out a handout on reducing our Environmental Footprint*.      See our poster  with the 3 dates:   24th September in Hitchin, 1st October in Chiswick and 15th October in Kensington.

FINAL Laudato Si Poster

You can also have a look at the diocesan advice on how to green your parish buildings and property, and what to think about if your parish wants solar panels.

*DOW Reducing Environmental Footprint HANDOUT – April 2016

Selecting Solar Panels – final draft (4)

Come along to our workshops and get stuck into cutting the carbon!  The UK Climate Act sets us a target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050.  What can WE do to help?

Lord Stern on Climate Change and Laudato Si’ at LSE

Conor Gearty, Lord Stern & Anne Power, 10th March 2016.jpg
The LSE Student Catholic Society and the Department of Housing and Communities held an exciting discussion on Thursday March 10th, with renowned environmental economist Lord Nicholas Stern, and Human Rights professor Conor Gearty, who is also a Catholic. The dialogue between these two was chaired by Catholic Anne Power, professor of Social Policy and head of LSE Housing and Communities department. The discussion was attended by a packed audience of around 135 people in a hall designed for 120, and was a mix of academics and church climate activists. Lord Stern endorsed many of the points made by Pope Francis, on the need for solidarity between rich and poor worlds, and the necessity of a carbon tax in order to support sustainable development in poorer countries. He highlighted the success of the Paris Climate Talks, where 195 nations had agreed on a global strategy on climate change, without minimising the fragility and difficulties of such an agreement. When asked about the Pope’s denial that population increase was contributing to the problem, he answered that while he felt that this was an issue, he agreed with Pope Francis that it was not the main one, and that population was in any case decreasing for a number of reasons, separately from the climate issue. Lord Stern thought that action could take place on several levels, but that acting in community with others we could encourage and be encouraged by change. One of the factors which had altered the thinking of governments since the Copenhagen talks was seeing the many alternatives possible to our carbon emitting economies. We could continue to work with communities but also to lobby our political leaders to focus on reducing our use of fossil fuels according to the targets we set ourselves in Paris.

The event was supported and publicised by Westminster Justice and Peace. LSE is producing a transcript of the discussion which will be available shortly.

A World Free from Nuclear Weapons, or renewal of Trident?

The statement below expresses our view on the Trident nuclear weapons system. The climate good we are trying to work for is not helped in any way by renewing this weapon which, when used, is so pervasively destructive of humanity and the environment. We add our voices to all those who campaign for an end to our nuclear deterrent. We think Trident should be scrapped. Our statement explains why.

As Labour attempt to resolve their defence policy in relation to nuclear weapons, we look at the arguments for and against retaining the UK Trident system in the light of our Faith, and call for an unequivocal refusal to renew Trident, this costly and deadly weapons system. Pope Francis called for an end to nuclear weapons in October last year, saying:  ‘There is an urgent need to work for a world free from nuclear weapons, in full application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in letter and spirit with a goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons’.   How is this to be achieved? There are vital questions of security, economics and the very purpose of nuclear weapons to be considered.

How did it start?          Some remember the devastating destruction caused by the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and were horrified to read and see, soon after,  pictures of a bomb that could vaporise human flesh for a half mile radius and burn thousands of men, women and children, who were miles away from the epicentre. Perhaps we were made aware of the horrors through the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament founded in the 1950s, and Ban the Bomb marches to Aldermaston, which went on for decades.   Yet, not only do the tragic consequences continue 70 years later, but there are now 9 countries in possession of nuclear weapons, some  not even signed up to nuclear armaments limitation treaties (Israel denied it had them) –  hardly a sign that the issue has ‘gone off the boil’.

The UK’s nuclear capacity today
“The UK’s nuclear deterrent force currently consists of an operational system known as Trident:  four Vanguard-class submarines each capable of carrying up to 1611 D-5 ballistic nuclear missiles.  At least one submarine constantly is on patrol, while one undergoes maintenance; and the other two carry out manoeuvres” Wikipedia

This is operated by the Royal Navy and based at Clyde Naval Base on Scotland’s West Coast – Faslane and Coulport are the two key locations.  Each of the submarines can be armed with eight missiles and 40 warheads: so a total of 160 warheads.  Frighteningly, each of the 160 warheads has eight times the explosive power of the bomb that destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945.  It is very hard to contemplate the capability of destroying over 1,200 Hiroshimas!  It is estimated that 75,000 people died in that blast; another 140,000 died some days/weeks later.  The death toll reached 200,000 by the end of 1950.  There are still health problems for the people of Hiroshima today.

The Modern Potential of Nuclear Weapons
Most of us have no idea of the tragedy, suffering and devastation caused by a nuclear bomb; Trident replacement is discussed like a play-station game.  The consequences of using these weapons would far outstrip those of the World War II bombs.   One image of the stupidity and insanity of even a single warhead, for instance, is, two men in a large tank of petrol up to their shoulders; one has a lighter which he is threatening to strike to destroy his enemy!  The fact  is, both will be incinerated by the strike!

The arguments

1          Deter or Use   Politicians frequently argue that atomic weapons are a deterrent never to be used.  But this had been argued right up to when politicians and generals had them dropped on Japan in 1945, almost as soon as they were available.  Ever since, there have been plans for nuclear wars.  US bombers planned for and practised small and large scale nuclear bombing runs against North Korea with live nuclear bombs in the early 1950s.  President Eisenhower also threatened China with nuclear bombs, saying “I see no reason why they shouldn’t be used just exactly as you would use a bullet or anything else”.  The threat of a nuclear war between the US and Soviet Union escalated in the 1960s.  The Soviet Union put medium range nuclear missiles on Cuba, from where they could reach the US West Coast within minutes.  The US had placed similar missiles in Turkey.  Fear spread across the globe as it became clear that a false alarm could trigger a missile attack.  Generals now discussed a “first strike” policy.  Rather than risk missiles being destroyed before hitting their targets, they prepared to hit first and discussed ways to “win” a nuclear war.  To these ends, the US first put nuclear bomber planes on permanent flight.  By the 1980s, following a near-disastrous crash, both NATO and the Eastern Bloc began siting short range missiles across Europe.  US President Ronald Regan even talked of a “limited nuclear war” in Germany.  After the fall of the Soviet Union these dangers began to feel like ancient history.
Current tensions   But tensions between superpowers are rising again.  NATO ally Turkey shot down a Russian jet bombing Syria last November.  There are regular standoffs between the US, its allies and China over control of the South China Sea.  The only way to make sure nuclear bombs are never fired is surely to get rid of them.  The danger is exacerbated by the number of countries which possess nuclear weapons and yet are not signed up to nuclear armaments limitation treaties. Israel denied it even had them – it took Mordechai Vanunu to expose them. He served 18 years in an Israeli jail and was released in 2004.  He is still victimised for the stand he took.

2          Shield or Target?       Supporters of Trident and nuclear weapons generally try to convince us that having atomic weapons will keep us safe and deter wars.  Britain has had nuclear armed submarines on patrol since the 1960s.  Yet, they did not deter war, conflict or terrorists.  ISIS gunmen or any other terrorist will not be prevented from launching an attack on Britain because the state has nuclear weapons.  The many attacks or atrocities or suicide bombers and so on, in recent years, have not been resolved by possessing nuclear weapons.

3          Job losses or new opportunities?                    In the nuclear debate, the idea of job losses is thrown in as a final salvo.  Surely £160 billion could be put to better use – to save lives; to fight diseases; to educate our young people, to develop renewable energy.

Spend on Peace, not War      If some of the hundreds of billions of pounds due to be spent on quickly out-of-date nuclear weapons, were directed, along with humanity’s energy, skills, wisdom, cash, and peace negotiating abilities, towards work for peace, then we might succeed. Yesterday’s enemies can become today’s friends.  Many peace workers, such as Mordechai Vanunu, have struggled and suffered to rid the world of these weapons of mass destruction.  We should not let their stand be in vain.

A Will for Peace            As individuals, groups and nations, we need a new ‘way of thinking’ about how nations should relate to one another.   We endorse the Pax Christi vision on nuclear weapons:

‘Integrity will bring peace, justice give everlasting security’ (Is 32:17)
The peace we seek cannot come from weaponry, but from a commitment to justice and nonviolent actions which recognise the dignity of every human person and all creation. We reject models of security that rely on fear, the demonisation of others or on the strength of arms – conventional and nuclear.

We need to support and listen to those who have been on the Peace Trail for years and years.  We need to believe that international peace is possible.  We need work for peace and to dialogue with our so-called enemies.  We need to scrap Trident.
It is ridiculous to make efforts to save our planet on the one hand, and to build up nuclear weapon systems on the other.  Our world is too small and precious to have it destroyed.
Westminster Commission for Justice and Peace
February 2016