Wales has its warmest winter days on record – should we be concerned?

Last year we were facing the worst end of the Beast of the East, this year we’re sunbathing in parks during a winter heatwave. The average maximum temperature for February is 7°C but this year we’ve seen highs of 20.3°C. Although nobody is complaining about the warmer weather, should we be worried that this could be the prolonged effects of climate change?

Warmer weather means that ice sheets and glaciers are melting, this adds water to the sea and then causes flooding during heavy showers – damaging our homes and our landscapes. While the Met Office has stated that the drastic changes in weather cannot be directly linked to climate change, human activity can be playing a major role.

Air pollution is a factor that contributes massively to climate change. When the air becomes polluted, it impacts the health of people, animals and vegetation. The main greenhouse gas emission that experts worry about is carbon dioxide which gets released when we burn fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas. There are a number of industrial factories across Wales that all contribute to air pollution and studies show that living in heavily polluted areas often leave locals with health problems from cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses to added stress to the heart and the lungs. Port Talbot Steelworks has impacted the community so much that the town has been named the most polluted in the UK.

But climate change isn’t something that happens overnight, it’s a long-term shift in our normal weather patterns – which is why everyone must take action now and achieve net zero in order to prevent some of the more catastrophic results. ‘Net zero’ means only putting the same amount of emissions into the atmosphere as we take out.

So should we be concerned? The weather on our shared planet is changing drastically. We’re seeing wildlife and plants appearing much earlier than they should and though we may all be enjoying the sunny afternoons, we may be paying the price in years to come. It threatens not only the homes and health of animals but also our homes, health, agriculture and infrastructure.

Pope Francis has encouraged everyone to take responsibility for our common home. He said:

“There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyles.”

We can treat our home with respect by leading the way, taking responsibility and forging new habits. Although we have come far in the fight against climate change, if we want to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C we need to be going much further, faster.

How climate change is affecting Fairtrade farmers

Fairtrade fortnight has arrived and it’s the perfect time to get involved with our campaign and speak out for justice in solidarity with the world’s poorest communities.

Farmers work tirelessly to grow our food while also living in some of the poorest countries in the world and often being exploited and badly paid. On top of all that, another issue is affecting the farmers – climate change.

Fairtrade ensures the world’s poorest growers and producers are able to earn a decent living and earn a premium they can put back into their communities, which becomes a challenge when climate change comes into the picture. Many crops are being lost and farmers are struggling to adapt to climate change which is damaging their livelihoods and well-being. These people living in rural areas have contributed very little to climate change but they’re the ones being affected the most.

Aileen Burmeister, National Coordinator for Fair Trade Wales said:

“Farmers and workers are paying the price twice over for our demands for cheap goods. Firstly, by not being paid fairly for their hard work, and secondly through uncertainty in their future due to climate change.”

One of the most sold Fairtrade products is coffee – which also happens to be the most sensitive to changes in temperature. The smallest change in temperature can mean that these coffee bushes struggle to survive. It is predicted that the areas suitable for coffee production will decrease considerably by 2020 in significant coffee-producing countries such as Brazil, Uganda and Vietnam and the global demand for coffee is set to rise.

Additionally, cocoa farmers are faced with a difficult task as it is one of the hardest crops to grow. It is a delicate crop that must be protected from wind, sun, pests, and disease.  This becomes increasingly difficult as climate change worsens. During Fairtrade fortnight, a campaign is running to ensure Cocoa farmers are being paid the £1.86 per day that they need in order to achieve a living income. The cocoa farmers, many being women who also look after children, carry water, collect wood, cook and clean for the family, often earn only 74p per day.

Aileen explained how Fairtrade are trying help farmers maintain their livelihood, she said:

“Through the minimum price and extra premium Fairtrade offers, Fairtrade producers are more able to prepare for the impact of climate effects. For example, producers have chosen to invest their premiums in crop diversification, reforestation, conservation, switching to organic farming methods, training and more.”

It is important to spread the awareness about changing the food we buy and choosing products from Fairtrade companies which will not only help tackle poverty overseas but also help Fairtrade farmers adapt to climate change and shape healthy supply chains for years to come.

Help make a difference to the livelihood and well-being of farmers overseas by purchasing Fairtrade chocolate or coffee.

What is ‘Net Zero’ and why is it so important?

Climate change is happening, and it’s happening fast. The UK has the chance to end its contribution to climate change and avoid some of the worst effects like drought and hunger, which will have a bigger impact on some of the poorest countries in the world.

Net zero is a term that many people are using in the campaign to end climate change but what does it actually mean? Net zero refers to the planet achieving zero carbon dioxide emissions by either eliminating the carbon emissions as a whole or creating a balance between the amount of carbon emissions with carbon removal.

If our planet warms more than 1.5°C then the effects could be irreversible. But making simple everyday lifestyle changes such as waste, housing and transport could have a huge impact.

Sarah Croft, our campaigns manager, said:

“Climate change affects our health, our homes, our heritage and our beautiful landscapes. Our community centres where we meet, our sports fields where we play and our places of pilgrimage where we reflect. It also ruins the work we do to fight poverty.”

She discussed how the UK would impact other countries to fight climate change upon successfully achieving net zero, she said:

“The UK was the first country to legally respond to the threat of climate change. We now know if we are going to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C we need to be going much further, faster. By setting a target in law of net zero by 2045 the UK would show strong international leadership and send a signal to countries, businesses and civil society that we need to be going further and faster with our emissions reductions.”

The national assembly for Wales have set in place the “Well-being of Future Generations Act” which requires the Welsh Government and other public bodies to ensure that any decision made must take into consideration the short term and long term impacts it could have socially, culturally, economically or environmentally. These small steps in decision making could have a massive impact on the lifestyle and well-being of future generations.

Parishes in Wales have also come together recently to celebrate World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation which was established my Pope Francis and encourages every person living on this planet to care for our shared earth. Pope Francis wrote:

“The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming.”

The next three decades are fundamentally important for the UK in terms of protecting our earth and if successful we would no longer be a country that contributes to climate change. Once we begin to tackle the issue, more countries will follow suit, with many countries such as Sweden, France, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Norway, Bhutan, Iceland and Portugal already signing up.

To encourage the government to get behind our urgent climate action, sign the petition here.

Our mission for peace in Colombia

Our overseas speaker was welcomed to a parish soup lunch to discuss the Hands On project in Colombia that strives to help those living in violence and poverty and help build a peaceful future for the small region of Magdalena Medio.

Barbara Davies, who is our Country Representative for Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, gave a presentation at the parish of Our Lady, Star of the Sea in Porthcawl on Saturday. Barbara explained CAFOD’s latest project ‘Hands on Magdalena Medio’ and how the parish and community can get involved with inspiring this generation to be the generation of peace.

In her presentation, Barbara discussed Colombia’s internal conflict and how CAFOD’s three-year peace building programme can tackle violence in the community. The project aims to support people in Magdalena Medio by organising a variety of workshops in 34 schools, teaching young people how to avoid violence, allowing them to share what they learn with family and neighbours and encourage the younger generation to help transform the country. 

One of the key ideas is in this project is inspiring the fight for peace but with no weapons, only knowledge, education and training.

At then end of the presentation, people attending were asked to share their messages of peace and hope to let the people of Magdalena Medio know that on the other side of the world, they have not been forgotten and they are being held in love and prayer.

The soup lunch was organised by our parish volunteer Jenny Worthington who has supported CAFOD for over 20 years. With the help of volunteers like Jenny, we can raise more awareness for struggling communities like Magdalena Medio and help transform lives.

For more information on how your parish can get Hands On, visit https://cafod.org.uk/Fundraise/Parish-fundraising/Hands-On

We welcome our new media volunteer Bethan

It is my first day as a volunteer for CAFOD, South Wales and I look forward to this journey and the opportunities it brings!

My name is Bethan Fry, I am a 20-year-old student, originally from Pontypool. I’m in my second year at the University of South Wales working towards my Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. As someone who is very passionate about campaigning and influencing others, I’m hoping that my time at CAFOD will give me the experience and platform to raise awareness for global issues and put me on the right track to making a change. Continue reading