By Gauthier de Locht, Caritas Belgium
One cannot overemphasize the fact that the environmental challenge is the greatest global challenge humanity has ever confronted – one that concerns the very existence of the civilization and all ecosystems of the earth.
It is not Caritas Belgium’s intention to be an environmental defense agency; but it is clear that the environment, climate, and climate change are intrinsically linked to our work. Equally, our actions themselves have an impact on the environment and we must ensure that we reduce our own ecological footprint, as well as that of our projects, and our operations.
Under the Strategic Plan 2009-2014, we want to recognize climate change as a major issue and take it into account in our work. To do this, an environmental working group was established.
The working group began with an overview of the importance given in each department to environmental issues. Then steps were identified to improve the awareness of environmental problems. The task force divided itself into three working groups: the first working under the terms of our operations in Belgium, the second in relation to our activities in the South and the third on advocacy and inclusion in the Caritas network.
In the context of work abroad, the first stage was to learn about the impacts of climate change in countries in which Caritas Belgium works. Secondly, one must study the concrete impacts of climate change on our plans for emergency projects, rehabilitation, development, and our budgets. Finally, it is important that we build and develop tools to take into account climate change in our projects (i.e., food security projects, environmental projects, adaptation projects to climate change, disaster risk reduction projects) and encourage these types of projects within the organisation.
Caritas Belgium also examines the ecological footprint of its operations and its operations in Belgium and identifies work to do. Everything is gradually being examined from the vehicles we drive, energy costs at headquarters, paper, offset carbon emissions from air travel, and financial investments.
Regarding advocacy, Caritas Belgium has been involved in the campaign of CIDSE-Caritas Internationalis on Environmental Justice and continues to be active in the Climate Justice Reference Group of Caritas Internationalis.
The environment is a multi-disciplinary issue closely related to the principles of solidarity towards the poorest and most vulnerable and towards sustainable development. Protecting the environment is also connected to the organization’s values, especially respect for others and equality between men solidarity. It is rooted in the social doctrine of the Church and must be undertaken immediately.
Significant changes are needed in the way we work to reduce our impact on the environment. Caritas Belgium understands the importance of the changes required and we are prepared to do our part.