As United Nations leaders gathered at the COP20 climate summit in Peru last week, Pope Francis and Catholic Bishops from around the world called for a global climate agreement and an end to the use of fossil fuels.
“We can find adequate solutions only if we act together and unanimously”, Pope Francis said a written statement to Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s minister of the environment and host president of the climate summit. He encouraged the leaders to make the right decisions quickly, as they “affect all of humanity, especially the poorest and future generations”. He also urged them to work together, as “an effective fight against global warming will be possible only with a collective and responsible answer”.
The Bishops have released a statement saying they believe it is necessary for them to “accompany the political process” in order to protect frontline communities suffering from the impacts of climate change. This is the first time that a group of senior church figures have spoken out about climate negotiations. “We express an answer to what is considered God’s appeal to take action on the urgent and damaging situation of global climate warming” the Bishops said in their statement released on December 9. “We are convinced that everyone has a capacity to contribute to overcome climate change and to choose sustainable lifestyles”.
This call for immediate action on climate change is one of many statements from the Catholic Church focusing the environment and social justice. It may be a foreshadowing of the upcoming ecological Encyclical, which Pope Francis is scheduled to release sometime during 2015.
However a commitment from the Church to combat climate change is not new, and in a written statement released in 2005, the Australian Catholic Bishops referred to global warming as one of the major issues of our time. “We now urge Catholics as an essential part of their faith commitment to respond with sound judgments and resolute action to the reality of climate change” the Bishops said.
Catholic Earthcare Australia recognises the significance of these global Catholic Church statements on climate change. “With over 1 billion Catholics across the world, our faith-group has the power and the heart to make a real impact at this critical time of negotiations on climate change,” said Jacqui Remond, the Director of Catholic Earthcare. “It is worth celebrating these statements because they signal the practical actions that need to be taken at every level, which we hope all nations will commit to in Paris in December 2015.”
Climate talks in Lima wrapped up on December 14, with delegates approving a basic framework to address global warming. This agreement, known as the “Lima Call For Climate Action”, asks governments to submit national plans for cutting emissions by March next year. These plans should then form the basis of a global agreement in Paris.