[Austen Ivereigh] In his Angelus address yesterday at the Vatican, Pope Francis commended world leaders for the historic eleventh-hour deal in Paris over the weekend that commits them to reduce global warming to less than 2 per cent, with a target of 1.5 per cent.
“The conference on climate has just concluded in Paris with the adoption of an agreement, defined by many as historic,” the Pope said, adding: “With the hope that special attention for the most vulnerable populations is guaranteed I exhort the whole international community to proceed on the path undertaken in the name of an ever more effective solidarity”.
COMECE, which represents the Catholic Church to the institutions of the European Union, praised what it called “a great step forward for humanity,” saying it was particularly happy that the ten points raised by the cardinals and patriarchs’ ‘Appeal‘ at the end of the synod had been incorporated into the Paris agreement (See statement below).
Professor John Schellnhuber, head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, was the scientific advisor who spoke at the Vatican press conference to mark the publication of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’s groundbreaking ecology encyclical.
He told The Economist that delivering a warming of “well below” 2°C requires that global carbon-dioxide emissions peak “well before 2030” and “should be eliminated as soon as possible after 2050”. That would represent a rate of “decarbonization” — the word was avoided in deference to Saudi Arabia — fear greater than the world has yet seen.
The deal in Paris goes far further and involves many more countries than the previous meetings. In Laudato Si’, Francis laments the failure of global leadership in previous summits to agree carbon reductions.
Speaking in Nairobi on the eve of the UN Paris Summit, known as COP-21, Francis had warned that it would be “catastrophic” if the interests of some countries were allowed to block the common good, adding that the world was “confronted with a choice that cannot be ignored: either to improve or to destroy the environment.”
Both the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin and the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, spoke at the Paris summit to communicate the Pope’s view to nearly 200 countries taking part.
“Instead of being careful about this common home of ours, we have been careless. Damage flows from selfish, short-sighted economic and political choices. As a result, the cries of the poor and the desperate now join the groaning of the earth,” Cardinal Turkson told the COP-21 delegates.
Turkson was reported as endorsing birth control as a means of controlling population, but later clarified he was referring to natural methods of spacing births.
The BBC is reporting that the Pope is rumored to have called the president of Nicaragua at one, delicate stage in the negotiations to urge him to reach agreement.
Statement by COMECE General Secretary, Patrick Daly.
The adoption of the framework convention of the UN on climate change (CCNUCC) by 195 countries in Paris on 12 December represents a great forward step for humanity as a whole.
COMECE salutes the impressive work done by the negotiators and is particularly happy that the ten points raised in the Appeal to the Negotiators launched by the cardinals, patriarchs and bishops of the world, of which the COMECE President was a co-signatory, have been incorporated in the Paris agreement.
The aim of the agreement is clear and ambitious. The 195 countries commit themselves to limit the rise in average temperature across the planet to below 2°C, even positing a more ambitious limit to temperature rise to 1,5°C.
For many men and women in our world today, the threat of climate change has become a matter of sheer survival, while virtually every inhabitant of the planet is aware of the danger climate change poses. It was therefore vital for all humanity that an agreement be reached in Paris.
The Paris agreement proves that governments are capable of reaching agreement and working together when what really matters is at issue. This is good news for humanity. There is a real commitment to sharing and to solidarity between wealthy countries and the poorer ones. COMECE hopes this agreement is speedily ratified. The Church and its faithful need to be vigilant to see that the commitments signed up to by the states are translated into concrete action.
It has to be emphasised that the work to achieve authentic “ecological conversion”, flagged up by Pope Francis in his encyclical letter Laudato Si’, is only beginning and engages all the world’s citizens. Starting from today, Christians, in their families, their neighbourhoods, and their parishes across Europe are invited to commit themselves. They have to see to it that innovation, creativity and solidarity dovetail with a new lifestyle, richer in meaning and joy, to fight climate change.
In the report of its expert group, published in mid-November, COMECE provides ideas as to the path forward, makes recommendations and furnishes practical examples of success in mitigating the effects of climate change. COMECE would wish to invite the bishops’ conferences of Europe and the dioceses in each EU member state to use this report for their work in this domain and whenever they meet politicians or representatives of civil society.”
Patrick H. Daly, COMECE Secretary General