UN, activists celebrate Pope’s call to action on climate change

pope francisIN a sweeping environmental manifesto  aimed at spurring concrete action, Pope Francis called for a bold cultural revolution to correct what he described as a ‘structurally perverse’ economic system where the rich exploit the poor, turning Earth into an “immense pile of filth.”

Francis framed climate change as an urgent moral issue to address in his eagerly anticipated encyclical, blaming global warming on an unfair, fossil fuel-based industrial model that harms the poor most. Citing Scripture, his predecessors and bishops from around the world, the pope urged people of every faith and even no faith to undergo an awakening to save God’s creation for future generations.

Pope Francis is the latest and most high profile voice to join a long list of people, from scientists, business leaders, economists, labour leaders and youth, who understand that taking action on climate change and empowering poorer countries to develop sustainably is both morally and economically right.

In a rare open letter that will shape Catholic teaching, His Holiness Pope Francis laid out our moral imperative to “care for our common home” and end the inequalities, which are driving interlinked problems of climate change and poverty.

Pope Francis is the latest and most high profile voice to join a long list of people, from scientists, business leaders, economists, labour leaders and youth, who understand that taking action on climate change and empowering poorer countries to develop sustainably is both morally and economically right.

The document released last week was a stinging indictment of big business and climate doubters alike, aimed at spurring courageous changes at U.N. climate negotiations later this year, in domestic politics and in everyday life.

“It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection of nature with financial gain, or the preservation of the environment with progress,” he writes. “Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster.

Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress.” Environmental scientists said the first-ever encyclical, or teaching document, on the environment could have a dramatic effect on the climate debate, lending the moral authority of the immensely popular Francis to an issue that has long been cast in purely political, economic or scientific terms.

“This clarion call should guide the world toward a strong and durable universal climate agreement in Paris at the end of this year,” said Christiana Figueres, the U.N.’s top climate official.

“Coupled with the economic imperative, the moral imperative leaves no doubt that we must act on climate change now.” U.N. Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme Achim Steiner in a statement said: “This encyclical is a clarion call that resonates not only with Catholics, but with all of the Earth’s peoples.

Science and religion are aligned on this matter: The time to act is now. “We share Pope Francis’ view that our response to environmental degradation and climate change cannot only be defined by science, technology or economics, but is also a moral imperative.

We must not overlook that the world’s poorest and most vulnerable suffer most from the changes we are seeing. Humanity’s environmental stewardship of the planet must recognise the interests of both current and future generations. “With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in September and a climate agreement in December, we have the opportunity to positively change the course of history, creating a better and more equitable world for all.

Civil society groups under the banner of Climate Action Network (CAN) also welcomed Pope Francis’ strong moral case for people and leaders to tackle climate change delivered in today’s historic Papal Encyclical.

“The call by His Holy Father, His Holiness Pope Francis, reminds us that climate change is first and foremost about people.  The gross and growing inequality between rich and poor has been made worse by the climate crisis. Moreover, the emissions of the rich are driving weather extremes that hit the poorest hardest.

Only when world leaders heed the Pope’s moral leadership on these two defining issues, inequality and climate change, will our societies become safer, more prosperous and more equal.”

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International. According to Christine Allen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Christian Aid, “From William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery in Britain to Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for equal rights in the US and Desmond Tutu’s victory over apartheid in South Africa, Christians acting on their sense of moral duty have a history of transforming society for the better.

If Christians in Europe and all over the world heed its call as many are already doing, the Pope’s Encyclical could well spark another transformation on a global scale – and Europe and the world would be a better place for it.”

Harjeet Singh, Climate Policy Manager for ActionAid International, said: “The Pope’s moral call to protect the environment and humanity is backed by science.

Pope Francis has hit the nail on the head by connecting the climate crisis with its root causes of huge consumption, massive inequality and destruction of ecosystems. As he says, real solutions need to be based on equity, justice and morality.”

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