Papal Encyclical Highlights Climate Change as Critical ‘Moral Issue’
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Pope Francis has released his encyclical, which calls on the Catholic world and "all men and women of good will” to address global environmental deterioration.

The papal letter, titled ‘Laudato Si' or ‘Praised Be' (a reference to a prayer from the Pope's namesake St.

Francis, the patron saint of ecology), declares that climate change is one of the principal challenges facing humanity and that the science of climate change is clear.

Pope Francis adds that the Catholic Church views climate change as a moral issue that must be addressed in order to protect the Earth, "our common home."

vatican18 June 2015: Pope Francis has released his encyclical, which calls on the Catholic world and “all men and women of good will” to address global environmental deterioration. The papal letter, titled ‘Laudato Si’ or ‘Praised Be’ (a reference to a prayer from the Pope’s namesake St. Francis, the patron saint of ecology), declares that climate change is one of the principal challenges facing humanity and that the science of climate change is clear. Pope Francis adds that the Catholic Church views climate change as a moral issue that must be addressed in order to protect the Earth, “our common home.”

In the encyclical, Pope Francis points to the “a very solid scientific consensus” regarding significant warming of the climate system, stressing that most warming in recent decades is “mainly a result of human activity.” He calls for a “new dialogue” to shape the planet’s future.

In the encyclical, the Pope warns of industrial waste, biodiversity loss and warming caused by overconsumption, and calls for renewable fuel subsidies and energy efficiency. He states that access to safe drinkable water is “a basic and universal human right” and that, by itself, the market cannot guarantee human development and social inclusion. Pope Francis also recognizes that recent world summits on the environment have not lived up to expectations, due to lack of political will and the inability to reach meaningful and effective global environmental agreements. He calls for a “true world political authority.”

Pope Francis also states that the Earth is beginning to look more and more like an “immense pile of filth” and that, in many parts of the world, the elderly lament that “once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.” He adds that the idea of infinite or unlimited growth “is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the Earth’s goods.” He admits, however, that not all is lost and that human beings, “while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves,” by choosing what is good.

The encyclical comes ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference scheduled to take place in Paris, France, in December 2015, where governments are expected to agree on a new climate change agreement.

Welcoming the encyclical, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reaffirmed that humanity has a significant obligation to care for and protect the Earth, and to show solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable members of society who are suffering the most from climate impacts. Ban said climate change is “an issue of social justice, human rights and fundamental ethics,” and urged the international community to “do far more” to address this issue. Ban thanked Pope Francis for his “strong stand” on the need for urgent global action, and said his moral voice is part of a growing chorus of people from all faiths and all sectors of society calling for climate action. He looked forward to welcoming Pope Francis to the UN in September to address the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Welcoming the Pope’s emphasis on the moral obligation to act, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim stated that Pope Francis’ first encyclical should serve as “a stark reminder to all of us of the intrinsic link between climate change and poverty.”

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said the encyclical’s “clarion call” to act should guide the world towards a climate agreement in Paris at the end of this year. UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner noted the encyclical resonates not only with Catholics, but with everyone on Earth, and that science and religion are aligned on this matter. Recalling the words of Secretary-General Ban, Steiner said that “we are the first generation that can end poverty, and the last generation that can act to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.” He said “we must all recognize the need to reduce our environmental impact,” and consume and produce in a sustainable manner.

Irina Bokova, Director General, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said the encyclical is a call for courage and unity, and that it demands new ways of thinking and behaving as global citizens, and a new focus on the ocean and biodiversity. UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark reiterated that UNDP works with developing countries to avoid what Pope Francis describes as an “economy of exclusion,” and strives to enable progress and growth that benefits everyone.

Also responding to the encyclical, US President Barack Obama expressed deep admiration for the Pope’s decision to make the case for action on climate change, and looked forward to discussing these issues when the Pope visits the White House in September. He expressed the hope that in preparing for the Paris Climate Change Conference, all world leaders will reflect on Pope Francis’s call to “come together to care for our common home.” [Publication: Laudato Si] [Vatican Press Release (in Italian)] [UNFCCC Press Release] [UN Press Release] [UNDP Blog] [UNRIC Press Release] [UNEP Press Release] [World Bank Press Release] [US Government Press Release]

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