5 July 2018: The Vatican launched an international conference on ecology, marking the third anniversary of Pope Francis’s Encyclical ‘Laudato Sì.’ Political and religious leaders, scientists, economists and civil society organizations (CSOs) discussed ways to increase awareness among the general public on the gravity of the environmental crisis that the world is facing.

The international conference on the theme, ‘Saving our Common Home and the Future of Life on Earth,’ was organized by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and took place from 5-6 July 2018 in Vatican City, Holy See. The event aimed to set the stage for other events on the subject, including the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco, US, the 2018 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group in Bali, Indonesia, and the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the UNFCCC in Katowice, Poland.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa called for “an ark of ambition” to tackle climate change.

Environmental leaders, activists and advocates highlighted the personal accounts of victims of environmental crises, reflecting on how to understand and respond to these crises and envisage the journey ahead for a sustainable world. Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, explained that the goal of the conference is to reiterate the urgent need for substantial changes in policy and lifestyle to safeguard life on Earth.

Addressing the conference, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment), Erik Solheim, cautioned that the challenges the world is facing around climate change, biodiversity loss and deforestation are “daunting.” He explained that we are reaching, surpassing and ignoring global environmental tipping points that are causing “enormous” problems for humanity and hitting the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa called for “an ark of ambition” to tackle climate change.

During the conference, UNEP also highlighted its Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, a new platform for religious leaders and faith-based communities to work hand-in-hand with indigenous peoples, governments, civil society and businesses on actions that protect rainforests. [Vatican News] [UNEP Press Release] [UNFCCC Press Release] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Pope Francis Urging Rapid Transition to Clean Energy]