Vatican Announces New Climate Conference
Last week, the Vatican announced plans to host a major climate-change conference on April 28 entitled, “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development.” The conference is the latest announcement in Pope Francis’s faith-based campaign to raise awareness about climate change.
According to the Vatican’s statement:
“The goal of this [conference] is to raise awareness and build a consensus that the values of sustainable development cohere with values of the leading religious traditions, with a special focus on the most vulnerable; to elevate the debate on the moral dimensions of protecting the environment in advance of the papal encyclical; and to help build a global movement across all religions for sustainable development and climate change throughout 2015 and beyond.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will open the conference in which notable scientists, global faith leaders, and influential conservation advocates such as Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Earth Institute of Columbia University, will attend.
Sachs is a leading expert on economic development and the fight against poverty, and has promoted economic growth and sustainable environmental practices in more than 125 countries. He advocates a “new way of thinking, one that tightly links the human-made world of economics and politics with the natural world of climate and biodiversity and with the designed world of 21st century technology.”
Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, will also speak. Turkson helped draft the Pope’s encyclical on global warming and the environment, which is scheduled to be released this summer. And while Turkson said it would be foolish to guess what the encyclical might say, he did state that the influential papal document would explore the relationship among care for creation, integral human development, and concern for the poor.
While Pope John Paul II stressed the need to protect Creation and Pope Benedict XVI put solar panels on the Vatican, Pope Francis has made addressing climate change a top priority. He directly addressed the issue during his inaugural mass in 2013 and has labeled mistreatment of the environment “a sin.” The Vatican also held a summit on sustainability in 2014 to discuss ways to address climate change.
Speaking to the press on a flight to the Philippines, Pope Francis recently related his perspective on the world’s environmental crisis. “I don’t know if [human activity] is the only cause,” he said, “but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face. We have in sense taken over nature.”
This year, the Pope plans to release his much anticipated encyclical and visit the United States to address a joint session of Congress on climate change. (It will be interesting to see how Catholic climate deniers react to that!) American Catholics have already reacted positively to Pope Francis’s environmental messages. The Pope will also address the UN General Assembly in New York City.
It’s hard not to applaud the Vatican’s efforts to educate itself and the public about the proper response to climate change. While the science is settled, the response is not, and it is certainly a challenge to figure out how to provide for the world’s poor while shifting to a greener, more sustainable economy.
Image by David McCormick available on Flickr.
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