The Vatican calls on the “moral and religious imperative” of dealing with climate change

Religious leaders, scientists and diplomats gathered at the Vatican for a one-day conference on climate change and sustainable development and issued a joint declaration stating that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity.”

On Tuesday (April 28) the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, SDSN, and Religions for Peace organized a symposium at the Vatican (entitled “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Humanity”) aimed to “ help strengthen the global consensus on the importance of climate change in the context of sustainable development”. Over 60 participants from academia, business, policy, and various religions attended the high-level event which represents a prologue to the papal encyclical on environment and climate change announced earlier this year and expected to be unveiled in June. Pope Francis met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon before the Secretary-General gave the opening address at the summit. Ban said he and the pope discussed Francis’ keenly awaited encyclical, which will be addressed to all of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and which the pope has said he hopes will influence the Paris conference, Reuters reported.

In his speech Ban stressed that science and religion are fully aligned on climate change, as both are calling for urgent collective action to mitigate the risks of increasing climate impacts. The Secretary-General also applauded the Pope’s leadership on these issues and said he shares the Pontiff’s view that climate change is not just an economic or scientific issue.

The summit’s final declaration stated the COP21 in Paris this year “may be the last effective opportunity to negotiate arrangements that keep human-induced warming below 2 degrees C,” adding that the “current trajectory may well reach a devastating 4-degrees C or higher”. Religious leaders and scientists urged policymakers to agree to “a bold climate agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity, while protecting the poor and the vulnerable from ongoing climate change that gravely endangers their lives”. Richer countries “should help to finance the costs of climate-change mitigation in low-income countries as the high-income countries have promised to do”, they said.

“The pope’s leadership will play a very important role in raising public awareness as well as the global moral commitment to take decisive steps towards climate safety in Paris,” said Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University professor and director of the U.N. Sustainable Solutions Network “The expectations around the world are very high for the pope’s encyclical this June, and for the pope’s speech to world leaders at the U.N. on Sept. 25.”

(Image: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican, April 28 2015. Photo credit: UN/Mark Garten)