Pope’s choice: honour Paris Accord or inherit rubble, refuse, deserts

Governments should honour the commitments they made at the 2015 Paris climate conference to curb climate change, Pope Francis said last week.

Francis was speaking at an International Conference “Saving our Common Home and the Future of Life on Earth” on the third anniversary of his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’ (Praise Be).

Delegates included climate change experts, indigenous people, prelates, journalists and activists. The conference programme looked at the current situation and ahead toward other major climate summits.

Francis warned delegates of the planet’s outlook if unsustainable development and rampant consumption continues. It could turn the Earth into a vast pile of “rubble, deserts and refuse,” he said.

Francis spoke in particular of deforestation in the Amazon, which he said threatens both the planet’s “lung” and the indigenous peoples who live in the region.

“It grieves us to see the lands of indigenous peoples expropriated and their cultures trampled on by predatory schemes and by new forms of colonialism, fuelled by the culture of waste and consumerism,” Francis said.

“All governments should strive to honour the commitments made in Paris, in order to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.

“Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most (ibid., 169) and we cannot afford to waste time.”

In this process “local authorities, civil society, and economic and religious institutions can promote the culture and practice of an integral ecology.”

In addition, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and similar institutions can play a key part in encouraging reforms promoting sustainable development.

He said he hopes “concern for the state of our common home” will lead to concrete actions to preserve the environment.

Last week’s conference is the latest in a series of initiatives Francis has led on the environment.

Oil executives and investors were invited to the Vatican last month for a closed-door conference where Francis urged them to find alternatives to fossil fuels.

Next year, there will be a three-week synod about the church’s response to the ecological crisis in the Amazon.

Although 194 United Nations member countries signed the Paris agreements, US President Donald Trump has said the US will pull out of the accord in 2020 (the first possible date to withdraw) unless he can get a better deal.


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