Pope: COP28 – scrap fossil fuels, protect poor


In a wide-ranging message to COP28 delegates, Pope Francis added his voice to calls for an end to fossil fuels and for “debt forgiveness” for poorer countries hit by climate change.

As illness prevented Francis from attending COP28, he deputed Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (pictured) to deliver his speech.

Francis, who has made defending the environment central to his papacy’s social teaching, is the first Pope to address the Conference of the Parties (COP).

Lamenting the lack of progress in fighting climate change, he repeated appeals for multilateralism, calling the world to action. Divisions between people are preventing progress.

“The climate, run amok, is crying out to us to halt this illusion of omnipotence.

“The destruction of the environment is an offence against God, a sin that is not only personal but also structural.”

It is a sin “that greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable in our midst and threatens to unleash a conflict between generations.

“Are we working for a culture of life or a culture of death? To all of you, I make this heartfelt appeal: Let us choose life! Let us choose the future!”

Destructive fuels

Global leaders must end using coal, oil and gas, Parolin read on the Pope’s behalf.

Embracing renewable energy would help, Francis wrote. This involves “the elimination of fossil fuels and education in less dependent lifestyles.

“Climate change signals the need for major political change. COP28 must be a turning point.”

Francis’s message resonated with COP28’s growing political momentum regarding fossil fuel use – the main source of harmful global warming.

Human activity is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

The obsessive drive for production has caused “an inordinate greed that has made the environment the object of unbridled exploitation”.

There is some tension however between accepting fossil fuel’s damaging effects and stopping their production and use.

For example COP28’s president, Sultan Al-Jaber, is faced with supporting the ecological evidence showing the damage fossil fuels are wreaking on the environment, contrary to his personal business interests.

Phasing out these fuels is “inevitable” he says – even though the oil company he runs has embarked on a major expansion of production.

User pays for poor

Blaming the world’s ecological and climate crises on the poor and saying high birth rates are the main problem is unfair, Francis said. The biggest carbon-emitting countries are “responsible for a deeply troubling ecological debt”.

It would be fair for these countries to cancel poor nations’ financial debts, Parolin read. These debts exist only because of big carbon-emitting countries’ excessive use of fossil fuels.

Cafod* responds

“The Pope’s message is very well timed as we move into discussions on a global stocktake at COP28” says the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development*.

Leaders must heed his call “not for a partial change, but a new way of making progress together, and for choosing a culture of life over a culture of death.”


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