Pope Francis hosts major summit on climate change

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28 April 2015

LONDON: Today Pope Francis hosted a major summit on climate change, in a move that is hoped to add further momentum toward a successful outcome at global climate talks in Paris this December.

The Vatican summit, opened by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, stressed that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity.”

"The scientific consensus is clear: emissions need to stop rising before the end of this decade and start falling pretty soon after that," said Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group. "Unlike previous attempts at agreement, Paris is not designed to be the end of a process, but rather the beginning of an inexorable shift to a prosperous and climate-resilient low carbon economy.

This signal – to the business community and the public alike – that there is no turning back, is as important as the content of the agreement itself."

The one-day conference “The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development” gathered world-leading scientists, academics and Catholic personalities to discuss the impacts of man-made climate change on poor communities around the world.

In the opening keynote, Ban Ki-moon praised the religious leaders for “raising awareness of the urgent need to promote sustainable development and address climate. Mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects are necessary to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce inequality and secure equitable, sustainable economic development.”

“Climate change is intrinsically linked to public health, food and water security, migration, peace and security. It is a moral issue. It is an issue of social justice, human rights and fundamental ethics.”

A ground-breaking encyclical

As well as providing further public impetus for world leaders to agree a robust climate deal at international negotiations later this year, the summit lays the groundwork for Pope Francis’s encyclical, which is an official letter the Pope addresses to all the Bishops in the world for the 1.2 billion of Catholics around the world.

The encyclical “will convey to the world that protecting our environment is an urgent moral imperative and a sacred duty for all people of faith and people of conscience,” Ban Ki-moon said.

The much-anticipated official papal statement to be released next month supported by a 12-week campaign, will be focused entirely on the moral dimensions of climate change.

Timothy E. Wirth, vice chairman of the United Nations Foundation, said in a press statement: “We’ve never seen a pope do anything like this. No single individual has as much global sway as he does. What he is doing will resonate in the government of any country that has a leading Catholic constituency.”

The conference has been organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, SDSN and Religions for Peace.

"We have a profound responsibility to the fragile web of life on this Earth, and to this generation and those that will follow,” concluded Ban Ki-moon. “That is why it is so important that the world’s faith groups are clear on this issue – and in harmony with science.”

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