The Francis Era
Vatican Conference Calls for Fighting Climate Change

The Vatican and the United Nations hosted a one-day conference on climate change in Vatican City. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the event, which was attended by scientists, diplomats, and clergy. It concluded with a joint statement that stated “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity.” More, via WaPo:

“The world should take note,” says the statement, “that the climate summit in Paris later this year (COP21) may be the last effective opportunity to negotiate arrangements that keep human-induced warming below 2-degrees C, and aim to stay well below 2-degree C for safety.”

The statement also says that “political leaders of all UN member states have a special responsibility to agree at COP21 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.”

The conference comes as Pope Francis prepares to release an encyclical this summer on the environment, a move that has already raised interest and stoked controversy both inside and outside the Catholic church. Francis and Ban talked about the encyclical while meeting during the conference. Ban had this to say about the upcoming document: “It 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.”

Pope Francis is coming to the United States in September, on a visit that includes stops in DC, where he will appear before Congress, and New York, where he will speak before the UN. President Obama is on record saying he will speak to the Pope about climate change during the visit, as well as Christian persecution in the Middle East and other issues.

As the quote from the conference statement suggests, the timing of all these things—the conference, the encyclical, and perhaps even discussions in the U.S. on climate change—seems, at least in part, to be pegged to the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will be held in Paris in November/December of this year. One way to see the Vatican push on climate change and the environment is as an attempt to build some moral consensus around these issues in time to help the Paris conference along.

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