VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Education, a change in lifestyles and a model of development focused “on fraternity and on the covenant between human beings and the natural environment” are urgently needed to slow climate change and care for its victims, Pope Francis said in a message to world leaders at the COP26 summit.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State and head of the Holy See delegation to the UN climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, read portions of the Pope’s message to the assembly November 2.
The cardinal was one of more than 50 speakers, most of whom were heads of state or government leaders, delivering three-minute “national statements” during the high-level segment of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The high-level segment resumed November 9–10, and negotiations were to close November 12.
The Vatican released the full text of the Pope’s message, which was submitted as part of the official record of the summit.
Like other leaders who spoke of the concrete commitments their governments were making, Pope Francis briefly explained the action the Vatican had adopted; the first is to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
But the Holy See, with its influence over parishes, schools and universities around the globe, also is committed, he said, to promoting “education in integral ecology,” meaning a focus on both the needs of the earth and on the needs of the people who inhabit it.
The “vital task” of the Glasgow meeting, he said, is to show the world that “there really exists a political will to devote—with honesty, responsibility and courage—greater human, financial and technological resources to mitigating the negative effects of climate change and assisting the poorer and more vulnerable nations most affected by it.”
The wealthier nations must lead the way, he said, not just because they have the resources, but also because they owe an “ecological debt” to the poorer countries whose resources they have long exploited.
The Pope assured the world leaders that the majority of their people, no matter their religious belief, see protecting the environment as a moral and spiritual issue that must be faced.
“Now is the time to act, urgently, courageously and responsibly,” he told the leaders. “The young, who in recent years have strongly urged us to act, will only inherit the planet we choose to leave to them, based on the concrete choices we make today.”