Pope pleads with global leaders to find breakthrough on climate change

December 2, 2023
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Pope Francis on Saturday called on the U.N. climate summit to strive for a essential breakthrough agreement to stem global warming that includes the elimination of fossil fuels, saying climate had “run amok.”

The 86-year-old pope had planned to attend the conference but a lung inflammation forced him to remain in the Vatican. His full address was left with delegates and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin shortened it in order to remain within the 3-minute time limit for speeches.

“Sadly, I am unable to be present with you, as I had greatly desired. Even so, I am with you, because time is short,” Francis said in his message.

“I am with you because now more than ever, the future of us all depends on the present that we now choose. I am with you because the destruction of the environment is an offense against God,” he said.

Francis has made defenses of the environment a main part of the social teaching of his 10-year-old papacy, writing two major documents on the topic — in 2015 and this past October.

Francis returned to the main themes of both writings but in his message to COP28 delegates he appealed directly to them, saying “it is essential that there be a breakthrough that is not a partial change of course” in Dubai.

“May this COP prove to be a turning point, demonstrating a clear and tangible political will that can lead to a decisive acceleration of ecological transition,” he said.

Image: A man walks past flags of nations participating in the UNFCCC COP28 Climate Conference
A man walks past flags of nations participating in the COP28 Climate Conference earlier this week in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.Sean Gallup / Getty Images

To achieve this, he said it was necessary to move decidedly ahead with greater energy efficiency, renewable energy, the “elimination of fossil fuels” and a change of a wasteful lifestyle.

Saying that “the gap between the opulent few and the masses of the poor has never been so abysmal,” the pontiff called for debt forgiveness for poor countries that are less responsible for greenhouse gasses but suffer more than advanced countries.

He called this the repayment of “the ecological debt” that they are owed for suffering from something they did not cause.

“May we be attentive to the cry of the Earth, may we hear the plea of the poor, may we be sensitive to the hopes of the young and the dreams of children! We have a grave responsibility: to ensure that they not be denied their future,” he said.

“The climate, run amok, is crying out to us to halt this illusion of omnipotence. Let us once more recognize our limits, with humility and courage, as the sole path to a life of authentic fulfillment,” he said.



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