The damage wrought by ecological degradation and climate change are as bad as those inflicted by a global war, the Pope has told world leaders at COP26.
In a three-minute address to the Glasgow summit, the Holy Father said the effort to remedy the damage must be equal to that of rebuilding Europe and other theatres of conflict in the years following the Second World War.
His speech was read out by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State who represented the Holy See at the summit after Francis reluctantly withdrew.
Pope Francis said: “The wounds inflicted on our human family by the Covid-19 pandemic and the phenomenon of climate change are comparable to those resulting from a global conflict.
“Today, as in the aftermath of the Second World War, the international community as a whole needs to set as a priority the implementation of collegial, solidary and farsighted actions.
“We need both hope and courage,” he continued. “Humanity possesses the wherewithal to effect this change, which calls for a genuine conversion, individual as well as communitarian, and a decisive will to set out on this path.
“It will entail the transition towards a more integral and integrating model of development, based on solidarity and on responsibility. A transition that must also take into serious consideration the effects it will have on the world of labour.”
He added: “Special care must likewise be shown for the most vulnerable peoples, in whose regard there is a growing ‘ecological debt’ related to commercial imbalances with environmental repercussions and to the disproportionate use of the natural resources of one’s own and of other countries. There is no denying this.”
The Pope said it was vital that world leaders demonstrated throughout the 12-day conference 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”.
He said that among the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic was the urgency for nations to work together to overcome the environmental challenges facing the planet.
“Our post-pandemic world will necessarily be different from what it was before the pandemic,” the Pontiff said. “It is that world which we must now build, together, starting from the recognition of past mistakes.
“Something similar could be said of our efforts to tackle the global problem of climate change. There is no alternative … Today it is up to you to take the necessary decisions.”
He suggested that wealthy nations took lead roles in climate finance, decarbonisation in the economic systems and in the lives of their citizens, and that they assisted poorer countries working to adapt to the challenge or hit hard by the consequences of climate change.
The Vatican City state, he added, had committed itself to the target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The Pope said: “Sadly, we must acknowledge how far we remain from achieving the goals set for tackling climate change. We need to be honest: this cannot continue. Even as we were preparing for COP26, it became increasingly clear that there is no time to waste.
“All too many of our brothers and sisters are suffering from this climate crisis. The lives of countless people, particularly those who are most vulnerable, have experienced its increasingly frequent and devastating effects.
“At the same time, we have come to realize that it also involves a crisis of children’s rights and that, in the near future, environmental migrants will be more numerous than refugees from war and conflicts.
“Now is the time to act, urgently, courageously and responsibly. Not least, to prepare a future in which our human family will be in a position to care for itself and for the natural environment.
“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. Now is the moment for decisions that can provide them with reasons for hope and trust in the future.”
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