Bishops tell governments they have ‘moral duty’ to pursue a 1.5 C path

By Ruth Gledhill , Christopher Lamb in The Tablet UK

‘A fair and just ecological transition as required by the Paris Agreement is a matter of life or death for vulnerable countries and people.’

Bishops tell governments they have 'moral duty' to pursue warming target

A picture is projected on St. Peters Basilica during the light show ‘Fiat Lux : Illuminating Our Common Home’ on December 8, 2015 at the Vatican.
Photo: Photo: Vandeville Eric/ABACA/PA Images

In 2014, Catholic bishops five continents of Latin America, Asia, Africa, Oceania and Europe today launched an appeal for government leaders worldwide to do their “moral duty” and pursue the 1.5°C warming target.
The bishops also call for a “financial paradigm shift”, rapid transition to economies powered by renewable energy, a “rethink” of the agricultural sector and an ambitious outcome from this December’s UN climate conference, COP24, in Katowice, Poland in December.
They write: “A fair and just ecological transition, as required by the Paris Agreement, is a matter of life or death for vulnerable countries and people living in coastal areas.”
The feasibility of the 1.5°C warming target, if radical action is taken, was confirmed in the report by the UN’s climate science IPCC body earlier this month. The bishops’ statement comes in a year when G20 and COP24 are both being hosted by majority Catholic countries.

In the context of a recent UN IPCC report on the urgent need to develop policies that limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, Church leaders calls politicians to work towards an ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement for the people and the planet. They ask for the next United Nations climate change conference (COP24, Katowice, Poland, December 2018) to prove a milestone in the path set out in 2015 in Paris.

The appeal was presented today in Rome and signed by Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, President, CCEE, Archbishop of Genoa; Oswald Cardinal Gracias, President, FABC, Archbishop of Mumbai; Archbishop Peter Loy Chong, President, FCBCO, Archbishop of Suva;  Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich, President, COMECE, Archbishop of Luxembourg; Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi, President, SECAM, Archbishop of Lubango; and by Rubén Cardinal Salazar Gómez, President, CELAM, Archbishop of Bogota.

It is inspired by and builds on the message of the Pope’s encyclical “Laudato Sì”. In the appeal, the bishops demand rapid and radical changes while resisting the temptation to look for quick technological fixes. Church leaders from Latin America, Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Europe are jointly calling on governments to take concrete measures to shift towards a fair share of resources and responsibilities, where the “big emitters take political accountability and meet their climate finance commitments”.

A spokesman said: “The call is based on the principles of urgency, intergenerational justice, human dignity and human rights. It revolves around some central points: keeping global warming below 1.5°C; shifting towards sustainable lifestyles; respecting the knowledge of indigenous communities; implementing a financial paradigm shift in line with global climate accords; transforming the energy sector by putting an end to the fossil fuel era and transitioning to renewable energy; and rethinking the agriculture sector to ensure it provides healthy and accessible food for everyone, with a special emphasis on promoting agroecology.” The statement is supported by the Catholic networks CIDSECaritas Internationalis and the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Presidente, FABC, Archbishop of Bombay (holding doc) - Arcivescovo Jean-Claude Hollerich, Presidente, COMECE, Arcivescovo di Luxembourg (far right) On right of Gracias is Cardinal José Luis Maestrojuán, of Panama (Bishop of David) Then Archbishop of Lubango, Angola, Gabriel Mbilingi who is president of SECAM (African bishops conference body)

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Presidente, FABC, Archbishop of Bombay (holding the document) – Arcivescovo Jean-Claude Hollerich, Presidente, COMECE, Arcivescovo di Luxembourg (far right). On right of Gracias is Cardinal José Luis Maestrojuán, of Panama (Bishop of David), then Archbishop of Lubango, Angola, Gabriel Mbilingi who is president of SECAM (African bishops’ conference). Photo: Christopher Lamb

Josianne Gauthier, CIDSE Secretary General, said: “We are inspired by this call from the Church which recognises many of the efforts that Catholic organisations are carrying out to achieve climate justice, energy justice and access to food. We also feel supported in our call for a deep societal system change and are grateful to be part of a global movement calling for this. We believe this can only truly happen by shifting to a post-growth economy.”

Tomás Insua, Global Catholic Climate Movement executive director, said: “This statement is a strong indication that the global Catholic Church is committed to accelerating action for climate justice. Church leaders are echoing Pope Francis’ emphasis on the urgency of the climate crisis. Every notch in the global thermometer is a tragedy for the most vulnerable, and we cannot lose even a moment to find solutions for them and for generations to come. The question is when political leaders will take up the challenge.”

Michel Roy, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, said: “We need a profound and urgent change in direction on climate change. We need to see a transformation at climate talks in Katowice. We can save the planet and those at greatest risk from the impact of extreme weather but we need the political will to make that reality.”

At the press conference in Rome this morning to launch the appea, Archbishop of Mumbai Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, said it would be “criminal” for society not to make the earth habitable for future generations: “Youth are the present and the future, and it is criminal from our part if we don’t make their future safe”.

Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich, president of Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU, said: “We must act now. The urgency of the call is most important. Your heart lies where your money lies. As Archbishop of Luxembourg we divested from fossil fuels. We shall not put money any more into this powerful industry. I hope others will follow. When we speak about 1.5°C it is very ambitious. It requires drastic action.”

Joseph Moeono-Kolio, a young climate activist from Samoa and a Synod of Bishops auditor, said: “In the synod we spoke about the realities of young people. For us young people from the Pacific this statement is a sign of hope. The solidarity of our bishops is greatly important for us in the Pacific. In the Pacific, whenever a cyclone hits a village, people usually go to the Church for refuge, because it’s the most solid building. That’s an image of what is happening here. The difference between 1.5C and 2C is a matter of survival Climate change is more than science, politics and ideology. There’s a human face to climate change. Like me.”