Pope Francis Calls for ‘Net-Zero Emissions’ Plan to Beat Climate Change

Pope Francis speaks to engaged couples during a Valentine's Day celebration in St Peter's square at the Vatican on February 14, 2014. The Vatican said there were around 20,000 future brides and grooms attending from 25 countries, all of them enrolled on Catholic marriage preparation courses. The celebration was not …
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — Pope Francis tied together the coronavirus pandemic and climate change Saturday, insisting that both crises have ethical, social, economic, and political relevance.

In a video message for Saturday’s “High Level Virtual Climate Ambition Summit,” organized by the United Nations, Great Britain, and France, in collaboration with Chile and Italy, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Climate Accord, the pontiff reiterated his summons for greater efforts to combat global warming.

There are a number of “measures that cannot be put off any longer,” the pope said, including “a net-zero emissions strategy.”

“The current pandemic and climate change, which have not only an environmental relevance, but also an ethical, social, economic, and political relevance, have an impact, above all, on the lives of the poorest and most fragile,” Francis said, in an address delivered in his native Spanish.

The pope articulated the commitment of the Vatican on two levels, one for the Vatican City State itself and one for the Holy See in its role as global teacher.

“The Vatican City State commits to reducing net emissions to zero by 2050,” he said, “by intensifying ongoing environmental management efforts that have been in place for some years to enable the rational use of natural resources such as water and energy, energy efficiency, sustainable mobility, reforestation, and the circular economy also in waste management.”

Secondly, “the Holy See is committed to promoting education for comprehensive ecology,” Francis said. “Political and technical measures must be linked to an educational process that promotes a cultural model of development and sustainability focused on fraternity and the alliance between human beings and the environment.”

“The time has come for a change of course,” he said. “Let us not rob the new generations of hope for a better future.”

This week, the head of the Vatican’s Department for Human Development, Cardinal Peter Turkson, delivered a similar message at a webinar in preparation for Saturday’s summit, warning that “we are heading towards a global temperature rise of three degrees.”

In its preparatory document for the webinar, the Vatican team criticized the lack of initiative and commitment around the Paris climate goals but expressed hope that a Biden presidency might inject new life into the flagging accord after President Trump pulled the U.S. from the deal in 2017.

Since the launch of the Paris Accord in 2015, “our planet and people have been increasingly sick together,” Cardinal Turkson declared while reinforcing the pope’s call for an “ecological conversion.”


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