Catholic bishops call for faith in 1.5°C Paris target

An appeal from leading Catholic bishops follows on from Pope Francis' 2015 environmental call. [giulio napolitano / Shutterstock]

Church leaders urged governments around the world to ramp up their climate action efforts on Friday (26 October), calling for “ambitious implementation” of the Paris Agreement.

In a joint appeal, the presidents of the Catholic continental bishops’ conference, which represents church leaders from five continents, insisted that the international community has a “moral duty” to meet the targets of the landmark climate accord.

According to the appeal, launched today in Rome, the six presidents said that the upcoming UN climate change summit in Poland this December should act as a “milestone on the path set out in 2015 in Paris”.

In a sub-section of the appeal called “1.5°C to stay alive”, the bishops highlighted that “the effects of climate change are not evenly distributed” and warned that “many millions of migrants will follow” because of its impact.

It comes off the back of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s watershed-moment report on the effects of global warming, which warned that a so-called 2 degrees world would be more affected than previously thought.

The bishop’s statement is of particular note given the COP24 summit and the G20 summit in November in Buenos Aires, the first held in South America, will be hosted by Catholic-majority countries.

The pressure may already have told in Brazil, where presidential race favourite Jair Bolsonaro backtracked on his campaign pledge to haul the South American powerhouse out of the Paris deal.

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Greening the Vatican

It is not the first time the bishops’ conference or the wider Church has intervened in climate change matters, as it issued a similar call to the faithful ahead of COP21 in 2015.

In the same year, Pope Francis published his second encyclical entitled ‘Laudato si’’, which focused on “care for our common home”. In the landmark publication, the pontiff took aim at environmental degradation and global warming.

In today’s appeal, the archbishops of Genoa, Mumbai, Bogota, Suva, Luxembourg and Lubango said that the world needs to “rethink” the agricultural sector, undergo a “financial paradigm shift” and move more quickly to reliance on renewable energy sources.

They also added that “we must resist the temptation to look for solutions to our current situation in short-term technological fixes without addressing the root causes and the long-term consequences”.

Catholic network CIDSE welcomed the bishops’ appeal and its recognition “of the efforts that Catholic organisations are carrying out to achieve climate justice, energy justice and access to food”.

Their call for a “financial paradigm shift” has already started to take effect, as last year 40 Catholic institutions announced the largest ever faith-based divestment from fossil fuels.

Earlier this year, Caritas Internationalis and a group of Catholic banks worth around €7.5 billion also announced that they would pull their investments out of polluting energy sources.

One of the bishop presidents, Jean-Claude Hollerich, said “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.”

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